Downtown Redevelopment

Comments, questions from Downtown Round Rock charrette midpoint presentation

Hopefully you've had a look at the midpoint presentation in the last post. If not, you'll want to check it out here (PDF) so you can make some sense of what's to follow.

Here is a recap of the comments and questions from Wednesday night's presentation. Again, this isn't exhaustive but meant to give you a flavor of what we heard.

Question: How can you ensure implementation of the plan? I'm concerned about the plan being implemented in a piecemeal way.
Answer: There are many facets to implementation. They are, in no particular order, inclusion of the capital components of the plan into the City's CIP (Capital Improvement Program), adoption of the zoning into the General Plan, funding of projects through bond elections and other taxing capabilities. Part of what Torti Gallas will deliver to the City is a implementation plan, including funding options and an implementation schedule. The plan will need a champion, and that's usually not an elected official but a high-ranking staff member. We promised a more comprehensive list for Friday's presentation.

Q: Are you suggesting taking Mays Street from four lanes to three?
A: Yes, within the existing right of way. The inside lane today acts as a kind of de facto left turn lane. We think the concept we're proposing will handle the traffic just fine, and would make it much safer and easier for pedestrians to cross Mays.

Q: What happens if there are a bunch of northbound cars backed up on Mays trying to get into Round Rock Donuts on Liberty; won't they block the intersection at Main?
A: They can turn left on Main Street and get there another way. One of the benefits of an improved street grid like we're proposing is that it gives motorists multiple routes to get to their destinations. Instead of having one road carry the bulk of the load, you disperse the traffic among multiple streets.

These last two questions came from the gentleman who owns the bottled water and shaved ice stores at the southeast corner Mays and Liberty. He was worried the proposed changes would make it harder for customers to get to his business. Neal Payton from Torti Gallas responded that we believe the plan will draw more people to downtown and they can shop in a much more walkable environment, which is good for all retailers in the area.

Q: Will the City use imminent domain to acquire property for the plan?
A: No. We are setting up a framework for redevelopment to occur, but we'll not force anyone to sell their property. The existence of a plan (and its implementation over time) should make property more valuable if and when someone decides to sell.

Q: I like the idea of extending Main Street west to the IH 35 frontage road, but what about having to exit all the way back at Hester's Crossing and going through two traffic lights to get there?
A: We can work to get the proper signage to guide people to Main Street. It's certainly not perfect from an ease of access standpoint, true, but the real benefit is the visibility it will give to Main Street from the 200,000 motorists who pass by daily on IH 35.

Q: Will you use rainwater collection systems on the new roadways?
A: That's called bio-retention, and Scott Baker from Melendrez said it was a concept he discussed with our parks and rec staff early in the week. It's something we'll be considering as we develop the plan.

Q: Because the plan won't be implemented all at once, what can be done at the edges of the plan area to visually show folks they've entered into a special place?
A: Great question. We can use street and sidewalk pavers, and streetscape elements like light posts and benches. The proposed bridge from IH 35 to Main Street will be the most significant visual cue, particularly to IH 35 motorists.

Q: Should the proposed town square be bigger?
A: We think it's pretty big now. It's as big as the courthouse square in Georgetown, but without the courthouse building. That's a lot of space.

Q: Can you make streetscape improvements to Round Rock Avenue and not realign it onto Liberty or extend Mays to the interstate, and still accomplish what you want to?
A: We think the Main Street extension to IH 35 is the critical move to make in the redevelopment process. It creates a new front door for downtown, as discussed earlier. That said, we can also do something to Round Rock Avenue as a visual cue that you're entering a special place. 

Q: With the grid being so important to the plan, have you looked at Round Rock Avenue going away completely?
A: No, because it's part of the original street layout and has historic significance.

Q: How would somebody access the proposed park on the Henna property?
A: We would have to build a road from Mays Street, and there's also the proposed footbridge over Brushy Creek as well as possible future trails.

At this point, Neal asked for a show hands from the 40 or so in attendance what they thought about the "road diet," i.e., things like taking Mays from four lanes to three. Good idea? Lots of hands went up. Bad idea? Two hands up. What about using roundabouts? Good idea? Lots of hands up. Bad idea? Three hands up. With a laugh, Neal noted there were some who didn't vote. For those who voted bad idea on roundabouts, Neal asked why. One gentlemen (who we found out later owns a business on U.S. 79 in the old H.E.B. shopping center) said he was worried roundabouts would cause more congestion. Gary Schatz, our transportation engineer, said congestion would be about the same as it is today, but the intersections would be much more pedestrian friendly. The gentleman said he remained to be convinced, and encouraged us to study them further. We agreed we would, and noted the City's transportation staff and TxDOT district officials felt the same way.

Then Gerald Pohlmeyer, from TxDOT's district office Georgetown, said the district isn't strictly opposed to roundabouts. He noted they were partnering on a project in the City of Georgetown to build a roundabout in that community. He said he agrees taking Mays from four lanes to three would work from a traffic flow perspective; allowing on-street parking, though, is another issue. (On-street, parallel parking is critical on Mays -- or any other street, for that matter -- if we're going to have street-facing retailers on that road.) He worries about car doors opening into the traffic lanes. We understand the concern. Neal related that Connecticut Avenue in Washington D.C., where he lived for years, is a super-busy street that allows on-street parallel parking. Neal said cars parked on busy streets can provide the pedestrians on the sidewalk some safety, a series of two-ton steel buffers as it were, from the cars passing by.

We'd like to offer a big thank you to TxDOT again for the time they made for Gary, and especially to Gerald for coming to Wednesday's meeting. Gary said he typically gets a polite hour from state transportation officials when he's working on projects like this. Gary said he got two-and-a-half hours from TxDOT's senior staff in Georgetown. He said getting that much quality time and then having a staff member attend a public meeting is unheard of. There's still much work to do with our TxDOT partners, and we very much appreciate their listening to our ideas and concepts for this plan. 

Q: Is the state amendable to giving Mays Street to the City? At one time, he heard that state law didn't allow on-street parking on state roads. If the City owned the road, then City rules would apply.
A: Transferring ownership of Mays has been discussed.

With that, we wrapped up the meeting and encourage folks to drop in on the design team the rest of the week and to please come back for Friday's final presentation.


Candy Moseley said:

I attend the meetings in January.

I heard a lot of input and suggestions.

How many changes were generated/inplimented to the original city plans.

# March 2, 2009 3:30 PM
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