Dripping Springs: County’s Action Advances City’s 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 Edmond Ortiz
Dripping Springs (Hays County)–County Commissioners Court on May 12 approved an agreement with several local governmental partners, advancing a plan that re-imagines the City Hall area as a focal point for expanded civic and event spaces and historic restoration.
Hays County is collaborating with the city, Dripping Springs Independent School District (DSISD) and the Dripping Springs Community Library District on the town center project. VBX first reported on the town center concept in 2017.
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 stakeholders proposed expanding 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.
The conceptual plan calls for a new, bigger city hall facility, civic center plaza and a new library closer to the elementary school and DSISD administration building.
The 7,100-square-foot former church that currently houses City Hall would be preserved and anchor a new public park.
The new city hall building would be at least 12,000 square feet, in accordance with the projected need as stated in the city’s long-range growth estimates for public facilities. The new structure would house city services.
In addition, a new combination city council chambers/school board meeting hall would be configured into a multi-story 16,000-square-foot building.
The school district will replace the administrative offices with a larger multi-story structure, possibly 49,000 square feet, according to a DSISD facilities report published a few years ago. The district central office replacement structure would include a day care facility for district employees.
Community leaders want the town library relocated from its existing 9,200-square-foot site to a town center space where it can have 30,000-35,000 square feet of space to accommodate expanded programs, more events and an increased number of visitors.
The new library would adjoin the new DSISD administrative building, and both of those structures would use a shared internal courtyard.
The county is eyeing a 2,500-square-foot space in the expanded town center to build a satellite office.
Preliminary square footage of new buildings proposed for construction in Dripping Springs’ new town center. Image: City of Dripping Springs
Additionally, the portion of Mercer Street that ends at U.S. 290 would be extended westward and northward provide a new public street in and out of the new town center. Here, the city envisions 25,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and upper-level office space in four to five new buildings.
The idea, according to the city’s project documents, is to ensure that the city, library, school district and private businesses in this area work in tandem and develop a town center filled with centralized activities, commerce, and public services for a growing population.
The conceptual plan proposes hundreds of shared parking spaces for school, civic and commercial uses. The plan also proposes drainage and traffic signal improvements, and a reconfiguration of the existing elementary school track and playground
Revenue generated through a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that covers the town center area will be used to compensate the project stakeholders for money that they spend on the project.
Currently, there are no specific plans for individual proposed projects. Local leaders say the town center project, which has been in the works the last few years, will benefit all Dripping Springs community members.
“The plan will improve local circulation within Dripping Springs, enhancing access to (Walnut Springs Elementary), providing a more connected street network and a safer intersection at U.S. 290 and Creek Road through new signalization,” the conceptual plan states.
“The plan will enhance the visibility and potential economic viability of Mercer Street as the commercial and civic heart of the community, extending it and creating a mixed-use Town Square with new uses, populations and vitality at its western end.”
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.