Stop That Bedroom Talk!

Notes from RECA's Regional Mayors Forum

Pflugerville is beating Austin to a new comprehensive plan
Pflugerville is beating Austin to a new comprehensive plan

No place in Central Texas wants to be called a bedroom community anymore – every city now aspires to be known instead as a 'live-work-play' destination. That's the news from today's Regional Mayors Forum, a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon.

“It’s very important that we recognize the regional connectivity of everybody,” said RECA Board Chair Keith Donahoe.

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz told the developer crowd at the event that her city is adopting form-based code, diversifying its housing, implementing a Downtown master plan, and adding attractions, because “building a city is not just about buildings, it’s about people.” (Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell missed the panel of his mid-size city peers, but he’s been meeting with Central Texas mayors of late too.)

Cedar Park Mayor Bob Lemon said, “We don’t want to be a bedroom community!” As a fix, he's adding “two pillars of being a destination city” – the already-completed Cedar Park Center (host to Texas Stars Hockey) and Schlitterbahn Cedar Park (opening 2012). Plus, they have a farmer’s market and a new Motel 6!

Pflugerville Mayor Jeff Coleman said his fast growing city’s updated, 20-year comprehensive plan for mixed-use growth should be adopted within 90 days. Pflugerville has “miles and miles” in which to sprawl around SH-130 and all the way out to 973, said Coleman, with more land (largely undeveloped) within its ETJ than inside city limits. “We love partnering!” he told RECA. “If you’d like to come into Pflugerville and develop, we would love to talk to you!”

Georgetown Mayor George Garver touted his Texas Life Sciences Collaboration Center (a non-profit designed to attract biotechnology and life-sciences companies) and attested to the power of a historic town square and traditional neighborhoods of older homes to attract economic development. “We’re looking for growth that’s slow enough to manage effectively,” said Garver.

Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw spoke about organizing a “Learning From Bigger Cities Forum” in February. His big takeaway? “Focus on quality.” (Round Rock's already drafted a report, “Building a sustainable city,” filled with 'lessons learned' city resiliency strategies.) McGraw said he organized the event after hearing testimony from big city mayors in Washington D.C. and thinking, “Oh crap, is that really what we have to look forward to?”

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