The Cedar Park City Council unanimously voted to approve the 20-year agreement with RedLeaf on Thursday, February 27 after a year of negotiations with the developer. Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale says, “The Bell Boulevard Redevelopment Project has been a top priority of our city councils, staff, and boards for five consecutive years, because this is literally the only area of our booming city that’s in financial decline. Today, we officially changed that by partnering with RedLeaf—a visionary, high-caliber developer with a proven track record on complex public-private partnerships in our region. No project in our city’s history has received this much public input and attention from our councils, boards and staff. The Bell District will reflect our community’s shared vision of an attractive destination for generations, and completely reverse the financial trend for that area.”
The Bell District includes approximately 50 City-owned acres along Bell Boulevard between Buttercup Creek Boulevard/Brushy Creek Road and Park Street.
Under the terms of the MDA, RedLeaf is directly accountable to the City of Cedar Park. The City and the developer share in the risks and rewards of the project, which is expected to have a total investment of approximately $350 million in today’s dollars at full build out. The vast majority of the project’s investment will come from the private sector. The portion of the project investment with public funds is primarily from the Community Development Type B Sales Tax Corporation.
The City chose to take a leadership role and make a major investment in the redevelopment of this core part of Cedar Park because the area has not experienced the same level of vitality in terms of growth and development as other parts of town. Data has shown it is the only part of Cedar Park to see a decline in sales tax revenue and slower property value growth over the years.
These investments will create significant new value for this aging part of town and serve as a catalyst for additional investment in the larger Bell Boulevard corridor. The City will benefit financially from collecting increased sales and property tax revenue from the redevelopment. There are no tax abatements associated with this development.
With the MDA come new renderings that offer insight into RedLeaf’s plans to realize the community-driven vision for the Bell District. The MDA lays out the creation of the Bell District in phases, beginning south to north, over the project area. Following the execution of the MDA, RedLeaf will begin detailed design and engineering work to prepare the site for construction and ensure that high-quality design standards of the project are met.
“The Bell District will be uniquely Cedar Park and unlike any place in the city today,” said RedLeaf Partner Rob Shands. “Our team is committed to transforming this area into a special place that captures the spirit of the community’s vision and becomes the new heart of Cedar Park.”
Before construction of the Bell District can begin, the City must finish realigning a section of Bell Boulevard/US 183 from Buttercup Creek Boulevard/Brushy Creek Road to just north of Park Street — opening a large swath of land for development of the Bell District. Utility relocation work began along the section of road in January 2020, enabling the road construction to start in summer 2020. Road realignment construction is expected to last through 2021.
Upon completion of the road realignment, RedLeaf will begin demolishing existing structures to make way for new streets and utility infrastructure.
The first phase of development will include multiple acres of greenspace closely integrated with the new public library and restaurants to create a family-friendly social hub and gathering space for community events such as farmers markets, performances and small festivals. The first phase also includes parkland, two blocks of high-density residential buildings with ground floor retail and two parking garages.
The second phase will consist of additional commercial, professional office and residential development including urban brownstones — which bring the opportunity for home ownership to the District.
Cedar Park Assistant City Manager Katherine Caffrey says the City chose RedLeaf as its Master Development Partner because of the company’s strong expression of support of the community’s vision for place-making within the Bell District and its shared commitment to greenspace and protecting the property’s natural assets.
“What makes the Bell District distinct from other mixed-use developments in the region is the central role the natural landscape plays,” Caffrey says. “It is not an afterthought. Instead, the City and RedLeaf see it as the very foundation of, and inspiration for, the Bell District’s unique design.”
The approximately 16 acres of greenspace includes a creek and dozens of large, 100 year-old-plus heritage trees. The new library will be nestled among the trees and bordering the park.
Caffrey added, “This beautiful setting creates unique development opportunities for restaurants and retailers to create a scenic, destination dining and shopping experience unlike any other in the region.”
RedLeaf has extensive experience with community-driven development and redevelopment through public private partnerships. The company serves as master developer and partner with Austin Community College in the redevelopment of Highland Mall in Austin and co-developer for the City of Austin Planning and Development Center in Highland. Prior to forming RedLeaf, Founder and Principal Matt Whelan spearheaded the $2 billion Mueller community.