Liberty Hill set to lure small retailers

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Liberty Hill is a fast-growth community, but residential growth has outpaced business growth.

But with the population inching closer every day to the tipping point where businesses make the decision to set up shop, there will be need for a shop to set up in.

“More often than not, they want something that already exists,” said Lance Dean, Executive Director of the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “Pretty much every lead that gets sent out by the State of Texas and Austin Chamber want preexisting space. It is all about speed right now, how quickly they can get up and going. To build something you are looking at six to nine months, maybe even longer.”

It is also easier for the EDC to lure businesses in with that existing square footage available to see.

“For smaller businesses, it is easier to transition into a place that already exists,” Dean said. “From a marketing perspective, it’s always easier to sell something already sitting there than a piece of ground.”

There are four locations in the Liberty Hill area in various stages of completion to provide that move-in ready space for new businesses.

The two most visible locations are the Water Tower development on SH 29 and the The Shops at San Gabriel Ridge, just south of Liberty Hill at the intersection of Whitewing Drive and US Hwy 183.

The Water Tower Center retail development has begun construction on SH 29 to provide what Dean said is sought after retail space. It will total about 21,000 square feet.

“It is actually on Hwy. 29 and it makes a horseshoe around the water tower,” Dean said. “That’s retail space going up. They’ve got spots available from 1,500 square feet to about 6,000 square feet. People are looking for space on the ground. They don’t have the time to wait for something to be built. Once we can get these projects kicked off that’s going to be a big benefit to our city.”

Dean said no tenants have been announced to date.

The Shops at San Gabriel Ridge is being anchored by Furniture Market, the second store for shopping center owner Dwain Schuh.

The rest of the new retail center offers flexible options and Schuh is still working to fill every space.

“We’re pretty flexible with from about 1,500 square feet to probably 5,000,” he said. “They can come by the site and see me or call. We want to fill it up and make it a really nice neighborhood center.”

There is a dental office already signed for the center, and Schuh said he hopes for a restaurant and coffee shop as well.

While that development is not inside the city limits, Dean said it is a great addition to the area.

“He’s doing a really nice job,” Dean said of Schuh’s development. “I think it’s great because it is kind of setting the standard for everything else.”

In its early stage is Panther Plaza, to be located at the northeast corner of SH 29 and County Road 200. Approved by the City Council in November, the center will be on one acre with 10,000 square feet of retail space. No tenants have been announced to date for this development.

While these three developments will add quite a bit of retail space, the project at Holmes Road and SH 29 is designed more for office and warehouse space.

“Right now it is just designated as office-warehouse, so until a tenant goes in there it is kind of flex space,” Dean said.

The Holmes road project is a 47,000-square-foot development. It will offer space as small as 1,800 square feet or could be set up for one occupant to use it all.

Future phases of the project will provide additional retail space and a possible hotel site. When completed, the development is expected to be about 131,000 square feet.

Dean said a land use plan for future development in Liberty Hill is critical with such fast growth to protect the areas the City wants to maintain for retail use as much as possible.

“That’s one of the reasons why getting a land use plan in place pretty soon would be very beneficial,” he said. “The Highway 29 frontage is the most valuable frontage we have in the city right now. We want it, for the best use. That’s where a land use plan would come in handy to help suggest where certain types of industry or businesses should go.”

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