If you live or work in the Lakeway area and you shop at The Oaks or the adjoining shopping centers, you know the action on Birrell Street is ridiculous. This is the road that runs between Lakeway Town Center and the US Post Office to Medical Drive (Lakeway H-E-B). Hundreds of cars per day are using this access road zipping to and from The Oaks.
And it’s not just this road. It’s happening in the parking lot of the Lakeway Town Center in front of Thai Spice and the newly opened Hops & Thyme.
When you pull into a parking spot there, you may as well bring a tent and camping equipment. You’re stuck for a while. Speed bumps were installed to make it safer or less attractive for shortcuts, but that’s not changing a thing.
That said, the development of The Oaks and the Lakeway Police Station continues, and Lakeway Town Center phases are expanding to include Lakeway Plaza Partners III and IV, which means more and more traffic will head this way.
Are there plans to make Birrell Street the world’s shortest toll road?
Of course not. But seriously, folks — how will Lakeway grow its infrastructure to figure this stuff out?
Before we take a look ahead, let’s take a quick look back at how the area at FM 620 and Lohmans Crossing Road evolved.
A quick Lohmans Crossing history lesson
To understand how future growth in this slice of Lakeway might proceed, we took a look back at how this land developed.
I reached out to the developer, Tom DeCicco, for a brief history. Tom and his partner Elliot Megdal were the original developers of the Lakeway Town Center shopping centers located on both sides of Lohmans Crossing Road.
In 1997, the partners purchased 20 acres from Gene Reed and donated the right of way for Lohmans Crossing Road. Back then, Albertsons was supposed to build on the north side of Lohmans, but Randalls beat them to the punch, and it never happened.
Tom and Elliot repurchased the land from them and started development between Lohmans Spur and Lohmans Crossing.
Last year, Tom and Elliot purchased the remaining land owned by Mr. Reed and sold 4 acres of that to the City of Lakeway where the Lakeway Police Station is being built.
The Lakeway Plaza Partners III and Lakeway Plaza Partners IV tracts are in development and include 50,000 square feet of office space that will overlook the existing pond and back up to Thai Spice.
How businesses will survive
Since Tom is an expert when it comes to growth in the immediate area, I asked him what needs to happen for businesses to survive this development boom?
“What is going to be vital to the success of our existing properties, future properties and all the businesses associated is what will happen to infrastructure,” he explained.
“The City is moving ahead with extending Lohmans Spur north of Lohmans Crossing, but there needs to be a commitment to extending Main Street and Birrell Street. I hear connectivity mentioned by those living in Lakeway. These streets are vital.”
Who’s making the tough decisions?
As we already know, change is constant, and growth in the Lake Travis area isn’t slowing down anytime soon. This means the decision makers in our community need to be smart when it comes to infrastructure. Keep in mind; we will elect a new mayor of Lakeway in May 2018.
“Today we have several hundred cars per day cutting through our property to get to and from HEB, says Tom.
“If we were to block off that drive on Birrell Street, I can’t imagine the reaction. Obviously, we don’t and won’t do that, but the City and community need to understand that by allowing development of The Oaks they should not retreat.”
This isn’t ‘new’ news
On August 17, 2015, at the Lakeway City Council meeting, access points into and out of The Oaks was already an extremely hot topic.
Lakeway residents and city council members knew traffic would come into the area by any means necessary. Getting to H-E-B without having to get on 620 was a big bonus, so Birrell Street’s traffic isn’t a surprise.
Back in 2015, estimates show that 30,000 cars per day would come in and out of The Oaks with 15% of that number coming up Lohmans Crossing.
Well, we’re in a pickle.
What needs to happen moving forward to get us out of it?
Birrell Street? Main Street? Lohmans Spur?
What’s a real plan that will work?