CEDAR PARK, TEXAS — Plans for an envisioned mixed-use development came closer to reality this week after city council members tapped RedLeaf Properties to transform a portion of Bell Boulevard into community focal point.
The council vote on Wednesday enables the city and RedLeaf to enter into exclusive negotiations for the Bell Boulevard redevelopment project, city officials said. Prompted by a suggestion by the developer, plans now could call for incorporating the city’s new library as a component of the project. The vision sparked Place 1 council member Stephen Thomas to issue an amended motion to the plans, garnering unanimous approval by his counterparts on the dais.
The vision calls for a 40-acre mixed-use development featuring retail, restaurant, office and residential space with the 12-acre Buttercup Creek Natural Area as scenic backdrop. The core of the Bell Boulevard District will be an area specifically designed for pedestrians. A rendering was released at this week’s meeting to show the scope of the project.
The approval of RedLeaf is a big step of a months-long, multi-step process in securing the services of a master developer for the Bell Boulevard Redevelopment Project that began last May when the city issued a request for proposals, officials noted. From there, two developers were chosen to make presentations by special municipal invitation.
A committee comprising Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale, Mayor Pro Tem Anne Duffy and Place 2 council member Mel Kirkland, along with several city staffers, reviewed proposals and ultimately recommended RedLeaf Properties as the finalist to move forward in the negotiation process, officials said The next steps in the process of negotiating a Master Developer Agreement are expected to take much of 2019, according to city officials.
Members of the committee responded to RedLeaf’s vision of a community focal point in the Bell Boulevard district as the new heart of Cedar Park, officials said in a press advisory. The revamped area is envisioned as a hub for community- and city-wide celebrations and a destination for family-friendly activities.
“One of the things that was striking to all of us is how much time you had spent here,” Van Arsdale told the developer’s representatives at this week’s council meeting. “We could tell you had put a lot into coming out into the community physically and learning about it so it felt more like a relationship and less like a transaction.”
Added Duffy: “The little things stuck out for me … it wasn’t ‘lip service and you were going to check the box’. You made a point to say that when you were working on Highland you made it a point to meet with the community.” Kirkland echoed the sentiments, noting the time RedLeaf officials spent in Cedar Park to get a true feel of the city: “One of the things I liked was hearing about how y’all were coming out to Cedar Park and getting a feel for the community.”
RedLeaf is described as a “master developer and partner with forward-thinking public entities such as cities and educational campuses” that is known for creating vibrant, amenity-rich mixed-use communities. RedLeaf’s developments in Central Texas include serving as the master developer and partner with Austin Community College in a public-private partnership for the redevelopment of Highland Mall in Austin, co-developer for La Frontera Plaza in Round Rock, and master developer for the City of Austin Planning and Development Center in Highland.
In addition to those projects, the developer’s founder and principal Matt Whelan was responsible for the $2 billion Mueller Redevelopment while working for Catellus Development Corp. prior to forming RedLeaf, city officials noted.
“We embraced the vision that’s been established, creating a gathering place, a destination that will be a social hub and contribute to the sense of identity for the City of Cedar Park,” Whelan said at the council meeting. “It’s an ambitious project but we believe that is achievable with proper planning, a long-term approach, and strong partnership.”
RedLeaf partner Rob Shands added: “We look forward to engaging with the community. It is really important in what we do to listen and continue to learn and we look forward to that process.”
Place 5 council member Heather Jefts praised RedLeaf’s proposal, saying “It was very impressive how in-depth you went. It gave me a very great sense of how you really delved into it and got a sense of what the community said … what we were really looking for.”
Thomas added: “It’s been a few years coming and just the sheer positive feedback from the citizens, it’s really exciting to see this.” Place 4 council member Mike Guevara was particularly impressed by the idea of integrating the library into the development mix: “I was really impressed … because they actually integrated it into the park and really made it into an asset.”
Place 6 council member Dorian Chavez expressed gratitude to the hard work of city staff in bringing the project to this point: “I just want to thank the staff, too – the passion and the effort you put into all of the meetings I think is a direct reflection of how you operate behind the scenes.”
Assistant City Manager Katherine Caffrey spoke for the city in expressing the collective anticipation of getting the project done: “We are thrilled about beginning the process of entering this public-private partnership with RedLeaf Properties. They are an Austin-based real estate developer with a stellar reputation for executing large-scale, multi-phase projects in partnership with public sector entities and fostering productive relationships with stakeholders. We believe this is key in realizing the Cedar Park community’s shared vision of the great potential for the Bell Boulevard District.”
City officials provided a synopsis of the proposed project:
What is the Bell Boulevard District?
“The Bell Boulevard District is located on Bell Boulevard (US 183), the primary north-south corridor for Cedar Park, between Buttercup Creek Boulevard and Park Street. While the area was once a vital community hub, it has not experienced the same level of economic growth seen in other areas of the city. In 2014, during a city-wide comprehensive planning process, the community expressed strong interest in seeing this area revitalized.
“Revitalization of the Bell Boulevard District is a top priority for Cedar Park. The project is backed by a master plan utilizing redevelopment experts from across the nation, thorough financial modeling and forecasting for the public and private sector, and significant public investment in the project thus far.
“This area will become a 40-acre mixed-use development featuring retail, restaurant, office and residential space as well as the 12-acre Buttercup Creek Natural Area. The core of the Bell Boulevard District will be a walkable area designed especially for pedestrian traffic. The property poised for redevelopment includes approximately 20 acres of city-owned property and an additional 12 acres of parkland the city also owns.”
More information about the Bell Boulevard District may be found by clicking here.