City of Round Rock eyes new downtown zoning

Proposed plan would increase mixed-use capabilities for area residential properties

Round Rock city officials are continuing the push to transform the use and feel of the downtown area.

On March 5, the city hosted an open house forum for residents to view and comment on new zoning proposals for downtown, that would open up the area to more mixed-use development.

"Back in 2010, the City of Round Rock commissioned a downtown plan, which set the vision to what we want the downtown to look like and how we want it to grow," Round Rock Planning Director Brad Wiseman said. "What the [proposed] zoning district does is seek to implement that vision ... with the hope of achieving a mixed-use, entertainment, retail, restaurant-type of destination area for downtown Round Rock."

The most dramatic zoning changes to downtown would occur in the residential areas surrounding the current business district. According to the proposed plan, the residentially zoned areas north of the business district and extending to Brushy Creek would be redesignated as mixed-use downtown medium density (MU-2). The zoning would allow the residential properties the ability to be converted for dining, commercial and office use.

According to the zone revision proposal released by the city, "The MU-2 district encourages greater density in buildings that are located close to wide sidewalks and contain ground-floor, nonresidential uses, creating a neighborhood where residents can live, work and play while reducing the need to drive everywhere."

The proposed MU-2 conversion zoning would apply to the current residential structures fronting East Main and Georgetown streets to the south of Brushy Creek. Buildings in that area, however, would be limited to bed and breakfast, office, personal services, artisanal product manufacturing and boutique shop businesses.

The current downtown business district would also be reclassified from a general commercial (C-1) zoned area into a mixed-use commercial core (MU-1) district. The change is intended to allow more urban-style development in downtown, Wiseman said.

"The area that is [currently] zoned for commercial use just has a standard suburban zoning designation, not a mixed-use urban, walkable development [standard]," Wiseman said.

According to the city's draft proposal, the MU-1 zoning will allow multistory building development with a mixture of uses including retail, restaurants, entertainment and condominiums. The proposed rezoning would also extend the downtown business district west along Main Street.

Irene Franco, who owns a home at the intersection of Blair and Florence streets, said she is excited about the possibility of future downtown development.

"I think [rezoning] is good for downtown," Franco said. "I like to see people out in our neighborhood. I would like to see more retailers."

Fred Gonce owns a rental property on Anderson Avenue north of the downtown business district. Gonce said he was anticipating the city would eventually rezone the area when he decided to purchase the property.

"We knew it when we bought it, we have been expecting it, and we are excited," Gonce said. "If I wanted to turn it into a commercial property, I could. If you look at what has happened in downtown Georgetown and Austin, as you start adding commercial properties, you increase the values of the properties."

Wiseman said the city is still sorting through the feedback it has recieved from residents.

"It was a wide range of feedback—a lot of positive feedback," Wiseman said. "There is some concern about the area turning from the historical residential character into more of a mixed-use district."

Wiseman's staff is expected to provide a final draft of the proposal to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission in May. If the commission approves the recommendations, City Council will then decide whether to adopt the changes.