Residents want art gallery, theater
With the grant in hand, the city now has to award a construction contract by June for improvements such as sidewalks, a pedestrian bridge, signs and striping of parking spots, Fischer said.
The city has applied to have its Downtown Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places. Fischer said the nomination would be considered by the Texas Historical Commission’s State Board of Review in January.
Aside from the grant, Dripping Springs has $140,000 to use toward the beautification project from donations and other sources, Fischer said. The first phase of improvements is expected to cost $560,000, she said.
The Mercer Street bridge over the springs for which the city is named doesn’t meet standards set by the Americans With Disabilities Act and doesn’t have standard guardrails. Pedestrians and cars use the wide, two-lane Mercer as a shortcut and to avoid highway traffic, but there are no pedestrian crosswalks, no sidewalks and poor lighting.
“It’s a very unsafe street to walk on now,” Fischer said.
City officials want to add wide walkways, crosswalks, bicycle racks and antique-looking light posts that would evoke design qualities of decades past.
Also, 12 sidewalk extensions at intersections — similar to those recently added on South Congress Avenue in Austin — would be added to make crossing Mercer safer.
Mercer has 37 businesses and residences, with room for more. A coffee shop and a holistic medicine shop have opened. Issuing a permit for the proposed Mercer Street Dance Hall recently was recommended by the city’s planning and zoning commission, and the item will go before the City Council on Dec. 11.
Robin Rippy Scott knows Mercer Street well. Her family runs Rippy Ranch Supply, a fixture on Mercer Street since the 1950s. She has opened a boutique called Robin’s at Rippy’s, selling gifts, accessories, candy, and women’s and children’s clothes.
Upgrading Mercer should help business and increase pedestrian traffic downtown, Rippy Scott said.
“With the added new businesses, it will be a huge improvement. There’s a lot more going on in the downtown.”
Recently, the Historic Preservation Commission and city officials asked residents what they would like to see on Mercer Street. Some said they would like more dining and shopping, as well as an art gallery and a theater.
Other ideas for the street include a playground, a splash fountain, historical markers, benches and picnic tables, waste and recycling containers, and more landscaping.
Landscaping and other features would come later, and city officials have submitted an application to the Texas Department of Transportation for money for those.
Officials want to spend about $300,000 on land- scaping, large signs, trash bins, benches and stone planting walls along Mercer.
City and historic commission officials said they see the transformation extending north of Mercer Street in the future. Dripping Springs resident Kathryn Chandler, who joined the historic commission over the summer, said the city lacks a gathering spot and envisioned downtown as a place for residents to stroll and mingle.
“We all gather at H-E-B in aisle four,” Chandler said, referring to the grocery store on U.S. 290.
“This is really the first time I lived in a small town,” said Chandler, who moved to Dripping Springs from Los Angeles three years ago with her husband, actor Kyle Chandler, and their children. Standing on Mercer on a recent morning, she said, “This is just a great street.”
Ethel Wright, 65, of Kyle is raising her daughter’s four children on her own. With her in the yard of her run-down trailer are Makhia and Michael Foster, both 2, and Virgil ‘Petey’ Crawford, 8. Donations are coming in that will help Wright with her housing and health issues. She needs a car and Christmas toys for the kids.
Shorty Scott, who operates feed store Rippy Ranch Supply, a fixture on Mercer Street since the 1950s, gets his dog Stumpy to play dead for a customer outside the store.