Eastbound and growing

Toll paves way for Pflugerville development

SH 130 is opening residential and commercial development opportunities for Pflugerville and helping the city grow into a larger Austin suburb.

During the past 10 years, Pflugerville has experienced a 247 percent new development growth rate, said Floyd Akers, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. He believes the jump in population and development can be largely attributed to the building of the toll road.

"We've expanded rapidly, and, of course, one of the things that helped us dramatically is the SH 130 tollway, which is cutting right through town," Akers said.

Although Pflugerville's early developers expected the city to stay smaller than 15,000 people, today it has a population of nearly 50,000. With expanding development around the toll road and East Pflugerville, Akers said the city could grow to five times its current size. With its nearby unincorporated areas, known as extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, Pflugerville has a footprint approximately the size of Plano. The ETJ holds 50,000 acres of undeveloped land, the majority being east of SH 130, Akers said.

The highway is already accounting for an influx of traffic throughout Pflugerville. Recent counts taken from a toll booth near Pecan Street indicate that the stretch of highway sees approximately 65,000 cars every day.

What the tollway offers

The toll road cuts through the east side of Pflugerville where large tracts of undeveloped land remain. The availability of real estate with toll road access attracted developments such as the Stone Hill Town Center and Pfluger Crossing. Additional commercial and residential interests are now getting in on the space availability.

"The only way we can grow is east," Akers said. "Land is reasonable over here, which is one of the things that drives our market. We don't have impediments to growth."

Pflugerville's access to the tollway presents another advantage for companies that ship products and want to avoid the congestion on Austin roadways, including I-35 and MoPac, during rush hours. Akers said a yet-to-be-announced Fortune 100 company has chosen to locate to Pflugerville to take advantage of the resources in the Austin area while cashing in on the lack of congestion on SH 130.

Other benefits

A deregulated energy market also makes Pflugerville's east side an attractive area to potential developers, as the area is not covered by any municipal or cooperative electricity providers. While Austin residents and businesses must get electric utilities through Austin Energy, newcomers to Pflugerville's eastern side can choose from providers that may charge less.

"For a larger energy user, Austin Energy charges 8.2 cents per kilowatt [hour]," Akers said. "I can get deregulated power here for 6 cents [per kilowatt hour] for a large user. If I have a mega user, like a large data center or manufacturing facility, that price drops down to about 4 cents per kilowatt hour."

Akers said Pflugerville's utility infrastructure is expected to be able to support large-scale growth in the area, with ample water flow, wastewater capacity and internet service available to developers.

Residential potential

With little open space remaining in West Pflugerville, the east side is ripe for residential growth. Two subdivisions are already planned—Sorento, which will hold approximately 900 homes, and Carmel, which is slated to include 3,000 homes.

Falcon Pointe, a subdivision already built by Newland Communities, was developed east of SH 130 near Kelly Lane in order to take advantage of the location.

"We felt that Pflugerville had a lot of good things going for it," Newland Communities Marketing Director Vaike O'Grady said, "access being one really important thing, especially with the 130 toll road."

The residential benefits of the tollway have helped Pflugerville pull out of the housing slump it experienced during the recent economic recession.

"At the height of the [housing] boom in 2006–07, we [issued permits for] 1,500 new homes annually," Akers said. "We shrunk down in the recession [to] about 450 new homes. We're expecting to do 800 new homes this year. "

Commercial potential

Several new commercial developments are already being planned for East Pflugerville and the toll road area, including the 130 Commerce Center, located at the southwest corner of Pecan Street and SH 130. The center is slated to house companies including coffee manufacturer EIEIO Inc., TrackingPoint and a new data center.

[The 130 Commerce Center is] probably going to be full in the next 24 months," Akers said. "Then we're probably going to be expanding those opportunities eastward as well, where land is still available."

Tim Timmerman, owner of real estate business Commerce Texas Properties Inc. and land around SH 130, said the area is ripe for continued commercial development.

"Activity has definitely picked up in the last six months, and there's a lot of interest out there ... [with commercial] users," Timmerman said. "It's coming into its own."

However, not all developers agree that SH 130 will bring Pflugerville an immediate economic or development boom. Mark Sprague, state director of information capital at Independence Title Co., uses property, banking and other data to analyze trends in the Texas real estate market.

"The first rule of real estate is location, location, location," Sprague said. "[A] challenge of [SH 130] is the lack of traffic and corporate development. When [growth] happens, then you will see greater development and activity."

How Pflugerville benefits

During the past eight years, Pflugerville has dropped its property tax rate by a half cent annually, a trend that could continue with the planned development, Akers said.

"As we bring these companies in and they start paying property taxes ... we can pass that savings onto the citizens who live here," Akers said. "We'd rather have [residents] spending their money than the city spending their money."

Timmerman also believes Pflugerville will see continued development.

"[Pflugerville] makes a lot of sense for a lot of different companies," Timmerman said. "[The city] has road infrastructure and utility infrastructure and a can-do attitude, and I think there's going to be a big wave of companies locating out in Pflugerville."

By Korri Kezar
Korri Kezar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Community Impact Newspaper's Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition for two years before moving to Dallas. Five years later, she returned to the company to launch Community Impact Newspaper's Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth edition, where she covers local government, development, transportation and a variety of other topics. She has also worked at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman and Dallas Business Journal.