Round Rock considering taller buildings near historic downtown

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ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — The city of Round Rock is considering a zoning change that would allow developers to build taller buildings near the historic downtown area. The proposal would progressively raise the limits as you move west from Mays Avenue toward Interstate 35. The city says allowing taller buildings would bring more businesses into the city.

“Particularly in this area where there is not a lot of single family residential, it just makes sense to allow the building heights to be higher than they are,” says Brad Wiseman, the director of planning and development in Round Rock.

Wiseman explained that all the buildings in the main downtown area will still be under three stories, but as builders get closer to I-35, the buildings could potentially get progressively taller, perhaps even 8 stories.

Wiseman says they got the idea to change the height restrictions after a developer raised the question. While that deal ultimately fizzled, the proposal to change zoning restrictions is moving to the city council.

“It’s a bad mistake. A lot of people think it’s a bad mistake,” says Bobby Withrow while eating lunch at a cafe on Main Street.

Withrow moved to Round Rock in 1973. He has seen the city grow to the point that he now feels downtown is too crowded.

“Once they build right next to I-35, it’s going to come right across the street from where we’re at,” he said.

Business owners who talked to KXAN said they support the idea. But everybody we talked to, including Withrow, said parking is already an issue downtown.

Wiseman said developers who want to build up would have to show they have a plan for parking. “They’d have to prove that the existing parking facilities in the area can support their parking and if they can’t do that, then they’d have to provide onsite parking,” Wiseman explained.

In 2001, the population of Round Rock was approximately 60,000; as of January 2017, the population is nearing 110,000.

The Round Rock city council is going to take up the issue at their meeting on Thursday night.  If they approve it, the zoning changes would go into effect immediately.Update: The council approved the item on April 14.

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