Downtown Redevelopment

January 2010 - Posts

Updated Downtown Master Plan document now available for review

An updated version of the Round Rock Downtown Master Plan document is now online and at the Library for your review.

There are four chapters in the document. Chapter 1 (PDF) provides an introduction and overview. Chapter 2 (PDF) presents the Vision Master Plan. Chapter 3 (PDF) covers Implementation Policies and Strategies. Chapter 4 (PDF) is the Design Guide, and also includes the Appendix.

There will be a public hearing on the Plan at the Feb. 3 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

While there could be parts of the Plan you disagree with, it is imperative that we have a plan to guide redevelopment in the downtown area. If we don’t plan adequately for downtown, we will lose the opportunity to re-establish downtown as the heart of the community with a distinctive sense of place.

Without a plan, haphazard development will be scattered throughout the downtown with no regard to the long-term viability of each distinct neighborhood. We’ll be without policies and ordinances to protect viable residential neighborhoods while supporting redevelopment where appropriate. We will be unable to ensure harmony between commercial and residential uses, and we will not have unifying design standards. Pedestrian, parking and cut-through traffic problems will get worse as those issues will go unaddressed in a comprehensive fashion. Infrastructure improvements necessary to ensure the success of the area will not be prioritized and funding options for those improvements will be limited. There will be a lack of consensus about what to do with green spaces in the area, which will result in nothing being done to improve them, and we’ll all continue to lament how Brushy Creek is an underutilized natural asset. Frustration among downtown business and property owners will build as the downtown continues to struggle without the vision and focus necessary to bring about the improvements everyone wants.

As a result, Round Rock will lose the opportunity to preserve its core and brand downtown as a destination, for shopping, dining and entertainment and lose the opportunity to compete at a regional level for tourism and economic development.

Your thoughts? Please comment here on the blog, or call me at 218-5409 or email me at [email protected] I'd love to hear from you.

Downtown Master Plan open house follow-up

We had approximately 60 people attend the Downtown Master Plan open house meetings Jan. 12-13. We met a fair number of newcomers to the planning process, and saw a lot of familiar faces too. Thanks to all for taking the time to attend. It was a very productive two days.

If you weren't able to attend but want to see what was presented, here are the exhibits (PDF). If you've got questions or comments, please make them here on the blog.

Most folks who attended were complimentary of the plan and the process, and those who had questions and concerns were able to speak with staff one on one and/or provide their input in writing. Based on the input, we'll be recommending another tweak or two to the Plan.

Here are some of the highlights:

A gentleman whose family owns a house on Pecan Street came to the meeting Tuesday evening, as did his two adult daughters who live in the home. He and one of the daughters spoke in opposition to the plan at the Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing Nov. 10. We had a very productive visit at the open house, and we understand his issue much more clearly now and think we have a way to enable his family to achieve their goal for the property while we still achieve the overall mission of the plan.

The Round Rock Donuts "extended family" visited Tuesday, as did a representative from First Baptist Church. They were anxious to see how the design is coming along for the realignment of Round Rock Avenue onto Liberty Avenue (Here is the page (PDF) from the plan showing "before and after" images of the realignment.) We anticipate receiving a draft design from our consulting engineer soon, and when we do we'll start visiting with nearby property owners.

The owner of Kawaii Shaved Ice on Mays Street expressed his opposition to the recommendation in the plan to take Mays Street from four lanes to three in the future. Here's our consulting engineer's analysis of the proposal (PDF), with an explanation of why the change will improve traffic flows on Mays by allowing for more effective signal timing at the Mays-Main Street intersection. It's certainly sounds odd, if not downright crazy, that reducing the number of lanes will allow traffic to flow better, but that's what will happen. For those who remain skeptical, know that we are planning to test such a change by simply restriping Mays to see how well it works in practice before we rebuild anything. 

One display we had up that's not included in the exhibit download above is the Heritage Trail concept produced by our Parks and Recreation Department planning team. The plan would have the Heritage Trail start in Old Town Brushy by “the rock” with a number of sculptural stories and interpretative signs to tell the story of the frontier days in old town Brushy. As the trail continues east along Brushy Creek, the history of Round Rock would continue to be told through interpretive signs, sculptures and custom “time portal” view points. A pedestrian bridge would cross from the north side of the creek to the south side at approximately Lewis Street at Veterans Park.

Everyone was really excited about the Heritage Trail concept with one notable exception: those folks who own homes on Vista Avenue whose property backs up to the creek. They would much prefer the trail be built on the south side of the creek. They are concerned about safety, impact to creek views and the division of their property. These issues will be addressed during the design process for the trail, which will occur at some point in the future. There is no funding currently identified for the trail project.

