Downtown Redevelopment

Update on Round Rock's Downtown Master Plan process, schedule

On Sept. 14, we forwarded the input we've received from the public, City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, and staff to consultant Torti Gallas to include in the final draft of the Downtown Master Plan. Here are some of the highlights:

  • We need to revise the land use map and future road and pedestrian improvements near Brushy Creek. Our goal is to open up the creek for appropriate development, like restaurants with outdoor seating that overlooks the water. So we'll be removing the "Civic" land use designation along the creek between Sheppard and Spring streets to allow for private development. We still want to provide for public access along the creek, particularly for our new proposed Heritage Trail.
  • Other creekside changes to the draft plan include: changing the alignment of a future east-west road connecting Pecan to Fannin (Here's a very rough draft map (PDF) showing the new alignment); making Lewis-Spring streets the primary north-south connector between Main Street and Pecan, instead of Burnet Street; and planning for the pedestrian bridge over Brushy Creek to extend north from Lewis instead of Sheppard. 
  • The roundabouts on Palm Valley Boulevard-U.S. 79 will be removed from the list of catalytic projects.
  • Revising Chapter 4, Design Guidelines for Development, so it is clear it is not a form based code. This chapter will no longer include detailed design standards, but will explain why standards will be necessary in a soon-to-be-adopted Zoning Code for downtown.

Which leads us to the schedule. Here is what's on the calendar at present:

  • Oct. 6 -- Planning and Zoning Commission process update -- this will be a five-minute presentation
  • Oct. 21 -- P&Z work session -- we'll have a full-blown review of the final draft Plan
  • Oct. 22 -- City Council update -- we'll discuss results/questions from P&Z work session; this will not be a work session, but rather a presentation with an opportunity for Q&A with the Council
  • Nov. 10 -- Public hearing and P&Z consideration of a recommendation to the City Council
  • Nov. 12 -- City Council work session
  • Nov. 24 -- City Council public hearing and consideration of approval

All meetings will be open to the public.

Once the Plan is adopted, we'll begin work on the Zoning Code. That process is expected to take a few months, and will include further opportunities for public input prior to adoption.

If you've got questions about the process or schedule, please contact me at whampton@round-rock.tx.us, 218-5409, or, better yet, leave a comment here on the blog!

Here are the comments we received at the Downtown Master Plan Open House

Thanks to everyone who turned out for the July 29-30 Open House on the Downtown Master Plan. Your input is appreciated, and will be presented to the City Council at its Aug. 18-19 retreat. 

Here are the written comments (PDF) we received. (Note: Some of the written comments were illegible, so you'll see asterisks where we couldn't make out the word. UPDATE: I inadvertantly left out some of the written comments in the original post.) If you haven't looked at the Open House exhibits, here (PDF) they are – you'll need them to make sense of the comments.

Feel free to offer your comments here on the blog. We love hearing from you!

Will Hampton
Project Manager

Day Two was just as good at Round Rock's Downtown Master Plan Open House

We had another great day (and evening) on Thursday, July 30, at our open house for the Downtown Master Plan. We met at least 60 folks and gathered up 23 pages of written comments when things wrapped up.

A big Thank You! to all the folks who came out and gave us their comments. Over the two days, we had at least 110 folks and  40 pages of suggestions, criticisms, compliments, feedback and new ideas. In other words, the open house was a raging success!

There's still a lot of work to do, but we've now had a ton of terrific input on the draft plan (PDF) from you, the City Council, Planning & Zoning Commission, and City staff. We'll visit further with the City Council at its retreat on Aug.18-19, and then send a package of comments to our consultant, Torti Gallas, to incorporate into a final draft.

We expect to have a final document for P&Z and City Council to vote on this fall. 

Of course, we're still happy to take you thoughts and ideas on the plan here on the blog.

Will Hampton
Project Manager

Great first day at Round Rock's Downtown Master Plan Open House

We had more than 50 people come through for the first day of our open house on draft of the Downtown Master Plan. We also have 17 pages of written comments, which is absolutely fantastic!

We look forward to visiting with more of you from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday here at the McConico Building Community Room, 301 W. Bagdad Ave. We'll have the same exhibits on display. So if you were here today, you're good. If not, we'd love to see you tomorrow.

