Stories to follow in 2019: Cities move forward developing downtown areas

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As the cities of Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto continue to evolve, residents can expect to see changes in their respective downtown areas in the upcoming year.

Transformation will come in the form of changes to the downtown landscape, transportation infrastructure and businesses in Round Rock.

“We have this softer side of development by improving the aesthetics and ambience downtown and the more practical improvements,” Round Rock Downtown Manager Courtney Ainsworth said.

ROUND ROCK BUSINESS CHANGES

One of the major changes taking place in downtown Round Rock in 2019 will happen behind the doors of downtown bars.

In 2017, City Council adopted changes to the downtown development ordinance including a restriction on the number of bars permitted in the area zoned mixed-use district downtown, which includes the area between Burnet and Brown streets and Bagdad and Austin avenues. In 2019 that limit will be met, capping off the number of bars downtown.

Only 12 total bars are permitted to open downtown, according to the ordinance. Although there are only nine bars in the area, some of those bars are counted twice because of their size.

Long Branch Saloon and Cactus Nights are each counted as two bars. Another bar, currently coined The Flats, is under construction at 205 N. Mays St. The Flats will also be counted as two bars.

The zoning district also limits the number of bars that can operate on the same block. City staff said the bar restrictions are designed to balance downtown business.

Though the number of bars opening downtown in 2019 will be capped, some of those establishments will soon be able to keep their doors open later.

Downtown bars are now permitted to serve until 2 a.m. after a Dec. 20 vote by Round Rock City Council. Previously downtown bars and restaurants were only permitted to serve alcohol until midnight Sunday through Friday and until 1 a.m. on Saturday.

IMPROVING MOBILITY

At the end of 2018 the city of Round Rock completed Phase 1 of the McNeil Road extension, a project aimed at creating a bypass to downtown Round Rock. The first phase formed a connection between I-35 and Burnet Street. The second phase will bring the connection the rest of the way to Georgetown Street.

Ainsworth said the extension is expected to improve the flow of traffic and increase connectivity.

SCENERY IMPROVEMENTS

In January the city will begin looking for a contractor to build six parklets along Main Street between Mays and Sheppard streets.

Ainsworth said the parklets will bring seating as well as landscaping and additional lighting to the downtown area.

The preliminary design plans from Studio 16:19, the designer contracted by the city for the project, include plans for sidewalk upgrades, lighting, seating and greenery along the section of Main Street.

“Some pretty significant changes and improvements are coming to the downtown area to make it a strong asset for our city,” Mayor Pro Tem Writ Baese said when the preliminary designs were presented to City Council in July 2018.

“We are trying to look at the greater downtown and area and ways that we can improve the experience for those who are coming down here,” Ainsworth said.

THE NEW FACE OF DOWNTOWN HUTTO

Hutto’s downtown is set to become drastically redefined by the addition of the upcoming adjacent Co-Op District. The mixed-use development will house the new City Hall and library as well as Hutto’s first movie theater, apartments, office space and entertainment venues.

“[The Co-Op District] is a fundamental piece from a development perspective on how we continue to invest and expand our downtown,” Hutto City Manager Odis Jones said.

Delayed by rain, Hutto City Hall is scheduled to open in February. Southside BBQ, the development’s first tenant, will open shortly thereafter in the spring. Co-Op District developer Bob Wunch has previously stated Flix Brewhouse will begin construction in April.

Another mixed-use development, The Landing, may connect downtown Hutto to Exchange Boulevard with a pedestrian corridor. Previewed in May, The Landing will feature more than 1,400 housing units and some retail space, all located just northwest of the Co-Op District.

PLANNING DOWNTOWN PFLUGERVILLE

Downtown developments are still in the planning process in Pflugerville.

Pflugerville City Council passed a renewed version of the city’s downtown action plan in late September.

According to Pflugerville Planning Director Emily Barron, the city in 2019 will address downtown code amendments; complete a parking analysis; pursue a downtown street furniture program, which could include items such as streetlights or traffic signs; and analyze water and wastewater downtown.

In 2020 and 2021, the action plan calls for the city to conduct traffic studies and explore the possibility of a public parking garage.

“[The action plan] was a great initial step to recalibrate downtown,” Pflugerville Assistant City Manager Trey Fletcher said.

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  1. What happened to the previous solar street lights that were bought for the downtown area and then never used? I was told before that the city spent all the money on them and then found out that they supposedly couldn’t actually even be wired into the existing electrical grid downtown. Sounds very suspicious at best and highly irresponsible and incompetent. Were the lights returned or sold to recapture funds to return to the city? What happened with that? Did someone’s cousin get those as a freebie for their new development? A real news story in there somewhere.

    The rendering of the orange basketball court looking crosswalk in front of the Shell gas station that can be seen in the print version of this month’s community impact is hideous. I hope this isn’t another instance of people with bad ideas that have a lot of money and a lot of say in this town getting the bids to make hideous updates to our city. Please for all that is sacred, please get someone without a conflict of interest that has actual merit and talent to fix the downtown problems. We finally have people other than real estate agents on the city council now, so maybe there is hope. Hopefully, these people are willing to question and prevent hairbrained ideas that will access the Pflugerville tax dollars and then not deliver any results. There have been so many over the last ten years.

    • I believe it was Brandon Wade (former city manager of Pflugerville) that was responsible for the light upgrade project in downtown Pflugerville that never happened even though the lights were purchased with city funds. The city bought lights that wouldn’t fit existing hardware downtown. Geniuses….. These are the kind of people that are in charge of improvements in Pflugerville. This is why nothing ever gets done around here. They can’t even be bothered to measure something before making a purchase. Or perhaps it was deliberately planned to play out like that so someone could pocket the funds. He apparently said that they were used “for another project”. Oh really? Where? He then resigned in Feb 2018. Ok. Hmmm…….

      Where that money went and where those lights were actually used needs to be investigated. The people of Pflugerville are sick of the lack of oversight in this town with city council and PCDC doing what they will with public funds with no accountability.

  2. I’d love to see the city of Pflugerville create a comprehensive plan to revitalize downtown. Stone Hill fills some specific shopping needs, but downtown has the potential to be a destination with shops and restaurants. It’s such a sweet area with charming homes, and the success of West Pecan Coffee really shows how much something like that was needed here. Residents are looking for great places to eat and hang out, and there’s still a real lack of them in Pflugerville. There’s a real need for more independent restaurants and stores, in contrast to the bigger box stores at Stone Hill.

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Kirby Killough
Kirby Killough joined Community Impact after working in broadcast news. She is currently the editor for the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto edition of Community Impact.
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