Retail boom making mark on fast-growing Cedar Park

Jun 16, 2014
Austin American Statesman

A recent influx of new shops and restaurants popping up in Cedar Park isn’t just making life easier for residents, it’s also helping to make the area a more affordable place to live, city officials say.

Sales taxes collected by businesses in Cedar Park have shot up about 20 percent in the past year, May figures show, allowing the city to tackle a number of road projects, park expansions and other improvements without hitting residents up for additional cash in the form of property taxes.

The sales tax increase is even larger over the past five years, approaching 50 percent.

In fact, last year the city was able to lower its property tax rate slightly.

One of many recent projects that sales taxes have helped fund, Brewer said, is Cedar Park’s Veterans Memorial Park.

In the past few years, the Williamson County city has seen an influx of retailers and restaurants eager to do business in what the U.S. Census Bureau says is the fourth fastest-growing city in the nation.

Figures released last month show Cedar Park had 61,238 residents as of July 31, 2013, an increase of 5.6 percent over the previous year.

This is the second consecutive year the city was ranked fourth on the Census Bureau’s list.

The growth isn’t expected to stop any time soon. Michele Gary, a senior vice president at the Weitzman Group, a local commercial real estate firm, said Cedar Park’s population is predicted to jump almost 20 percent in the next five years.

Add in residents living within a 10-mile radius — a common metric national retailers look at when deciding where to expand — and businesses in Cedar Park have the potential to reach about 400,000 people, according to Brewer.

The average income for households in that 10-mile radius is about $100,000, Brewer said.

Those visitors from nearby towns are a key reason Walmart is adding a second Cedar Park store on Whitestone Boulevard, Brewer said. They also caught the attention of Sprouts, which is building a grocery store on Cypress Creek Road that’s set to open this fall.

San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B is in talks to build a third Cedar Park store, as well.

Two of the biggest retail developments in the city are the 575,000-square-foot 1890 Ranch and 340,000-square-foot Cedar Park Town Center shopping centers. Both are at the intersection of the 183A toll road and East Whitestone Boulevard.

In 1890 Ranch, tenants include a number of big-box retailers such as Super Target, Academy, PetSmart, Mardel, Hemispheres, Ross and Hobby Lobby. The center also has a Gold’s Gym, a Cinemark movie theater and a host of sit-down and quick-service restaurants, including LongHorn Steakhouse, Chick-fil-A, Logan’s Roadhouse and Mighty Fine Burgers.

Nearby, the newer Cedar Park Town Center is anchored by Costco, which opened last fall.

Brewer said the city spent about seven years working to woo the warehouse club.

Dining options at Cedar Park Town Center will include BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Chipotle and Lupe Tortilla when construction is complete.

The Ainbinder Co., developer of the center, says the response from prospective tenants has been overwhelming.

An At Home store, a new concept from Garden Ridge that focuses on home decor, recently signed a lease and will occupy a 108,000-square-foot spot. It’s set to open this fall.

Residential growth isn’t the only thing helping to fuel growth in the area, Brewer said. He credits the 183A toll road, as well.

That development is likely to be the norm for years to come, Gary said, with everyone from discount retailers to restaurants to grocers and even medical providers such as doctors and dentists looking to snatch any spaces that come on the market at new and existing shopping centers.

New office space that’s in the works is only adding to the area’s appeal, Gary said, because it increases daytime traffic for restaurants, in particular.

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