Will Hampton
Project Manager

Round Rock Downtown Master Plan Open House is under way

We're off and running at our two-day open house for the Downtown Master Plan. We've had a steady stream of folks coming through this morning and early afternoon, checking out the exhibits, asking questions and writing down their thoughts and comments.

We'll be here at the McConico Building, 301 W. Bagdad Ave., until 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, July 29, and from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 30.

We'd love for you to come and visit with us one on one, but we know that's not possible for everyone interested in the draft plan. So here's a PDF of the exhibits on display here. Feel free ask questions or make comments here. We'll post the comments received here at the open house in a later post.

Downtown Plan Open House set for July 29-30

We’ll hold an Open House meeting on the Downtown Master Plan from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, and noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 30, in the Community Room at the McConico Building, 301 W. Bagdad Ave. That’s the same place where the charrette was held in January. (I know my last post said the Wednesday meeting will start at 8 a.m. It will be 9 a.m.)

Among the topics we plan to address at the Open House are: Mission, Vision and Scope; Roads/Parking; Zoning; Green Space/Parks, Historic Preservation, Economic Development/Tourism, Finance, and Catalytic Projects.

The meetings will be come and go; there will be no formal oral presentations. We will have displays with information, maps, etc., for you to look at and comment on. Staff will be on hand to answer questions. We’ll also have handouts for you to take home and review so if you want to comment after thinking about things for a couple of days that’s fine.

Is there anything you would like to know more about or comment on at the Open House? Please let me know. We may not get to all of the topics listed above. City staff will be meeting regularly over the next two weeks to finalize the presentation materials, and we may decide to winnow the list – especially if I hear from you that there are other topics you would like addressed.

This will be the final formal public meeting prior to our update to the City Council at its retreat on Aug. 18-19. Our plan to is take your input, along with the City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, and City staff, and forward that to our consultants following the retreat so they can incorporate it into a final draft document.

I'm going to be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Friday at Star Co., 114 E. Main St. The Round Rock Jelly (a casual co-working get together) convenes there as well around lunchtime on Friday.

And, as always, I’m happy to meet with you individually if you want to. Just let me know. My number is listed below. And you can always offer your comments and suggestions here.

Will Hampton
Project Manager
218-5409

Transportation System board, City Council approve funds for select downtown projects

The Round Rock Transportation System Development Corporation (4B) Board and City Council approved funding for six downtown infrastructure projects on Thursday, July 9.

The 4B board and City Council approved the following (map PDF):

  • Funding for Project 1 in the amount of $1.2 million to design the Main Street extension between the IH-35 north frontage road and San Saba, and acquire right of way.
  • Funding for Project 2 in the amount of $2.8 million to design and construct Main Street between San Saba and Brown Street.
  • Funding for Project 3 in the amount of $1.4 million to design and construct Main Street between Brown Street and Blair Street.
  • Funding for Project 4 in the amount of $216,000 for the design of Main Street between Blair Street and Mays Avenue.
  • Funding for Project 5 in the amount of $423,000 to design the realignment of Round Rock Avenue onto Liberty Avenue and design a traffic signal at the Liberty-Mays intersection.
  • Funding for Project 7 in the amount of $210,000 to design and construct storm sewer improvements along Blair Street between Main Street and Florence Street; this project would provide storm sewer for the Main Street improvements.


You can view a video of the 4B board meeting here. Two people spoke during the public hearing. You can watch the City Council meeting video here. Go to Item 9C2 on the agenda drop down menu for quick viewing.

We have also established the dates and times for our next public input meetings on the draft plan. We’ll have an Open House from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, and from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, in the Community Room at the McConico Building, 301 W. Bagdad Ave.

I’m also working to set up some time over the next month or so for informal visits with folks interested in the Downtown Plan. When I have dates, time and locations nailed down I’ll post out a notice here. As always, if you want to visit one-on-one, I’m happy to do that as well. Just shoot me an email or give me a call.

Thanks,

Will Hampton
Project Manager
218-5409
whampton@round-rock.tx.us

Analyses of proposed changes to downtown streets

After the May 28 wreck and paint spill on IH 35 that backed up traffic on the interstate for most of the day, and put a lot of extra vehicles on Mays Street, we received an email from a Mays Street business owner. They asked the City Council to not reduce the number of lanes on Mays Street from four to three, as currently proposed in the draft Downtown Master Plan. They believe such a move would be "a negative, not a positive."

