Dripping Springs: City at Odds With School District Over Development of Town Center Project
Featured Photo (above):The city of Dropping Springs is partnering with Hays County, the local school district and community library to revitalize the existing City Hall/Mercer Street area as a full town square filled with commercial, civic and school spaces and activities. Image: Google Streets
by Art Benavidez
Dripping Springs (Hays County) — The Town Center Project hit a snag this week when City Council voted to decline the latest agreement offered by the school district trustees.
Earlier in the week, the Dripping Springs Independent School District Board of Trustees approved an agreement to sell the property being sought for the Town Center Project.
The project has been in the works since 2017 when it was conceptualized. The existing town center is concentrated around the city hall complex at the corner of Mercer Street, the city’s historic main street, and U.S. 290 West.
Dripping Springs’ town center concept would expand from the existing city hall/Mercer Street area to encompass the Walnut Springs Elementary School site and Dripping Springs ISD administrative facility. Image: City of Dripping Springs
The project is seeking to expand the town center boundaries to the northwest to include the nearby Walnut Springs Elementary School, the DSISD administrative facility and a potential commercial tract.
The expanded town center would also include several shops and retail spaces along Mercer.
However, the city and the district could not come to terms on how specific use of the property would be contractually addressed.
DSISD was seeking reassurances that the property would serve the district and the community by requiring the construction of a governmental office and greenspace for a public park.
The city agrees that a Town Center will be developed on the property, but desires the flexibility to develop the site free of any stipulations put forth by DSISD.
Mayor Pro Tem Taline Manassian said the city needs the flexibility to develop the property.
“We cannot support a real estate agreement that restricts the city’s ability to develop the property as it deems appropriate,” he said. “The city needs the flexibility to adapt as things change, should the economy change, or should some other urgent need arise that requires us to spend money somewhere else. We have a duty to make the best decisions we can for the city, for our taxpayers, and for the community today and in the future.
“I appreciate the time and effort the district put into these negotiations. I also recognize they have priorities and concerns just as we do. But giving up our authority to exercise our judgment on how best to develop a Town Center on property we purchase is not something I can agree to.”
DSISD Board President Barbara Stroud said that the school board has agreed to sell the property in good faith as evidenced by the multiple offers it has presented the city, with the caveat that the property be developed for the purpose of a centralized hub of governmental offices and facilities, green space and infrastructure.
“Otherwise, DSISD is not planning to sell the property at this time,” she said. “While the city’s decision is disappointing, our door remains open for any further discussion.”
VBX last reported on the project in June 2020, when the county agreed to collaborate with the city, DSISD and the Dripping Springs Community Library District on the proposed development.
The project is scheduled to include new local government offices with possible elements of a new 34,000 square-foot library and a 12,000 square-foot city hall, 2,500 square-foot Hays County office building, greenspace for use as a public park–along with any necessary infrastructure improvements–and a possible 25,700 square-foot private development.
Preliminary square footage of new buildings proposed for construction in Dripping Springs’ new town center. Image: City of Dripping Springs
Town Center plans, as envisioned to date, also include a network of local streets and an extension of Mercer Street. It has an estimated cost of $12.7 million.
The project will be funded by a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ). All parties associated with the project have worked with the TIRZ board of directors on the development of the Town Center.
The TIRZ board will discuss the next steps in the development’s planning process during their May 10 meeting.
Austin-based McCann Adams Studio is on board the project.
Art Benavidez (Construction News Reporter, Central Texas) is a seasoned journalist with over 15-years of experience in writing breaking news and in-depth features at the local level. He honed his research and reporting skills in newspapers and magazines throughout South and West Texas along with expertise in crafting digital content as Managing Editor of New Image Marketing Research Corporation. Benevidez is a Texas native and graduate of UT-RGV.