Bell Boulevard study could focus on relocated highway

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Bell Meeting: pedestrian-friendly vision
At an April 7 public meeting, Cedar Park city staffers and city-hired consultants presented a vision of a redeveloped Bell Boulevard with pedestrian-friendly shops and restaurants.

Stephen Burnett

Cedar Park City Council on April 24 encouraged city staffers to continue researching a proposal that would include relocating a portion of Bell Boulevard and creating a new pedestrian-friendly downtown district.

Council members gave their recommendations after Katherine Caffrey—former director of development services and now assistant city manager—gave an update about the Destination: Bell Boulevard redevelopment study. Caffrey said city staffers and consultants are still early in their research of the proposal and need to explore phases of potential Bell redevelopment.

The road proposal would move a portion of five-lane Bell Boulevard between Park Street and Cypress Creek Road east, replacing Old Highway 183. The 40 acre portion of Bell Boulevard left empty by its relocation could become a new destination of shops that reflects the city's identity, Caffrey said.

However, Caffrey said the road-moving proposal or “picket” option would come at greater cost to the city and any private investors. The city and consultants don’t yet have an estimate, she said.

City staffers and representatives from consulting firm Design Workshop have assembled a total of three proposals for remodeling Bell Boulevard. A second option would keep Bell Boulevard in its current place but add traffic lanes, wider sidewalks, new signals and crosswalks. A third option would divide Bell Boulevard into two sets of one-way lanes, moving the former northbound lanes to replace Old Highway 183.

The Bell Boulevard study has six stated goals, including alleviating the road’s traffic congestion, enhancing green space and creating a profitable downtown retail district.

But Caffrey told City Council that after the public outreach meetings on Jan. 28 and April 7, more people have been asking the city to only alleviate Bell Boulevard’s traffic congestion. A tightened focus on traffic would lessen the study’s emphasis on other goals, she said.

Council members, however, said they prefer the study address a balance of goals.

Place 1 Councilman Stephen Thomas said he had also heard more public concern about traffic.

“There is [also] a lot of concern that … the current business owners might be kind of displacing the smaller businesses,” Thomas said. “And I’d really like to hear feedback [from business owners].”

Place 5 Councilman Jon Lux said he thinks the study should stay as comprehensive as possible.

Before City Council, Caffrey said she reviewed other Bell Boulevard redevelopment options discussed at the April 7 public meeting. City consultants suggested adding a new road between the future retail on Bell Boulevard and Buttercup Creek Nature Preserve to the west. They also suggested developers modify the intersection of six roads to four roads, by removing Old Highway 183 and leaving only the sections at both ends of Bell Boulevard,  Buttercup Creek Boulevard and Brushy Creek Road.

At the April 7 meeting, consultant Rebecca Leonard conducted a live poll of about 200 people. About 79 percent of the respondents said they supported a possible new road along a new park. About 76 percent of the respondents said they supported modifications to the six-way intersection.

Caffrey said the city and any private investors may also need to add more apartments to a new district. Apartments would encourage high-end retail and future new office space, she said.