The Plan proposes changing Mays from two lanes in both directions to one lane in both directions with a continuous left turn lane in the middle.

"Our viewpoint and that of other business owners that we have spoken with is the eventual outcome will be that our potential customers who have used Mays will seek out alternative north/south routes to avoid downtown altogether, further challenging the ability of the remaining businesses to be viable," the business owners stated in their email.

These are legitimate concerns, so we asked our consultants to respond. I want to share their responses here, because we know others have the same questions/concerns about the proposed changes to Mays, as well as the other proposed changes to the downtown street network. 

Here is the initial response (PDF) from transportation consultant Gary Schatz, P.E., of Walter P Moore. He followed up with this analysis (PDF) of the proposed Main-Mays intersection reconfiguration. Bottom line: The proposed changes will increase the levels of service for vehicles to a C from an E in morning rush hour and to a C from an F in the afternoon rush hour while providing safe mobility for pedestrians crossing Mays. (Traffic engineers use ratings from A to F, with A being the most favorable and F being the poorest conditions.) If you are skeptical, please click the links to read Gary's letters. They are the sealed opinions of a professional engineer.

What some folks may not realize is that we won't change the configuration of Mays and Main without also changing the timing of the traffic signals at that intersection and adding concurrent left turns from Mays. Again, please read Gary's letters -- in particular, the follow-up analysis. There are a couple of graphics that show the level of service change for each movement at the intersection. I was amazed, frankly, at how much better vehicular traffic can flow while giving pedestrians a much safer crossing of Mays.

Here is the letter (PDF) from Tom Moriarity, our economic/marketing consultant on the project. Here's an excerpt:

"Today’s pedestrian environment on Mays is not very friendly, as the dominant character favors the automobile, car speeds and the width of the street.  The objective of the downtown plan was to invigorate retail uses, provide opportunities for a greater number of activating uses, and re-build the identity of Downtown Round Rock within a rapidly changing context.  Our focus on the market for commercial uses and the appropriate retail mix is integrally tied into both traffic management and urban design; the most successful downtown projects integrate all three elements into one plan.  Both the parameters of the Round Rock study and our collective experience in other locations suggest that it will be very difficult to achieve the goals established by the City without narrowing Mays (and we acknowledge the complexity of the task as long as Mays remains a State Highway)."

He concludes: "We consider the recommendation to narrow and reconfigure Mays and the Round Rock Avenue connections to be critical elements in increasing retail property values downtown. In our experience across the country, creating successful, walkable shopping environments has added to adjacent property values and business volumes, not taken value away."

Again, I ask that you read Tom's entire letter. He's a seasoned analyst with ample experience in downtown redevelopment.

Draft downtown master plan presentation to City Council, Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday, May 14

We'll present the draft Downtown Master Plan during a joint work session of the City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 14, in Council Chambers at City Hall, 221 E. Main St.

The draft plan and design guidelines (PDFs, large files) are not highly polished -- there are still some blanks to be filled in, most notably on historic preservation -- but we didn't want to get any farther along without presenting it to our decision makers on the Council and P&Z. Thursday's meeting is a work session, so there won't be any votes taken. We'll present the plan as is, and give the Council and Commission members the opportunity to ask questions and provide their input. We're expecting some follow-up work sessions with both the Council and P&Z before the final plan is presented this summer.

And, by all means, share your thoughts on the draft with us here on the blog!

Share your thoughts on new City Hall design concept

The architects working on the design for a new City Hall in southwest downtown made a presentation of their design concepts to the City Council at its Jan. 22 meeting. I know many of you interested in the Downtown Master Plan are interested in this project as well, so I wanted to share the presentation with you.

The team of Architecture Plus and Barnes Gromatsky Kosarek Architects have dubbed the design the "Texas porch," which ought to make at SWark happy (see comments on the last post). Here's a link to our Round Rock Replay page where you can watch the presentation. Go to agenda item 6C.1 on the "Jump To" drop-down menu.

The City Council is pursuing a public-private partnership with Waterstone Development for the building, which is estimated to be 55,000-60,000 square feet. The partnership would have the City occupying approximately 20,000 square feet initially, with the remainder to be leased out by Waterstone. The idea is the City could grow into the lease space over time. The City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Waterstone at its Dec. 18, 2008, meeting. (For details on the MOU, this link will take you to a video of the Dec. 18 meeting. The MOU presentation and vote can be found at item 7D2 on the "Jump To" drop-down menu.)

