Round Rock bud­gets $125,000 to aid re­tail

City seeks to boost older re­tail ar­eas such as U.S. 79, La Fron­tera shop­ping dis­trict.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Peg­gie Evans

With the Univer­sity Boule­vard area thriv­ing as a re­gional re­tail cen­ter and down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion un­der­way, Round Rock city of­fi­cials are now giv­ing at­ten­tion to boost­ing busi­ness in the city’s older re­tail cor­ri­dors.

The city is set­ting aside $125,000 in the fis­cal year 2018 bud­get for a re­tail re­de­vel­op­ment strat­egy, which looks at ways to boost older re­tail cor­ri­dors such as U.S. 79 and the La Fron­tera shop­ping dis­trict. The Round Rock Cham­ber, which han­dles eco­nomic devel­op­ment for the city, would also han­dle the re­de­vel­op­ment strat­egy.

Brad Wiseman, city di­rec­tor of plan­ning and devel­op­ment ser­vices, said re­tail cen­ters go through tran­si­tions as they age, and the city’s older re­tail cen­ters could use some help.

“There are some ar­eas of La Fron­tera that are do­ing ex­tremely well, but there are some va­can­cies” in store­fronts, he said. La Fron­tera has large na­tional re­tail stores such as Kohl’s and Lowe’s that at­tract cus­tomers to smaller stores within the shop­ping cen­ters.

Older shop­ping ar­eas like those si­t­u­ated on U.S. 79 are dif­fer­ent; they are heav­ily oc­cu­pied by small, in­de­pen­dent re­tail stores that largely serve the lo­cal area. The Univer­sity Boule­vard shop­ping dis­trict was de­signed by the city as a re­gional re­tail des­ti­na­tion cor­ri­dor, with re­tail­ers such as IKEA, Bass Pro Shops and Round Rock Premium Out­lets.

The city is not seek­ing to repli­cate the Univer­sity Boule­vard re­tail area as it looks at re­de­vel­op­ing older re­tail cor­ri­dors, Wiseman said. In­stead, re­vi­tal­iz­ing the city’s older re­tail ar­eas would need a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

For ex­am­ple, older re­tail cen­ters may ben­e­fit from cre­at­ing more pedes­trian-friendly in­fra­struc­ture, like en­hanc­ing the fa­cade of store­fronts or im­prov­ing land­scap­ing, he said.

Donut 79, a small, in­de­pen­dent busi­ness in the Round Rock East shop­ping cen­ter on U.S. 79, is in an aging strip mall an­chored by a Good­will thrift store and Bealls. The dough­nut shop opened in an empty store­front on Christ­mas Day 2016.

Donut 79 store man­ager Christina Crisella said while busi­ness has been good, the sum­mer has led to slower busi­ness than the win­ter months. En­hanc­ing the aging strip mall, which once was the site of an H-E-B gro­cery store, could boost busi­ness, she said.

Wiseman said he was un­aware of re­tail­ers in the older re­tail cen­ters ask­ing for the city’s help with re­vi­tal­iza­tion. Rather, the pro­posed re­tail devel­op­ment strat­egy is part of the city’s plan­ning to get ahead of con­cerns and look for new op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove re­tail through­out the city, he said.

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