Regarding the East Main Street ballfields property owned by the Round Rock Community Foundation, we received a couple of written comments asking the property remain as is, or that a majority of it remain green/open space. The RRCF is planning for the property to be used by social service providers like Williamson-Burnet Counties Opportunities Inc. and Hope Alliance and to provide some open/green space on the site. A special zoning district (Planned Unit Development) will be required to develop this property because a portion of it is currently zoned single family residential, with the balance zoned commercial. The PUD process will include neighborhood input.

We anticipate having the final draft of the plan document ready by next Wednesday, Jan. 20, when we will be distributing copies to Planning and Zoning Commission members in advance of their Feb. 3 public hearing and recommendation vote. Once we've got the Plan posted online, we'll send an email to our stakeholder list and write a new blog post.

Upcoming meetings for Round Rock Downtown Master Plan

We will hold two public meetings over the next month on the Downtown Master Plan. The first will be an open house meeting from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, and 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Jan. 13, in the Community Room at the McConico Building, 301 W. Bagdad Ave. The second will be a formal public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at City Hall, 221 E. Main St.

The open house will provide an opportunity to review the latest significant updates to the Plan document and ask questions of City staff in an informal setting. The public hearing is an opportunity to provide direct input to the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to its vote on the Plan.

Our vision is to create a vibrant, walkable downtown district that offers distinctive shopping, dining, working and living opportunities. The Master Plan is needed to guide the policies and ordinances, infrastructure and open space improvements, and financing options crucial to the orderly development and economic viability of a resurgent urban core.

Here are the issues brought up most recently regarding the plan:

Property rights
Some concerns we’ve heard since last January are about potential changes in the Flat, the neighborhood between Mays and Lewis streets south of Brushy Creek. There is nothing in the Plan that will force anyone to sell their home to make way for new development like condos or apartments. If you want your home to stay a single-family residence, then it will stay that way. You control what happens to your property.

That said, neighboring properties in the Flat may change. One of the reasons we are developing the Plan is because some downtown property owners are interested in redeveloping. The Plan is designed to provide a common vision for the area and offer some predictability to the types of redevelopment that occur. Without a plan, haphazard development will be scattered throughout the area with no regard to the long-term viability of the distinct neighborhoods in the area. We’ll be without policies and ordinances to protect viable residential neighborhoods while supporting redevelopment where appropriate.

East Main Street ballfields
Neighbors of the property have requested the draft Plan be amended to include a portion of the ballfields into the proposed Historic Residential Character Overlay zoning, and that the overlay be implemented with zoning of the first portion of downtown, if not sooner. The Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, owner of the property, has plans for building social service facilities and administrative offices on the land.

The Planning and Zoning Commission, at its Nov. 19 retreat, felt like the overlay was inappropriate for the property since there are no residential structures on it.

What we are recommending is that a note be included on the Vision Plan map (currently on page 27) and in the Design and Land Use recommendations in Chapter 4 of the Plan. The note will state the property should be designed as a combination of open space and family-oriented social service facilities and administrative offices, and that the property be comprehensively planned to effectively integrate those uses.  A special zoning district (PUD) will be required to develop this property.  This will include neighborhood input.
We want to the note and the Plan document to reflect the consensus reached at the special meeting held during the charrette last January.

Brushy Creek trail
The concerns brought up by residents who live on Vista Drive regarding the trail planned for Brushy Creek are understandable and legitimate. The issue was discussed briefly by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Dec. 16 meeting. The issues – about safety, impact to creek views, division of property – will be addressed during the design process for the trail, which will occur at some point in the future. There is no funding currently identified for the trail project.

Form-Based Code
The Form-Based Code will codify recommendations made in the Plan for land use and design. We will begin work on the Code after the Plan receives recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission and approval by the City Council. The Plan provides general guidance; the Code will provide the specifics. There will be many details to work out as we develop the Code in conjunction with area residents and businesses, the development community and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The basic idea of the Code is to allow for transitions in land use from higher density and mixed uses along arterial roads like Mays Street and U.S. 79, to lower density and primarily residential uses further from busy corridors. The Plan calls for the creation of “Transect Zones” to accomplish the zoning transition.

In response to input from residents in the area who live on Sunset Drive and Summit Streets, we have proposed changes to the future zoning recommendation for that area, which is bounded by IH 35 to the west and Mays Street to the east, the creek to the south and development on U.S. 79 and the church on the north. Because of the proximity to IH 35 and existing commercial and multi-family zoning west of Summit, we are recommending future zoning densities higher than the first draft of the Plan suggested.

It is important to remember that the future zoning recommendations are only recommendations. As stated in the Property Rights section above, nothing in the Plan will force anyone to change the use of their properties.