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

Downtown Round Rock will see many changes in 2019.

Downtown Round Rock will see many changes in 2019.

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Downtown development in 2019
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.