One development leads to another on University

One development leads to another on University.[/caption]

Kevin Kaplan said he moved into his house in the Teravista subdivision in 2003 and remembers feeling removed from the city.

"There were no lights from the highway," said Kaplan, a financial adviser. "It really felt like we were in the country."

At the time the main thoroughfare connecting Teravista to I-35, as well as the rest of northeast Round Rock, was Chandler Road. Kaplan said there was very little along the road except for houses, open space and undeveloped lots.

Kaplan said he knew development was coming, but few could have guessed the scope and diversity of projects that would spring up around his neighborhood in the coming decade. Now Chandler Road is renamed as University Boulevard for the higher education campuses that sit along it. The area features major retailers, such as IKEA and the Round Rock Premium Outlets, two hospitals as well as campuses for three institutions of higher education.

However, with the new development has come increased traffic and congestion.

"I have neighbors who have moved out of Teravista because its become too central, too congested," Kaplan said. "Teravista was in the right place at the right time. The rooftops are there, and [businesses] want to provide services to people."

With no signs of economic growth slowing the city and state are both planning road projects in the area to ease congestion and keep industry moving.

Building up University Boulevard


Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said the city was looking to develop Chandler Road when he first joined City Council in 2001.

"I believe it was probably the only undeveloped interstate intersection in town at the time," he said.

But it was not until the Texas Legislature approved tuition revenue bonds to build a joint Texas State University and Austin Community College campus in 2003 that development really started to progress. In October 2004, Simon Property Group announced its intention to build the Round Rock Premium Outlets just north of the road near I-35, and in August 2005 IKEA announced its plans to build a 252,000-square-foot facility at the intersection of Chandler Road and I-35. In that same month the Round Rock Higher Education Center opened its doors.

"That was an unusual way for an area to be developed," McGraw said. "It would usually start at one end and continue down. But because of the way [the campuses] came down, the two ends came together."

Ben White, Round Rock Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development, said the corridor also has an advantage being close to Georgetown and Cedar Park.

"You get to draw populations from different communities," he said.

He said Georgetown will benefit from the addition of Bass Pro Shops, the corridors most recent destination retailer opening in early summer. He said smaller shops usually come after the retailer is built as well.

Taking in the traffic


Gary Hudder, Round Rocks transportation director, said when he first came to the job three years ago University was not even on the citys list of projects for the citys five-year improvement plan.

"Not only is it now on the list, its become one of our primary problem areas," Hudder said.

Hudder said University had been increasing in congestion for a while, and after the economy improved traffic escalated rapidly.

"We don't see any letdown because thats the natural area of our future growth in the community," he said.

According to a traffic study conducted by the city, in 2012 approximately 34,300 cars drove daily on University between I-35 and Oakmont Drive. In 2014 that number increased to approximately 37,800 cars per day, or a

10.2 percent increase. According to the same study, an estimated 45,100 cars will travel that section of the road per day in 2020.

To combat the traffic the city plans to widen University to a six-lane, divided roadway. Hudder said the median will control left turns, which will increase traffic flow. Furthermore, he said the city plans to add dedicated right- and left-turn lanes.

The city is in the process of right of way acquisition, and Hudder said he hopes for a late 2016 or early 2017 start for construction.

In the meantime the city is not the only entity with plans to improve traffic flow in the area. The University intersection with I-35 will receive the regions first diverging diamond interchange.

The basic concept of the design is to allow more traffic to flow onto and off of University more efficiently. The Texas Department of Transportation identified the overpass for such an interchange because of the rising congestion in the area and the fact the environmental study was complete.

Building into the future


John Avery, whose family helped shape the boulevard by donating land for the higher-education campuses, said his family had previously been focused on developing nonprofit and medical institutions on the land. He said he sees the next phase of development as housing.

"In a way were building a jigsaw puzzle one piece at a time," Avery said.

Avery, whose family owns large tracts of land in northeast Round Rock, said he sees development increasing as housing grows on University east of A.W. Grimes Boulevard. He said his family takes a big-picture approach to developing the land.

"Were very happy to let it go another generation to let it grow right," Avery said. "If it doesn't benefit the community we don't develop it."

Single-family homes will also grow along the corridor with the addition of a new subdivision near the intersection of A.W. Grimes and University. Taylor Morrison Homes is developing a 477-acre, single-family project called Traditions at Vizcaya, built on land sold by the Avery family. At build-out the project should have about 1,000 homes. The first homes will go on the market in the first quarter of 2015.

McGraw said University is a gateway to the remaining undeveloped land in the city.

"We've always known that the city would grow," he said. "You've got to go northeast because that's where the land is."


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