Commercial and residential growth planned for roadway

Hwy. 71, which slices through the middle of the City of Bee Cave, is growing rapidly. Between 1995 and 1998, there was very little business in the city, and in 2000, the population of Bee Cave was 600, Bee Cave City Manager Frank Salvato said.

"There was the Spring Hill Restaurant, the old City Hall which is now the police department, a few other restaurants [and] The Trading Post," Salvato said. "There wasn't a lot on Hwy. 71."

Ten years later, the population has jumped to 3,925, and Hwy. 71 is becoming one of the main corridors of the Hill Country, Salvato said.

"Today we think we're a little over 5,000 [population]. [The presence of Hwy. 71 is] good because it makes people come through here, and retailers like high traffic counts and a lot of people living in the area," Salvato said.

Adrian Overstreet, manager of the Hill Country Galleria on Hwy. 71, agrees that the higher population is a benefit.

"You need residential density in order to make retail work," he said. "We're getting the residential density rapidly—they're building houses out here faster than people would think possible. As those houses start to go up, people need places to work, they need retail, all those services. That's what you're seeing starting to develop on [Hwy.] 71."

Importance of Hwy. 71

Overstreet proudly calls the part of the highway on which the Hill Country Galleria sits "his stretch of 71." He and several partners bought the galleria out of bankruptcy in 2010. Today, with its high-end boutiques, popular anchor stores, a plethora of restaurants and talk of a hotel, the galleria is thriving.

"We've only got a couple of major arterials out here," Overstreet said referring to Hwy. 71 and RR 620, the two major roads in and out of Bee Cave.

With the improvements completed on Hwy. 71, some even picture the roadway becoming the main port into Lakeway as well.

"I think people will just get tired of the traffic on [RR] 620 and will look to Hwy. 71 as an alternate way into Lakeway," former Lakeway city employee Ross Frie, said.

"As you look north and south and west and southwest, there's a lot of preserve land," said Adib Khoury, vice president of land resources for Falconhead West homebuilder Taylor Morrison. The luxury subdivision is located just off Hwy. 71 in Bee Cave.

"When we look at Hwy. 71, we see it as one of the major growth corridors for Austin," Khoury said. "Steiner Ranch is close to being built-out. You start to look at where people who want to live in the Hill Country are going to go, and there are really only two growth corridors—northwest toward Crystal Falls in Leander, and then there's Hwy. 71."

Although the Hill Country Galleria is mostly built-out, Overstreet said Hwy. 71 is fertile building ground.

"I think it's become a self-fulfilling or self-perpetuating situation where development leads to more development," he said.

Future land use

The City of Bee Cave's official zoning map, which is available online, is color-coded and displays the various areas of land designated for retail, office space, public use, residential and more.

The map shows high growth, both business and residential, along Hwy. 71 west of the recently completed Bee Cave Parkway. Subdivisions such as Falconhead West and Sweetwater are growing rapidly, and many tracts of land are being zoned for office, commercial, neighborhood and public use.

"We're trying to look at an overlay that would help growth along [Hwy.] 71," Salvato said about the council recently changing a city ordinance to allow signs on the backs of the Shops at the Galleria. "Not just new business, but helping people who are already here fix their businesses up and put a better front out there."

Plans in the works

One property of particular interest is owned by Bee Cave residents Tim and Brenda Skaggs in the middle of town—a prime plot of land off Hwy. 71 just down the road from the Hill Country Galleria.

The Skaggses—longtime residents of Bee Cave—have doled out some of their land for the Hill Country Indoor sports complex and have many suitors wishing to build businesses on the property.

Across from the Skaggs tract is the Spanish Oaks residential and golf complex as well as commercial land all owned by CCNG Realty.

"That's our last remaining commercial tract," CCNG Vice President Jack Creveling said. "We've owned that land for quite some time, and we intend to develop it one day."

With the value of that Hwy. 71 location combined with Bee Cave's growth, Creveling says CCNG is "extremely encouraged with what is happening. We want to develop something there [of] very high quality, but we're taking the patient approach."

The Lake Travis Youth Association has grown with the city and Hwy. 71, causing the not-for-profit organization to outgrow its 19.5-acre space. The organization is looking to sell the Field of Dreams athletic complex on Hwy. 71, leaving residents to wonder what will take its place.

"Bee Cave, in a way, was started to get out from underneath the sprawl of Austin," Overstreet said. "People, to some degree, want all the things that development brings, but they also want to keep things the way they are.

"Hwy. 71 across from the galleria is full of old structures," he said. "Probably the best use is to tear them down and start again."

Just down the road from the Hill Country Galleria is Hill Country Golf & Guitar, where visitors will be able to "eat, putt and rock." The business is set to open this spring. The old Backyard at Bee Cave location, which is currently being rezoned for both office use and a restaurant, as well as Hill Country Indoor are also in the works for the expanding corridor.

Not all development is welcomed by Bee Cave residents, however. When auto dealer Covert submitted a plan to the Bee Cave City Council recently to build a car dealership off Hwy. 71 in Bee Cave's extraterritorial jurisdiction near Falconhead West, many residents objected to the project. The group of concerned residents cite safety concerns, potential noise issues and bothersome lighting as reasons they are opposed to the dealership. The council denied the preliminary plan, and Covert has yet to resubmit a new one.

Nevertheless, developers and builders are looking to take full advantage of the growth of Hwy. 71 and the amicable nature of the City Council.

Although Overstreet said he would not disclose business plans before he had the land under contract he added, "We're always looking for opportunities."