Feature Photo (above): Relocation of the Nutty Brown Cafe & Amphitheater south of Austin is one of several Round Rock projects that would make the Williamson County suburb a little more Austin-like. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Round Rock (Williamson County) — Land development in the town of Round Rock has, for much of its recent history, but limited to suburban single family, schools and retail.
The community has been more of a bedroom community, a place to retreat from the urban hustle of Austin. That appears to be changing and there are hints Round Rock is becoming more of an extension culturally of its big city neighbor.
Earlier this month, the city announced that its Transportation and Economic Development Corporation voted to purchase four parcels of land adjacent to the water tower in order to ensure city ownership of a city block that’s been targeted for a potential mixed-use development.
Pearlstone Holdings (Austin-based Pearlstone Partners) is interested in building what sounds like a very urban project that would include office and retail space, a hotel and parking.
“Under agreements signed by the TEDC board, Pearlstone will assign the contracts to purchase the four properties to the Corporation,” the City of Round Rock explained in its Sept. 14 announcement.
The lots border the tower along Mays Street and Liberty Street.
The land being acquired by the city to control development next to the iconic water tower. Image: Google Streets.
“By taking this action, the city secures substantial influence on the type of development that can occur on this significant block in downtown Round Rock,” said Mayor Craig Morgan, who also serves as TEDC board president. “We’ve heard concerns about the nature of some of the development in downtown. Through this series of agreements, we can ensure the property around the water tower is developed in a way that preserves the character of the downtown district.”
The non-binding memorandum of understand between TEDC and Pearlstone outlines the parameters of any potential development. It states the project could include 76,000 square feet of office space, 9,600 square feet of retail, a 140-room hotel and 372 parking spaces. Pearlstone would have two years to begin the project, pursuant to a development plan that requires TEDC approval.
Arrangements will be made to receive public input, beginning later this fall. Any final agreement has to be approved by the TEDC Board, the City Council, and possibly the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Higher Density Housing
The site plan for a proposed 5-story apartment complex. Courtesy: City of Round Rock.
At a Sept. 5 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, a developer’s request to rezone a 2.75-acre tract from commercial to high density multifamily was approved.
Drenner Group, an Austin-based real estate law firm acting as agent, handled the request in order to allow development of Mays Crossing, a proposed five-story, 245-unit building. The podium style structure will wrap around a parking garage on all sides and it will include two inner courtyards. There will be some minimal surface parking along the driving aisle for visitors.
At five stories, the apartment building will be the tallest structure in the vicinity, a contrast in scale that was not lost on the commissioners. They tried to think of a building in the area of the same height, but could think of nothing closer than a four-story hotel more than a mile away.
The project site is vacant land, although part of it is paved over for commercial parking. The landowner is TI Shopping Center LLC, but it was not made clear whether the landowner is also the developer. Kelly Grossman Architects LLC created the site plan.
Aerial view of the project site for the proposed multifamily project. Image: Google Earth.
Nutty Brown Amphitheater
And what is more Austin-ish than live country music? In April, Round Rock announced that City Council had approved an economic development agreement with TOTKN LLC, parent company of Nutty Brown Cafe and Amphitheater. This was a quid pro quo deal that include the Nutty Brown owners investing $10 million in exchange for a five-year property tax break and $30,000 in development fees waivered.
Construction was to have started soon after, with the new amphitheater being ready to open spring of 2019.
However, a Sept. 21 architectural barriers state filing by the architect, Waeltz & Prete Inc., shows a revised schedule that gives an estimated construction start date of January 2019. The amphitheater is to be completed by Jan. 2020 at an estimated cost of $3 million, the filing states:
“Scope of Work: Construction of a state venue and restaurant which will include pavement, utilities, stormwater infrustructure, six buildings and a stage, and drives.”
The Nutty Brown Amphitheater is a South Austin institution located at 1225 Hwy 290 near Dripping Springs, its home since 2000. It began as the Nutty Brown Mills, a specialty flour and candy store in the 1950s.
Round Rock’s proposition provided for the sale of McNeil Park, located just south of the IKEA Round Rock and Interstate 35, to allow for a venue relocation. Nutty Brown’s owners first announced their plans to relocate three years ago.
“Since that time, the City has worked diligently to address concerns related to access, among other things,” the city’s Communication and Marketing Department stated in an April news release. “Road improvements, including the addition of a right-turn lane into the property, are now in queue, with site construction expected to begin by summer 2018.”