Res­i­dents want art gallery, the­ater

Down­town

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - B Ralph barrera / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN Con­tact Mar­ques G. Harper at 445-3974.

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.”

Laura SKELDING / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

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