Q&A from final Downtown Master Plan charrette presentation

As promised, here's a recap of the Q&A following our final presentation (PDF) of the Downtown Master Plan charrette. You'll want to click that link and have a look-see at the presentation slides to make much sense of the narrative below, unless of course you were at the meeting. And if you were at the meeting and think I've left something out or mischaracterized comments or questions, please let me know with a comment.

Q: How do parks and trails fit into the plan as far as providing pedestrian access into downtown?
A: You won't see very many people coming into the downtown area by foot. They'll use great streets to drive to downtown and to the parks and trail system. We don't think alleys, which you have downtown, are good for pedestrians; they're good for service trucks to use to access the businesses.

Neal Payton of Torti Gallas then asked for comments on their two proposed schemes for the Main Street ballfields site. (Many of those in attendance Friday night were at Tuesday's special focus session on the issue.) I heard comments like, "They have potential," and "It's a good start." Fair enough.

Q: If you've got 700 additional residential units and 70,000-90,000 square feet of new office and 107,000-145,000 square feet of new retail coming into downtown over the next 15 years (as our market demand study shows), where are they going to park?
A: The new residential units will "park themselves," i.e. won't use public parking spaces. As for the new retail, we've included a parking garage -- which the City had already been planning for -- at the northwest corner of Brown Street and Bagdad Avenue; you've got a lot of underutilized parking downtown today. If the redevelopment is successful, you'll likely need more but remember this: In a walkable community, the ratio of parking spaces per square foot of commercial space is lower than what you experience in non-walkable developments.

Q: You're showing a future commuter rail depot and Transit Oriented Development south of Main Street at Bagdad (south of the current City Hall). Where's the parking lot going to be for that TOD?
A: We're showing it at what is now the Parks and Recreation Department's yard site.

Q: You say the key to the plan is extending Main Street west to IH 35, and that becoming the "front door" for downtown. But IH 35 is noisy and ugly. How do you resolve that conflict?
A: The noise is not so bad, but yes IH 35 is ugly but what you have today from IH 35 looking toward Main Street is ugly.  So a well designed bridge and landscaping will make huge difference. Scott Baker from Melendrez said the landscaping can help tell the history of the community, from our cotton farming past, the Blackland Prairie, etc.

Q: Will the proposed form based code be similar to Leander's?
A: Leander has a Smart Code, Neal said, which he is familiar with because Torti Gallas is doing work for Capital Metro on its Leander rail station. Smart Code is different from a form based code. Neal noted there will be different standards for different parts of the plan area.

Q: Will sustainability standards regarding things like stormwater runoff and green building standards be included in the form based code?
A: That's certainly possible. Torti Gallas will recommend strategies and incentives to the City and it will be up to the political decision makers to include them or not.

Q: Do "green roofs" really have plants and shrubs growing on them?
A: Yes. Ironically, you do have to water them or the plants can die and then if it rains you'll have a roof of mud.

Q: The extension of Main Street to IH 35. What's it really for?
A: To give better access to downtown.
Q: But for folks coming from the south on IH 35, they'll have to exit way back at Hester's Crossing and go through two traffic lights to get there.
A: That's true, but we can put up proper signage to guide them along the way. But the most significant benefit is that it would give you a great entrance to downtown, a pleasing visual entryway. Neal noted that people like him with disposable income won't dine and shop in a place that's not visually appealing when there are ample alternatives elsewhere in the region. They will go to a cool place. As noted from an earlier meeting, the access is really a secondary benefit. "The visibility from IH 35 is everything," Neal said.  

A downtown resident a little later noted the new entrance would also be a great exit for downtown. He said folks could travel west to the interstate frontage road, and when TxDOT completes the work currently underway at RM 620 and IH 35 they'll be able to use the new northbound to southbound turnaround lane to get back on IH 35 going south without having to wait for a light. Neal agreed, and noted that taking some traffic off Round Rock Avenue will help make it a great street that's much more pedestrian friendly.

Q: How about having a T-ball field in downtown. You've got little kids playing and their parents would come and shop. That would be a great attractor. How about in the proposed town square?
A: The proposed park at the Main Street ballfields could be a location for it. Or you could do it in the square. We think you may want to have a whole other charrette to program the town square.
Q: A baseball field in downtown would also pay homage to our recent history with the Round Rock Express.
A: Absolutely. Neal thinks that's a great idea.

