The goal with the nearly $4.97 million project is to create a destination for residents and visitors alike, officials said.
Work includes reconstructing the road, replacing the utilities, improving drainage and adding an adjoining park with an elevated pavilion and public art benches. The city also plans to build a median with a pedestrian hybrid beacon and crosswalk along Main Street/US 377 just south of Bates Street to connect to the west side of Old Town Keller, which saw work completed there in 2017.
Mayor Armin Mizani said all of the elements are part of a larger effort to make Keller one of the most family-friendly cities in the state.
“At the end of the day, ultimately for us, it’s just trying to make Old Town Keller a unique destination for residents and create some vibrancy by attracting new businesses,” he said.
Construction on Bates Street began in July and is expected to wrap up in fall 2023, according to the city’s timeline. The next phase will involve the reconstruction of Elm Street, which is still under design and tentatively scheduled for construction beginning in 2024.
The ongoing construction is part of what city officials have dubbed Old Town Keller Phase 2. The area extends from Keller Parkway to Bear Creek Parkway and is between Main Street/US 377 and Elm Street.
The first phase involved nearly $4.5 million worth of improvements to the west side of Main Street/US 377 just south of Keller Parkway.
Keller Public Works Director Alonzo Linan said the city started with the basics: replacing the water and sewer lines, improving drainage, and redoing streets. Crews then added parking, more fencing, enhanced lighting, landscaping, outdoor seating and multiple gateway structures, according to city documents. The city also added a landscaped path to encourage pedestrians to walk behind the buildings rather than along the heavily trafficked highway, Linan said.
“What started out as a utility infrastructure project has now become an economic development project,” Linan said. “And I think that as we do Bates and Elm [streets], we hope that it spurs enough redevelopment and reinvestment that it starts to snowball into more than what we started with.”
Sarah Hensley, assistant director of community development in Keller, said after the first phase was completed, the city did a lot of work to figure out what would come next. There were public meetings, feedback from the community and the businesses, and work with consultants and City Council.
“There was a lot of thought and data collection and conversation that went into identifying which projects should come first on the east side,” she said.
Phase 2 started with the roundabout being constructed at Elm Street and Bear Creek Parkway to improve traffic flow. With that completed over the summer, the city started construction in July on Bates Street and the park, which is about a third of an acre.
There will be on-street parking on Bates Street as well as on the new Elm Street.
“Parking is the No. 1 concern now in Old Town,” Hensley said.
Bates Street will also get removable bollards so it can be closed for festivals.
“It’s a little fancier” than the orange and white barricades the city would typically use to close off a street, Hensley said.
Other features include gateway entries on Bates Street; enhanced lighting; built-in food truck hookups for water and electricity; improved landscaping; and more. Bates Street itself will have pavement that is stamped and stained to give it a more decorative look, according to city plans.
Earlier this year the city’s Public Art Board selected nearly a dozen designs for benches that will also serve as public art.
“The goal here is really to enhance the festival street atmosphere and to really just set Bates Street apart from other spaces,” Lupe Orozco, the city’s manager for administrative services, told council in May.
A look at funding
Part of Hensley’s job is keeping residents and businesses abreast of what is happening, she said.
“It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the stamped and stained concrete and the nice little benches and lights and everything else,” she said. “Everything that we’re doing right now and planned to do in the future, first and foremost, they’re infrastructure projects.”
The improvements are being funded through a variety of city funds as well as grant money. To help fund future projects, the city created a tax increment reinvestment zone last year along the US 377 corridor that includes Old Town Keller. As the area redevelops and increases in property value, the zone will allow the city to capture that additional tax revenue and funnel it into other improvements.
“[The reinvestment zone shows] how dedicated we are to making sure that Old Town Keller is a success,” Mizani said. “From the city’s perspective, we’re very into our parks. We’re very into our trails. We like having unique mom-and-pop retailers and restaurants. ... The more that we can improve on the infrastructure and bring it up to date, in that sense, I think it’s just going to further put Keller on the map.”
What is next
Once the Bates Street improvements are done, the city plans to tackle redevelopment of Elm Street. Plans include utility work, improved drainage, added sidewalks, on-street parking and a reconstructed roadway. Between $5 million-$5.5 million of the Elm Street work will be funded through the Tarrant County transportation bond program voters approved in 2021, according to Linan.
Linan said construction is scheduled to be done between 2024 and 2026.
Hensley said the city also hopes some of the business owners might band together and add extra touches, whether that means holiday decorations, signage or extra security cameras.
“The sky’s the limit as far as what they might like to see,” she said.
Sue Harbert owns The Polkadot Giraffe gift shop, which she opened five years ago in a house built in 1920 on Olive Street. Opening in Old Town versus a strip mall gives her business “an old quaint feeling,” she said.
Harbert also serves as vice president of the Old Town Keller Merchants Association. She said it is important to let people know businesses are still open, despite the construction.
“People just need to get out and explore Old Town and see what’s really down here,” she said. “There’s really some unique shops.”
Harbert said she is excited about all the improvements coming to Old Town Keller.
“When it’s done, it’s going to be phenomenal,” she said. “I just wish they could wave a magic wand and have everything done already.”