Pflugerville could revamp downtown

After spending tens of thousands of dollars throughout more than a decade to investigate ways to breathe life into Old Town Pflugerville, the city has developed a new vision for revitalizing the downtown area.

The proposal—Pflugerville’s fourth downtown vision plan—was introduced before City Council on March 24 and includes suggestions such as fresh landscaping, a new park and goals to attract boutique hotels and a brewery/restaurant.

“Primarily the reason the other plans [for downtown] did not happen is they were pure planning documents—they had a good plan on what downtown could become, but there was no roadmap for how to get there,” Mayor Jeff Coleman said. “The reason I think this [plan] has a chance is because we have identified a potential funding mechanism.”

The city is considering funding downtown revitalization efforts through a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, which would allow excess tax revenue from increasing property values downtown to be funneled back into development projects, according to City Manager Brandon Wade.

The proposal

The Pflugerville Planning Department’s downtown proposal—which incorporates aspects from previous plans as well as examples from other cities—is designed around eight districts, Planning Director Emily Barron said.

The Entertainment District (1), Office District (2), Service District (3), Dining District (4) and Gateway Districts (5-8) would help transform downtown into a destination for residents and visitors through the addition of restaurants, park space, programs/festivals, pedestrian paths and streetscape improvements, she said.

While the proposal is not a planning document and does not include a timeline or budget, Barron said it is a series of suggestions the City can use to plot the way forward.

Randi Field, former vice president of the Pflugerville Downtown Association and owner of Pflugerville Massage Associates, said she would love to see downtown get a face-lift.

“People have talked about it for so long,” she said. “We have a lot of good businesses that I hope make it, but we need somewhere [for people] to go. There aren’t a lot of shopping areas.”

Field, a lifelong resident, said Pflugerville’s recent population boom and rapid growth may have caught the historically quiet, agrarian community off guard.

“I’ve seen a lot of change happen from when I was a little girl,” she said. “[Pflugerville has] grown so fast I think we haven’t had a chance to tell people what our town is about.”

City hall discussion

The new downtown proposal considers how to replace City Hall with a park or civic centerpiece that would draw community members.

Wade said City Hall and the downtown city offices—some of which are located in a repurposed dentist’s office—are not an ideal fit for downtown and are less frequently utilized now that most civic business can be conducted online.

“We’ve outgrown City Hall,” he said. “I think our presence here [is] actually in the way.”

Pflugerville Public Information Officer Terri Waggoner confirmed that there is a designated place for a government building in the proposal for the Sunshine development off SH 130 but said no decision has been made to move City Hall there.

Chuck Lesniak, an Old Town resident, said he has been following the downtown issue for years and thinks moving City Hall would be a risk.

“You could make a pretty strong argument that City Hall is what has been keeping downtown functioning,” he said. “I have always taken the position that if the city decides to move City Hall out of downtown, that should be paired with a major investment in development of downtown. If they don’t do that, I think the existing downtown will die.”

Coleman said any decision to move City Hall would take place in conjunction with the installment of new downtown destinations for residents and visitors.

“We’re not going to leave and let downtown flounder,” he said. “We’re going to invest in downtown.”

Next steps

Barron said one of the first steps toward reinventing downtown could be a “place-making” project in which temporary landscaping, pedestrian paths and communal areas would be constructed for residents to experience and consider.

Coleman said he would like the city to get started on some of the less expensive parts of the plan as soon as possible.

“I feel like we’ve done all the [planning] we need to do,” he said.  “I think we need to start bringing some energy to [downtown], and we’re not going to create energy by making another six-month plan.”

Lesniak said some residents are likely skeptical about whether the city will act on its newest plan, although he believes the proposal shows promise.

“We’ve seen so many plans come and go. Some have been good, some have been bad, but none of them have been implemented to a great extent,” he said. “The city has never put money where its mouth is. I think until the city does that, we’re not going to really see what everybody would like to see downtown.”

Field said she hopes the city’s  proposal will help residents and visitors appreciate the downtown area more.

“I love the [downtown] area. There’s not another area in Pflugerville that has this charm,” she said. “My customers like this area. They like coming in and seeing these little shops here. It would be nice if [downtown] were reflective of what we see in it.”