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County, city brace for building boom

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

While much of the nation languishes under the lingering weight of the Great Recession, the State of Texas remains a consistent draw for economic growth. As the pressures of infrastructure development and urban sprawl plague the Austin-San Antonio Corridor, Caldwell County has become a focus for unique attention

and scrutiny.
“There is a tremendous amount of interest in Texas and the Austin-San Marcos region these days,” says Lockhart’s Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin. “I feel this is due to the positive business climate in Texas, the negative business climate in other states, and the continued explosive growth of Austin.”
The result of this attention, Mauldin said, is a growing number of requests for information, and inquiries about industrial, commercial and residential growth within Lockhart and Caldwell County.
Currently, the Caldwell County Appraisal District reflects nearly 30 separate properties which have been purchased with the intent of development, including the widely-discussed Walton Management projects, Caldwell Valley and Cotton Center, as well as the long-awaited Cherryville project.
Though Walton representatives declined comment regarding area development, the real estate powerhouse has entered into negotiations regarding interlocal agreements with the cities of Lockhart, Uhland and Martindale for multi-use developments on the nearly 7,400 acres that Walton intends to develop throughout Caldwell County.
Those discussions include zoning and development requirements for the commercial, residential and industrial components of the Caldwell Valley, Caldwell Ranch and Cotton Center developments, which promise to bring a wide variety of business and residential development to the county.
According to information recently presented to the Caldwell County Commissioners Court, Walton Management could be ready to break ground on the varied projects as soon as 2016, though completion of all components of the projects could take decades, pending the development of road, water and electric infrastructure.
The long-pending Cherryville development, at the intersection of Highway 80 and SH130 between Fentress and Martindale also sits in stasis, awaiting a clear plan for water and wastewater supplies in the area.
When the project is developed, it promises upwards of 4,000 residential lots suitable for single-family, multi-family and garden home sites, as well as industrial and commercial components.
Between the three projects, in addition to the promised business growth, thousands of homes could be added to the Caldwell County inventory.
With more of an eye on business, some developers have acquired property closer to Lockhart, intended specifically for commercial in industrial growth. Chief among those projects is the development at Centerpoint at Lockhart, the 271-acre proposal near the intersection of Highway 142 at SH130 on the western reaches of the Lockhart city limits.
Recent actions by the Lockhart City Council have promised water and wastewater supply to the area, which could trigger rapid growth within the project, which offers 75 acres of retail use, 94 acres of industrial use and 102 acres of residential use. The development is currently anchored by Fashion Glass and Mirror, which opened for business earlier this year.
“These are all large development projects that recognize the local opportunities and join regionally to maximize these opportunities and promote their projects,” Mauldin said. “I work with them both locally and regionally.”
Mauldin reports that better than 90 percent of the requests for information she receives call for buildings ready for retrofitting and occupation, or land ready for immediate development, which creates something of a detriment for the area.
“Many times we don’t know who we are responding to,” she said. “If the request is for 20,000 square foot building with 20-foot ceiling height and two truck wells we have to meet every requirement or we are not considered. If the company is interested in the Austin Region, we can be in competition with some eight Austin communities so we have to be competitive with land prices, lease prices, [and so on] or we are no longer considered.”
The need for “spec buildings” is something Mauldin has pressured the Lockhart City Council over for years. Oftentimes, she says, businesses pass over Caldwell County because of its lack of existing industrial buildings. That wind is shifting, however, she says.
“We currently have four existing buildings that range from 5,000-30,000 square feet,” she said. “Primary jobs have the greatest economic impact on our community.”
The sort of jobs to which Mauldin refers are exactly the sort which developments on par with Cherryville and the Walton properties have drawn throughout the nation.
In addition to those industrial developments, Green Group Holdings has suggested an industrial component to their controversial 130 Environmental Park.
The project, which includes landfill and recycling components, also boasts an industrial park meant to mimic the company’s Meriwether facility near Hogansville, Ga., which has created more than 1,000 jobs in the rural area in the last several years.
Those jobs, along with those created by the Cherryville and Walton properties, could be filled by the homes proposed by some 20 smaller proposed developments, which could bring another 1,000 homes to the Caldwell County area.
“We have been contacted about a possible single-family subdivision in west Lockhart,” said Lockhart City Planner Dan Gibson. “Nothing has been formally submitted yet, but I think it’s in the range of about 100 lots.”
Additionally, he said, plans are under way for the development of Sections 4 and 5 of the Windridge subdivision, which will bring another 80-odd homes to the community, as well as a proposal for a 33-lot subdivision meant for duplexes on Trinity Street.
“Right now is an exciting and vibrant time in Lockhart,” Mauldin said. “We all participate in economic development through our contacts.  So let’s all identify our own local opportunities and decide how we can maximize these and participate and benefit in our community’s economic future.”

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