Q: We need some equestrian park space in Round Rock to acknowledge our frontier past.
A: Neal said it maybe could be done in Lake Creek Park, where he says there's lots of space.

Q: Another great example of a roundabout is on Hilton Head, where the motorists turning right don't have to enter the main lanes of the roundabout.
A: Gary Schatz, our transportation engineer from Walter P. Moore, noted the example he cited in the presentation from Malta, N.Y., has that same feature.

Q: How does the cost of roundabout compare to the cost of a traffic signal?
A: Gary said a modern traffic signal costs about $250,000 per intersection to construct and program, and then there are some ongoing staff costs to monitor and re-program the signal, if necessary. A roundabout costs anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on its size, but there are no ongoing monitoring costs. Gary also noted that while the computers that run traffic signals are really smart, sometimes they can "go dumb" and you've got flashing reds all around until someone can fix it. You never have that problem with a roundabout.

Q: If I worked at the proposed Citi Centre development at the old H.E.B site (on the northwest corner of U.S. 79 and Mays Street), how would I get to downtown quickly? It seems like too far to walk. Would a shuttle bus work?
A: That's a great idea, especially for tourists and folks who would be staying at the proposed hotel on that site. Someone from the audience noted a shuttle from the Dell campus to downtown would be a good idea as well.

That prompted Neal to discuss the idea that was broached early in the week about a Dell retail store/history center/product and technology showcase space in downtown. Neal related that when Nancy Yawn, the director of our Convention and Visitor's Bureau came to the charrette on Friday, she said the plan looks great but asked what will differentiate Round Rock's downtown from other downtowns. The world's only Dell store/history center/product and technology showcase space would be one way to do that. Someone from the audience noted the Intel corporate museum in Santa Clara, Calif., its hometown, and that Apple has a cool concept with its Company Store in Cupertino, Calif., home of its world headquarters.

Q: I grew up in Washington D.C. where there are roundabouts that seemed confusing for a lot of folks. How are the roundabouts you're talking about different?
A: There are good and bad roundabouts. Neal noted he lived in the Washington D.C. area for 25 years and DuPont Circle works really well. People figure them out.
Q: How do you treat the middle of a roundabout?
A: Gary said it's a place where you can have public art or landscaping, but it's not for people to access. They stay on the perimeter.

Q: Have you looked at the current and projected traffic counts on U.S. 79? Hutto is growing like crazy. Can those roundabouts you're proposing on 79 really handle the traffic that's there today and the increased volumes in the future?
A: So you fear greater backups and delays?
Q: Yes.
A: Roundabouts are more efficient at handling traffic than signals. Here are some numbers Gary cited this week:

A typical road has the capacity to handle up to 1,900 vehicles per hour per lane. Backups and congestion occur at intersections. Different intersections have different capacities, to wit:

  • All‐Way Stop - Up to 400 vehicles/hour/approach
  • Traffic Signal - Up to 600 vehicles/hour/lane
  • Roundabout - Up to 1,200 vehicles/hour/lane

Roundabouts are also safer. Gary cites the following figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety research on modern roundabouts that show:

  • 39 percent reduction of all crashes
  • 76 percent reduction of injury crashes
  • 89 percent reduction of fatal and incapacitating crashes


Q: I didn't see any dedicated bike lanes on your Mays Street proposal.
A: Right. We can't fit them in the right of way on Mays, but we will be looking at other streets for bike lanes.

And that was it for the Q&A. I'm not exactly sure what topic I'll post on next, but I definitely plan to continue blogging on the downplan plan as the process moves forward. Anything in particular about the plan you want to discuss?
Round Rock downtown master plan final presentation

What an extraordinary week it's been. We started on Monday with a look at downtown Round Rock today and an outline of the opportunities before us. On Friday night, I believe we saw a true vision coming into focus, based on not just the urban design expertise of the Torti Gallas team (which is considerable), but from the ideas, concerns, hopes and dreams we heard from our residents, business owners and others throughout the week. I am still amazed at how well Neal Payton and his talented designers took that input wove it so artfully and effectively into the plan.

