Although the Sweden-based clothier H&M is months away from its opening this fall in the Hill Country Galleria, Nelson Partners Architects & Planners presented Bee Cave City Council with a pre-concept plan Jan. 26 for a $16 million renovation.
The firm was hired by Invesco Real Estate, the management group for Hill Country Galleria owner California State Teachers’ Retirement System, to create improvements that would bring more local residents to the center and attract a higher level of tenants to the property, said David Bass, the director of asset management at Invesco.
Currently a significant number of area residents are leaving the region to shop, he said. A good sales average for a successful center is $400 per square foot, he said.
“Sales in the Hill Country Galleria hover around $200 per square foot,” Bass said.
Nelson Partners associate Jeff Brand said the center’s long main street—about half a mile long between Dillards and Dick’s Sporting Goods—does not promote pedestrian walking through the mall. As a result, he said the group would like to remove the street in front of City Hall and add a “great, signature tree” to change the perception of this distance. He said incorporating festoon, or overhead/tivoli, lights along the stretch will break up the distance.
Brand said the firm is proposing to convert the one-way road encircling City Hall into a two-way road to create more flexibility in the area.
“The [25-foot-wide] road is currently sized for a two-way street,” he said.
Brand said changing the angled parking around the square of the center—encircling City Hall and Iron Cactus—to parallel parking would widen the sidewalks and allow for more outdoor dining.
He said the green in front of City Hall should be less sloped to provide for more civic opportunities, and the placement of an electronic sign to announce community and other events would be advantageous. Currently, electronic signs are not permitted in the city of Bee Cave.
“We want this [Galleria center section] to continue to be the town center and have a Hill Country feel,” Council Member Kara King said.
She said the stone levels on the green are “characteristic of our mall” and provide an elevation for performances.
Under the new plan, the plaza will be sloped but not as drastically as a terraced amphitheater, Brand said. The plaza does not entice people to walk across it to get to shops, he said.
“We want it to also maintain flexibility for a variety of uses, not just performances,” Brand said.
Brand said the center’s splash pad should be deleted since it acts as a possible risk to children.
However, council members said the community may object to removing the water feature.
“We realize [the splash pad] has a place in the community and are open to suggestions,” said Jim Hopping, Hill Country Galleria general
The plan also includes adding shade to the center’s walkways, with 70 percent of the canopy area being full shade as opposed to slats, Brand said. A new logo will be created for the Hill Country Galleria as well, he said.
Bass said it is difficult to attract new stores to the Galleria when its sales are at $200 per square foot, below the average. The challenge to gain quality tenants may change if sales increase and the center is revitalized, he said.
“We will take [your] comments very seriously and see what we can incorporate,” Bass said.