This summer two new restaurants—Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Pie Five Pizza—will join multiple restaurants along Hwy. 29 and I-35 near a planned Natural Grocers location, which is expected to open in late 2016. However, as the city’s population continues to grow, city leaders say residents continue to talk to them about the need for more restaurants, retail shops and grocery stores.
“We get a lot of feedback from the community about what people would like to see [in terms of additional retail],” City Manager David Morgan said. “[Residents want] more grocery stores in different locations … and more sit-down restaurants.”
In January the city issued a request for proposals from retail marketing consultants to complete a market analysis and retail-positioning strategy to be used for economic development, Morgan said. The study would look at a broad range of retail and dining establishments, from general retail and specialty stores to small and large big-box retailers and restaurants. The study is expected to take about 12 months and could begin in May.
“[The study] is really to truly understand our existing [retail] environment, our demographics, our trade area and also understand our retail spaces,” he said. “It will really create a very good profile for all of our existing retail as well as a profile of what our potential retail sites are within the city at this time.”
The information gathered would be used to help attract new retail and restaurant options to the city, he said.
The city has budgeted about $100,000 from Georgetown Economic Development Corp., or GEDCO, for the study, which would include an analysis and strategy for the city as a whole as well as several focused areas such as the Williams Drive corridor, the proposed Pecan Branch Georgetown retail center and downtown.
Morgan said the cost of the retail study could depend on how many focus areas city leaders decide to include.
The study could also define the city’s trade area—or where the community generates a majority of its customers, Morgan said. The consultants would also help identify businesses to pursue to open locations in Georgetown.
“How can we package [all of the data] to show [potential retailers] that Georgetown is an ideal fit?” Morgan said. “[The consultant] looks into the retail market and understands … which businesses are growing and which of those retailers fit within our needs.”
The consultants would also develop an implementation plan to be used for the city’s economicdevelopment efforts, he said.
“Our hope would be that we would have an implementation plan where [the consultant] would stay engaged with the city so they can help know when different retailers—locally, regionally or nationally—are expanding … [so we can] proactively attract those retailers to Georgetown,” he said. “The more connected and educated we can be about what’s happening in [the retail industry], the better off we will be.”
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Morgan said the ultimate goal is to help grow the city’s tax base and increase sales tax revenue as well as offer a better lifestyle amenity to residents.
“People want to live next to quality shopping, and I think it’s fair for the city to be involved in helping promote that, which is why the council has asked for and been supportive of increasing our retail-recruitment efforts,” Morgan said. “Sales tax is one of the city’s largest revenue sources.”
Georgetown Budget Manager Paul Diaz said retail sales tax revenue typically accounts for half the sales taxes collected by the city, and restaurants make up about 10 to 12 percent.
Diaz said sales tax revenue in all sectors grew by about 2.3 percent in the city as a whole and by 10 percent in downtown in fiscal year 2014-15 compared with FY 2013-14.
“Food is one of the more consistent sectors [in terms of revenue growth],” Diaz said.
For the past two fiscal years sales tax revenue collected from restaurants grew by about 7.8 percent, he said.
However, residents must still leave Georgetown to find certain types of retail, and GEDCO board member Bill Mateja said the study will help identify the sales tax leakage—when people go elsewhere for goods or services—and close the gaps.
“We send a lot of customers to Round Rock,” said Mateja, a Sun City resident. “We would like for those customers to spend their money here.”
Mateja said the study is designed to tell city leaders what Georgetown consumers and homeowners want in terms of retail and restaurants.
“The No. 1 [request] in Sun City is for an additional grocery store,” Mateja said. “The No. 1 thing [people want] is more grocery competition.”
H-E-B has two locations in Georgetown and owns two additional properties that could be used for future stores, including at FM 1460 and SE Inner Loop as well as at Berry Creek Drive and Hwy. 195.
“It’s not that H-E-B isn’t great,” said City Council Member Steve Fought, who is also a Sun City resident and GEDCO board member. “[We want] more choice among the ones that are here and more locations. … The customer base has outgrown the store.”
Fought said overcrowding and issues with parking at the Williams Drive and D.B. Wood Road H-E-B location have caused frustrations for some residents.
Developer Joe Owen with Owen Holdings, which is planning the master-planned, mixed-use community Parmer Ranch at Ronald Reagan Boulevard and Williams Drive, recently started a petition on Change.org to highlight the need of another grocery store in Northwest Georgetown. The petition had nearly 1,800 signatures as of press time Feb. 5.
“This petition will be sent to the decision makers of the local grocery stores to show the support for another alternative in the area and to express [community members’] desires for another option,” the petition reads.
Along with grocery stores, Morgan said the city also hears a lot of requests for sporting goods stores. Georgetown Sporting Goods closed in 2015.
“We hear a lot that there is a need to have a sporting goods store in Georgetown. That’s not happening naturally, and it might be for a variety of reasons,” Morgan said. “It would be great for us to have a proactive strategy to go out and pursue a sporting goods store—to not only find locations for them, but to make the case of why Georgetown is a good location for them. The same with new restaurants.”
Morgan said the city would look at attracting retail types; however, he said he warned against only focusing on specific businesses.
“The challenge of saying we would really like to have a specific retailer is that there may be a list of reasons why one specific retailer would not be a good fit for Georgetown—not because we don’t want it, but because there is not the right site or our demographics are not right for what they are looking for,” he said. “It’s a little dangerous to say we want ‘X’ business in Georgetown because for a variety of reasons that are beyond our control, it might not work out.”
Previous retail studies have been completed in Georgetown. A 2006 retail marketplace profile that was completed by the Capital Area Council of Governments found the city had $1 billion of annual retail demand but only half the supply.
Since that time retail stores and restaurants have continued to open in the city, but city leaders say there is still room for improvement.
“We are taking a strategic approach and not just letting it lay fallow,” Fought said.