After several years of planning, preparing and talking to business owners, the city of Lewisville will finally move forward this fall with the next big phase of Old Town’s revitalization—reconfiguring Main and Mill streets into a more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly area.
With several nearby residential projects in the works, Lewisville staff said increasing the area’s walkability is desperately needed.
In order to achieve this walkability, Mill between College Street and Purnell Street will be reduced from a four-lane road to a two-lane road with a continuous turn lane in the middle with bike lanes and street parking. Bike lanes, sidewalks and parallel street parking will be added to Main between Mill and Railroad Street.
Mixed opinions from businesses
With construction on the horizon, some business owners along the Main and Mill corridor are becoming more vocal about their support or opposition toward the project.
Amanda Ferguson, owner of We + You and former president of the Main and Mill Association, said she has heard various opinions from business owners.
“You have those that are excited and embracing the change that we are growing and developing, and there are people who have been around for a long time and don’t like change or look at change one-sided,” she said. “But any time there is a major change or construction, it [causes]mixed emotions.”
Old Town Meat Market announced it would be moving to Double Oak next year due to the project.
City Engineer David Salmon said he thinks the new parking layout for Mill may have been one of the reasons the business chose to relocate.
“Currently there is no street parking on Mill,” he said. “We are going to have a combination of parallel and back-in parking on Mill.”
The type of street parking in front of the businesses is dependent on whether businesses allowed the city to have some of their right of way. Salmon said if a business donated right of way it will receive back-in parking; if not the city will create parallel parking as it requires no right of way.
“At this point we have had two people decline to dedicate right of way that we’ve asked, and that was the Meat Market and [Ken] Owen’s Battery,” he said.
Salmon said the Meat Market is one of the businesses that will lose parking spaces.
“If you look at individual parking in front of businesses, some may be losing parking,” he said. “That was part of the issue with the Meat Market as right now they have seven spaces that are head-in. In this scenario they were going to end up with four back-in spaces, so the Meat Market was going to end up losing three spaces.”
However, Salmon said Mill will have a total of 80 parking spaces—22 parallel and 58 back-in—for a net increase of 30 spaces.
Ferguson said the project will benefit businesses.
“I think what will make it so attractive is the walkability, the bike lanes—there will be multiple avenues and variety of transportation choices for people,” she said. “I’m very much looking forward to it starting even though we are going to have some inconveniences and some headaches during construction. At the end it’s going to round out this area and really make Old Town desirable for residents and visitors.”
A delayed project
The effort to revitalize Old Town Lewisville dates back to the city’s 2010 development plan.
Lewisville Economic Development Director Nika Reinecke said the city received a $3 million grant from the North Central Texas Council of Governments in 2010 to improve Mill with the goal of having the project complete by 2015.
“Normally it doesn’t take this long, but this project had a lot of complexities,” she said. “Initially we thought we had enough right of way for both Main and Mill, but we didn’t. Also, [Lewisville City] Council wanted us to start communicating with the property owners to make sure everyone is on board, and that took three years of our time.”
After several years of talking to property owners and redrawing plans, the project was originally bid in late July and was expected to begin construction in late August or early September.
However, Salmon said the city received only one bid that was well over budget, causing the city to step back and re-evaluate the construction project.
“Our budget is $6 million, and the bid came just over $9 million,” he said.
After calling contractors who picked up plans for the project but did not bid, Salmon learned that the project should be broken into two parts: paving the street and landscaping.
“We think we will get more bidders this way,” he said. “And normally when you get more bidders and there’s competition then you will find prices that are lower. This is an important enough project to where if this comes in a little over $6 million or maybe $7 million we will probably find the money in our capital budget somewhere.”
Salmon said the city plans to rebid the project in the fall.
Investing in infrastructure
Reinecke said where people can safely walk and bike, retail and restaurants become more attractive to developers.
“Streets or infrastructure is always a big part of revitalization because that’s where [the city]can make a difference,” she said. “We can put in money for public infrastructure and make it better, make it safer, make it look better, and make it more conducive to pedestrians and new businesses. And then once we have that measure in, then the private sector comes in, and they will invest in our community.”
Reinecke said with Lewisville nearly built out, it is important to focus on redevelopment.
“Vacant land attracts developers just by virtue of being there, versus with redevelopment we need to take a lot more action and capitalize on the assets we have,” she said. “If you don’t do that with developed communities it will go down the road of deterioration.”
Ultimately, Reinecke said the city would like to see more restaurants and retail supporting the residential units coming in.
“For the longest time we wanted to brand this area as an entertainment district similar to Grapevine,” she said.