Commerce center open for business

The build-out of the 130 Commerce Center along SH 130 represents not only a step forward in development but also the opening of a gateway into Pflugerville.

The 160-acre center, which sits at the southwestern intersection of SH 130 and Pecan Street, has been in the works since 2008, when the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. purchased the land. Recruiting businesses to lease and buy space at the center lulled until 2012 when the economy began to rebound. Since then, the PCDC has successfully attracted data center Thin-nology,gun manufacturer TrackingPoint, transmedia company BullTiger Productions, bulk coffee manufacturer EIEIO Inc., D-BAT Baseball and Softball Academy, and Community Impact Newspaper to the development. First Star bank has provided financing to build the center.

"When the economy crashed we were left high and dry with no activity, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise because it was an opportunity ... to put a strategy in place and identify what we wanted to see happen out there," said Charles Harvey, an agent with Don Quick and Associates, the commercial real estate company marketing the center.

Selling the center

The center's 160 acres are divided into lots that can be purchased or leased and platted as businesses submit construction plans. TrackingPoint, BullTiger Productions, D-BAT and EIEIO each occupy 30,000 square feet in the first of six proposed 120,000-square-foot light-industrial buildings. The first building is finishing build-out, and TrackingPoint has already moved into its space.

BullTiger also purchased 30,000 square feet of the next building, which is set to finish construction in February or March. PCDC Executive Director Floyd Akers said construction will begin on each building when the previous building is half-leased.

"We expect [the second] building to be completely full by the time it's built," he said.

The success of the development is being credited to the center's convenient location and Pflugerville's pro-business attitude, Akers said.

To better compete with Austin, Round Rock and other areas, Pflugerville has been willing to offer incentives to companies that choose to locate in the city. Akers said the city is heavily incentivizing development in Pflugerville's east side, where the center is located. Some incentives offered to the center's occupants include funding for staff, moving fees and reduced lease payments.

Harvey said doing business in Pflugerville can be easier than dealing with other area city governments.

"The difficulty of doing business in Austin sometimes is a huge advantage for the outlying communities of Round Rock and Pflugerville," Harvey said. "If [the company] is here to do something in Austin, they can get that or better in Pflugerville just because you have a shorter bureaucratic process to go through."

The center's position on the SH 130 tollway is also attractive for businesses looking to move goods quickly, access amenities or just avoid the traffic on I-35.

"We were looking for a place that had the space on a major intersection so we could be accessible," said Kate Meehan, BullTiger Productions chief operating officer. "It's also very close to a lot of the resources we needed, like the Austin private airport and downtown [Austin]."

Employees at the center may also have a wider variety of living options with the convenience of SH 130.

"Even with traffic, it's not a big deal getting to Pflugerville from downtown Austin," Akers said.

Opening the gateway

Janice Heath, senior vice president at First Texas Bank and a PCDC board member, believes SH 130 and the center will bring more development to the city. First Texas Bank has lent money to businesses building in the center.

"I do have a lot of confidence in that property out there because I know that is the gateway to Pflugerville, and it is one of the first major projects on [SH] 130," Heath said. "I feel like [the 130 Commerce Center] is setting the standards that not only benefits Pflugerville but benefits Austin and Georgetown all the way to the boundaries of SH 130."

The tollway has already helped bring retail to the city with the Stone Hill Town Center as well as residential options with developments such as the Mansions at Stone Hill.

"We have new stores coming every day," Akers said. "We expect to see more big-box retailers move in, additional restaurants, and with our growth, we're expecting to build upwards of 1,000 residential units this year."

Benefits to Pflugerville

Opening the gateway for more commercial and residential development on the city's east side is also likely to benefit the rest of Pflugerville, including building a larger daytime population of people who work and shop in the area.

Many Pflugerville residents commute to Austin, Round Rock or other communities for work, and as a result, the city loses tax revenue during the day.

"We know that if we're able to bring 1,000 employees to the 130 Commerce Center, they're going to be eating and shopping in Pflugerville almost predominantly during their lunch hour," Akers said.

Officials are hoping an increased lunchtime population will assist businesses that rely on daytime customers.

"One of the complaints we've heard from people throughout the years is that there's not enough lunchtime traffic to warrant being open for lunch, but I think that's going to change dramatically," said Patricia Gervan-Brown, Pflugerville Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

But businesses are not the only ones standing to benefit from the build-out along SH 130. While the city welcomes residential development, neighborhoods typically do not cover the costs of services the city provides for them, including police and fire protection, water and electric utilities and drainage. Instead, commercial development tends to pick up most of the tab. With the increase in commercial development, residents could see their property taxes eased.

"You need [a] commercial tax base because large commercial users aren't a drain on city services, and they pay very high property taxes," Akers said. "We need to make sure we grow ... our commercial tax base so that the tax burden doesn't get out of hand."

Area development

While the center already has utilities and infrastructure in place, its roadways are still under development.

Helios Way connects the center east to west, and the under-construction Impact Way provides connectivity north to south. Plans are also being developed for a connection from Helios Way to SH 130 on the center's west side. The road would include a traffic signal where the road connects to the tollway. Future road construction will also include improvements to Pecan Street.

The connectivity should also help ease future traffic around the center and on SH 130.

"If you drive down SH 45 [and SH 130] right now ... there's no traffic on it," Akers said. "You could actually put a ton of offices up here and not dramatically affect traffic."

Future plans

In addition to its already signed-on businesses, PCDC is in negotiations to bring in more development from additional companies with several yet-to-be-unveiled projects, Akers said.

A Marriot hotel and conference center is also slated for the construction on the north side of the center, and the city is working on developing two additional hotels at the center.

"It's more than just a hotel, and it would be great for Pflugerville," Akers said. "All of [the projects] will probably be announced in the next three to four months."

By Korri Kezar
Korri Kezar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Community Impact Newspaper's Round Rock-Pflugerville-Hutto edition for two years before moving to Dallas. Five years later, she returned to the company to launch Community Impact Newspaper's Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth edition, where she covers local government, development, transportation and a variety of other topics. She has also worked at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin-American Statesman and Dallas Business Journal.