On Oct. 26 developers and Pflugerville city staff broke ground on The Elliott, a 272-unit apartment building that will serve as the first piece of a more than $1 billion mixed-use development known as the Pecan District.
The project will stand on a 45-acre piece of property at the southwest corner of West Pecan Street and South Heatherwilde Boulevard. One of the developers of the project, Cid Galindo, said he envisions the district as a “mini -Domain”—referencing the popular mixed-use development in North Austin.
Although the project is underway, the November votes from City Council and a local board of directors will set the course for the ultimate scale of the development.
The votes come just over a year after the developers initially pitched the project in its current form to City Council and a decade after discussions regarding the Pecan District began between the city and developers.
A DECADE OF PLANNING
Galindo said he became involved with the property more than 10 years ago as a consultant for the former property owners. When they decided to sell the land, Galindo said, he seized the opportunity to take ownership of the property and move forward with the concept of a mixed-use development.
In 2009 the city’s planning and zoning department approved a planned unit development, or PUD, putting in place standards and design specificities for the development of the property, according to Jeremy Frazzell, assistant planning director. The same year an economic downturn prevented the project from taking off, Frazzell said.
In 2015, Austin-based Presidium Group LLC partnered with Galindo to provide financial backing and assist in developing the Pecan District. Minor changes to the PUD were made in 2015 and 2016 to accommodate design changes and add an acre of land on the property, Frazzell said, leading to the plan that is currently in place.
The Elliott represents the first piece of the Pecan District project and is estimated to take roughly 20 months to complete, with the first apartments ready for occupancy in 2020, according to David Wallace, who works on public and private partnerships with Presidium Group.
“[The Elliott] provides a good economic value so that people working in the school district and professional jobs in the Pflugerville area can live, work and play in the same location,” said Wallace, pointing out the development’s proximity to Pflugerville ISD schools as well as the district’s administration building and regional football stadium.
“What is interesting about The Elliott and what makes it different is the way that it is designed,” Galindo said. “If you don’t live there or aren’t visiting [the apartment building], you won’t see [apartment]parking.”
Wallace said the parking lot for The Elliott will be located behind the apartment building, which will act as an “urban wrap” around the parking area and hide it from the roadway.
The next phases of the Pecan District will include office, retail and restaurant space to be constructed over the next five years, Galindo said. At that point the development will reach a crossroads at which it will go in one of two directions, depending on a series of votes scheduled to take place in late November.
A FORK IN THE ROAD
The Pecan Street developers hope the project will be included in an existing tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ. A TIRZ is an economic development tool used to fund public infrastructure in a development using property taxes generated in the TIRZ district, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
Wallace said that including the project in a TIRZ would help fund public infrastructure in the district, such as parking garages, without imposing any extra burden on taxpayers.
On Nov. 26 the board of directors for Tax Reinvestment Zone No. 1, also known as the Falcon Pointe TIRZ, will vote on whether to extend the TIRZ to include the Pecan District. Should the vote pass, City Council will vote on the action the following day.
Trey Fletcher, assistant city manager for the city of Pflugerville, said the Falcon Pointe TIRZ is the only such district in the city and has never been expanded to include a new development.
When the developers came to City Council in August 2017 they asked for a TIRZ to fund $118 million for parking and civic elements as well as a municipal utility district, or MUD, to fund $15.5 million in outdoor civic improvements and underground infrastructure. In a MUD taxes are levied on property owners to fund infrastructure and improvements.
Council agreed to continue the discussion but expressed concern about any possible financial risk associated with the city’s involvement in the development.
Emily Barron, planning director for the city of Pflugerville, said city staff then entered into conversation with the developers to determine the best plan moving forward. Together they determined the improvements developers hoped to fund with a MUD could instead be funded by a TIRZ.
Barron said there was concern on the part of city staff and council about taxes that the MUD would impose on future property owners.
“We were trying to narrow down the funding mechanism provided by the city, and a TIRZ was the one we were comfortable moving forward with,” Barron said. “Their [proposed]MUD was fairly small, and the pieces were public improvements that could be included in the TIRZ.”
The product of those yearlong discussions—the proposal to include the Pecan District in the Falcon Pointe TIRZ—will be the subject of the November votes.
The Pecan District could take two different shapes depending on whether that proposal moves forward.
One version of the development—without the TIRZ—would include roughly 735 total residential units, 194,000 square feet of office space, and 84,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. With the TIRZ the development would include more than 500 additional residential units, over 1 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 200 hotel rooms, according to Presidium.
Wallace said that with the TIRZ the Pecan District would create more than 3,000 primary-sector jobs and 330 retail jobs and would generate an estimated $600,000 in annual sales tax revenue, $4.8 million in annual property tax receipts and $380,000 in yearly hotel occupancy taxes.
The development would also include a civic building and structured parking. Should the project move forward without the TIRZ, all of the parking at the Pecan District would be surface parking and a civic building would not be built.
The developers plan to execute the project in phases with The Elliott representing the first phase. Each phase would take between one and two years to complete, Wallace said.
If the TIRZ passes, the current plan calls for the Pecan District to be complete in roughly 10 years with the opening of the hotel.
Regardless of which direction the development takes Galindo said he believes it will act as an “economic engine” for Pflugerville.
“If successful [the Pecan District]is positioned to give a strong urban and welcoming gateway to western Pflugerville,” Fletcher said.
THE ENTRY TO WEST PFLUGERVILLE
The piece of property upon which the Pecan District will be built has remained vacant for decades, according to city officials.
“This visible property, which some people may have called an eyesore, is about to be transformed into an eyecatcher,” said Vernagene Mott, president of the Pflugerville ISD board of trustees, at the Oct. 26 groundbreaking ceremony. “It serves as the main entrance into Pflugerville, and it has for many years.”
The property is located near five PfISD campuses as well as several retail and restaurant locations.
“This site, for some reason, is like the hole in the donut,” Galindo said. “There are rooftops all around this site except for this 45-acre piece of property …This is an open, undeveloped large tract of property in the middle of a growing population.”
The location also has a role to play in the development of Pflugerville as a whole, Galindo said.
“We are going to build something that is going to be an anchor of the west side of town,” Galindo said. “Because it’s close to downtown it’s going to help support and hopefully revitalize some of the efforts going on in the downtown area.”
While the TIRZ determination will dictate the final form of the Pecan District, Galindo said that decision will not impact the direction of the development for at least five years. Until that time Galindo said residents can expect to see The Elliott along with office space, retail and restaurant space, and parking to accommodate the development in the area.
“I think we are on the right track to provide the community with what it wants,” Galindo said.