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City Council approves development of downtown plaza

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Downtown plaza with red picnic tables outside
The open lot on 214 E. Hutchison St. will be a public plaza for residents of San Marcos.

Photo by Elza Taurins | Staff Photographer

The City of San Marcos developed and passed a plan to transform an empty lot off the Square into a public plaza including dog friendly watering fountains, extra parking and a grassy area.

San Marcos community members have voiced their desire for the city to construct a parking garage to help with the lack of parking in the downtown area. The City of San Marcos does not have the downtown land space to construct a parking garage nor the funding to do so. However, the property site at 214 E. Hutchison St. is 6,000 square feet and can be renovated to operate as an outdoor hangout spot for students and residents.

The minimum space to construct a parking garage requires an area of roughly 120 feet long by 80 feet wide in order to successfully park vehicles and to make turning movements possible. With these minimum requirements needed, a parking garage was never an option for the site at 214 E. Hutchison St. according to Kevin Burke, economic development and downtown administrator.

Although the project has not been formally named, members of the community and members of council have referred to the project as a mobility hub. It would be a space where multiple modes of transportation could be engaged. However, a public plaza is considered a more accurate title due to what the Federal Transportation Administration considers a traditional definition of a mobility hub. The space is currently a grassy lot with red picnic tables scattered about.

According to Burke, the city’s two key points are that council has approved a design for the development of the site into a public space and that the city never planned to build a site which could fit a bunch of parking spots on the desired lot.

“The city is cognizant of the community’s desire for additional parking,” Burke said. “The city is engaged in a long-term effort at creating a parking management program to address both supply and demand for parking downtown.”

To develop on the vacant lot, the city executed a contract Jan. 17, 2017 for design services with development consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

The public plaza is expected to feature several key features focusing on public art, a pet waste dispenser, transportation and cycling amenities and various decorative landscape areas. Although the artwork has not been determined, there have been three pieces of public art proposed, which include a masonry accent wall which may be used for murals, a decorative metal screen and a sculptural installation. The site will also feature a bicycle repair station, a rain garden, a water refill station and parking spaces with the ability to accommodate two electric vehicle-charging stations.

Kimley-Horn has recommended the city allocate a budget of $361,150 for the estimated project cost, and for the budget to be incorporated into the Capital Improvement Program during the 2019 budget process.

As one of three sub-committee members for the project, City Council Member Lisa Prewitt has expressed continued support for the public plaza.

“The public plaza will give members of Texas State and locals a space to interact,” Prewitt said. “The city is always looking for ways to bring our two communities together.”

Carter Misch, business management freshman, said he believes the downtown area is in serious need of additional parking but is excited for the creation of a public plaza.

“I spend a lot of time looking for parking downtown and cannot imagine how residents who work downtown manage finding parking spaces on a regular basis,” Misch said. “However, the construction of a public plaza will give San Marcos residents a new area to develop connections and to interact with the community.”

City Council is unable to project a completion date for the public plaza but has directed Kimley-Horn to carry out all services necessary to prepare landscape architecture construction drawings, setting forth in detail the requirements for construction of the project.

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