But as Neal said to open Friday's final presentation: Welcome to the end of the beginning. There's much, much, much work to be done to vet the ideas and concepts that emerged so beautifully during the charrette. But as you'll see as you look at the presentation (PDF), what a fantastic start we have made to re-establish downtown Round Rock as the heart and soul of the community.

I'll share some of the comments and Q&A in the next post.

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.

Round Rock downtown plan charrette midpoint presentation

Just a quick post (for now) on the midpoint presentation. I'll have a follow-up post to capture some of the comments and questions next time.

The presentation shows some of the initial concepts and ideas for how downtown could redevelop. Bear in mind this is not a final plan. It reflects input received so far. These ideas will be refined further as the charrette continues, and we'll show another iteration on Friday evening.

Here's the PDF of the presentation. We'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

 

Downtown charrette update 3: Main Street ballfields meeting recap

We had a really productive meeting Tuesday night to discuss the Main Street ballfields issue. My thanks to all who attended and shared their comments and listened to those of others in a spirit of mutual respect. There were many heart-felt comments, and many who attended spoke passionately about their desires. We truly had a civil conversation about a difficult challenge.

This issue, in nutshell, is this: There are about six acres on East Main Street that have been used as baseball fields by the community for decades. The Sam Bass baseball league has been the most recent user of the fields, which were owned by Trisun, the company that also owns Trinity Care Center nearby. Trisun gifted the property to the Round Rock Community Foundation in 2007 August 2008 on two conditions: 1) the Hope Alliance would move its administrative offices and women's shelter to the site next to the Round Rock Serving Center, and 2) the remaining property would be used to benefit social service agencies. Two of the six acres are zoned commercial, with the remaining four acres zoned single-family residential.

Nearby residents, who belong to the Heart of Round Rock Neighborhood Association, were extremely concerned about a cluster of social service providers in that location. A schematic drawing was shown last night, which was produced in 2007 and circulated at that time, which showed four, two-story buildings on the site, with the buildings fronting the street and 350 parking spaces on the rear of the property. Former Mayor Nyle Maxwell, who sits on the board of directors of the Community Foundation board, had asked for the drawing to show maximum utilization of the site. Maxwell's vision is to give a group of social service providers the opportunity to share administrative offices and other resources while giving their clients the possibility of accessing various agencies in one location.

Some of the specific concerns voiced by residents last night were: loss of green space, additional traffic, uses incompatible with a single family neighborhood, and building designs that don't blend with the historic homes.

It seemed clear that most residents were OK with having Hope Alliance located on the site, as well as WBCO's adult day care and Head Start program, which serve children and the elderly, respectively. (The WBCO programs are currently in the former Methodist church building on Brown Street, which no longer meets their needs and which they want to sell to the City, which is considering the site for a parking garage.) Representatives from Hope Alliance said they need a total of 12,000-15,000 square feet for their offices and a 60-bed shelter; folks from WBCO said they need 10,000-12,000 square feet for the adult day care and Head Start program.

Neal Payton from Torti Gallas, who is leading the charrette and who moderated last night's discussion, noted you could fit both those facilities on the two acres zoned commercial (which is next to the Serving Center), but he also said, from an urban design perspective, you wouldn't want to leave the remaining four acres for parkland. That's too much park to benefit too few families in a corner of the neighborhood. Leaving some of that four acres for a passive park or open space probably would be appropriate.

Neal noted a Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.) could be formulated for the site. A P.U.D. is essentially a negotiated land use agreement that can provide for multiple uses that somewhat outside the box of traditional zoning. It's a way for developers and neighbors to work together to find land use solutions that are acceptable to both.

The meeting ended with the Community Foundation agreeing to work with the neighborhood to see if there is an acceptable solution that satisfies both and is in context with the overall Downtown Master Plan.

This post certainly isn't meant to be a detailed recitation of the meeting. I've just tried to capture the main points. Some residents were clear they want the ballfields to remain ballfields, period. Other residents didn't have a problem at all with social services at that location. But I believe we left the meeting with a spirit of compromise and a promise to work together to find a solution everyone can live with. As Neal said, urban planning is all about compromise. In our plan, no one will get 100 percent of what they want, but everyone should get at least a little bit of what they want.

If you feel I've left out pertinent points, please leave a comment. And again, thanks to all who participated and helped the community make some real progress on this important issue.

More Posts « Previous page - Next page »