Top ten stories for 2018

It has been an amazing year in Georgetown. Looking back on 2018, there are so many good stories to celebrate. Here are my picks for the Top-10 stories of 2018.

10. South’s Best lists: Georgetown was honored this year to be named No. 1 on The South’s Best Cities to Live in 2018 by Southern Living magazine (www.southernliving.com/souths-best/best-cities-to-live) and we were No. 12 on The South’s Prettiest Cities 2018 list by Southern Living, (www.southernliving.com/souths-best/prettiest-cities). It’s good to see others recognize what we already know to be true about Georgetown!

9. Citizen Survey: The survey conducted by Texas State University found that 81 percent of residents rate the value of city services as good or excellent, which is a slight increase over the 2016 survey results. We also found that 98 percent of respondents rate overall quality of life in Georgetown as good or excellent.

8. Teen Court: The City of Georgetown Teen Court program, which has won recognition as the top teen court program in the Texas, marked its 25th anniversary this year. Georgetown’s Teen Court also hosted the statewide Teen Court Association of Texas annual conference this fall.

7. 2030 Plan: This year we began an update to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which guides our future growth. As part of the update, the City hosted On the Table in October. The event involved more than 1,500 people from all across the community in imagining our future. It was especially great to see many students from our schools and Southwestern University involved in On the Table.

6. Renewable energy: The Buckthorn solar farm in Fort Stockton began supplying energy to Georgetown in July. This fall, Georgetown won a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help fund a project to generate power locally with rooftop solar panels and batteries.

5. Public Library: In May, the Georgetown Public Library was named a recipient of the 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries. The San Antonio Public Library is the only other public library in Texas to have won the award.

4. Business development: In January, a Holt Cat dealership for Caterpillar construction equipment broke ground on Airport Road. The Wolf Crossing retail center at the southeast corner of Interstate 35 at University Avenue started construction in October. This 250,000-square-foot project includes restaurants, medical facilities, a hotel, and a grocery store. The City approved plans for Wolf Lakes Village at the northwest corner of I-35 and University. At full build out, the Wolf Lakes will include 4 million square feet of corporate offices, retail, entertainment, hotels, and housing valued at $1.7 billion. Other new businesses include the Randall’s grocery store on Williams Drive and the Natural Grocers on Wolf Ranch Parkway.

3. Downtown vibrancy: With Georgetown City Center nearing completion on the west side of downtown, the City will soon move to a new City Hall, Council, and Court building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. The City also sold two buildings around the Square this year. The former Post Office at 113 E. Eighth St. will be a ballroom, restaurant, and bar, and the Municipal Court and Council Chambers at 101 E. Seventh St. will become a restaurant and micro-distillery. New buildings going up in downtown include the Watkins Building on Main Street, a CVS on University Avenue, Heritage Courts on Eighth Street, and the new the Palace Theater Smith Performance Center on Rock Street. Downtown was also named one of five Great Place in America by the American Planning Association.

2. Transportation: The first segment of Southwest Bypass, the largest city road project yet, opened in July. Funded by the 2015 city transportation bond, the new road provides a north-south connection on the west side of Georgetown from D.B. Wood Road to Leander Road. In August, the City began work on the Rivery Boulevard extension, which extends the road north to Northwest Boulevard. In December, we marked the completion of the FM 1460 project, which expanded the roadway into a four-lane arterial from Georgetown to Round Rock. Georgetown partnered with Texas Department of Transportation, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City of Round Rock, and Williamson County to fund this project.

1. Parks: The 525-acre Garey Park, gifted to the city by Jack and Cammy Garey, opened in June. Thousands have visited this rolling-hills oasis to enjoy the one-of-a-kind playground, splash pad, dog park, equestrian arena, hiking and equestrian trails, and the Garey House event center. The first phase of renovations of San Gabriel Park also were completed this summer, including a new playground, pavilions, and the restoration of the natural spring habitat along the San Gabriel River. Phase 2 renovations kicked off this summer.

New fire stations and medic unit planned

The Georgetown Fire/Medical Department continues to plan for new facilities, equipment, and staff in order to maintain exceptional emergency response services in our growing city. I want to share with you some highlights about these plans from a report by Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan to the City Council at the end of last year.

Fire Station 6

Construction should begin this summer on the sixth fire station in the city’s fire/medical response area. Fire Station 6 will be located on Williams Drive at Farm to Market 3405. The new station will help to provide emergency response in the northwest sector of the city’s emergency response area.

Williamson County Emergency Services District 8 is funding the cost of Fire Station 6 and Georgetown Fire/Medical Department will staff and operate the station. Fire Station 6 will help to provide fire and medical response across the whole service area like other Georgetown fire stations.

When Fire Station 6 opens next year, an engine company currently at Fire Station 5 will move to Fire Station 6. Fire Station 5 will continue to be staffed with a truck company and a medic company.

Fire Station 7

Plans for a seventh fire station also are underway. The city is working to acquire property near the intersection of SH 29 and Inner Loop Road for the station. Fire Station 7 will serve the eastern areas of the city’s emergency service area. The design of Fire Station 7 is set to begin this spring and construction should begin later this year. The station is expected to open by the end of 2019.

Future fire station locations being explored include a location on Westinghouse Road at FM 1460 and another location on SH 29 west of DB Wood road. The Westinghouse Road location could be a station jointly built and operated by the City of Georgetown and the City of Round Rock since it would serve growing areas in both cities.

EMS medic unit

In January, the City Council approved funding for a fifth ambulance unit that should be implemented later this year. This medical response vehicle along with the paramedics to staff it will help address EMS peak demands that are increasing in the City.

One illustration of increased peak demand is measured by concurrent demand, which is when EMS is responding to multiple calls. In 2013, concurrent medical calls occurred 4 percent of the time. By 2017, concurrent medical calls increased to 30 percent of the time.

Fire and EMS report

Here are some additional data points of note from Chief Sullivan’s report on the Georgetown Fire/Medical Department.

It should come as no surprise, since we have been one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation for the past few years, to learn that there has been a 56 percent increase in call activity and demand for service since 2013.

Single-unit responses have increased from 15 percent of calls in 2016 to 30 percent of calls in 2017. A single-unit response means that one ambulance or fire truck responds to a call. The increase in single units responding is due to the deployment of medic units and the deployment of advanced life-saving equipment on fire trucks.

There are good numbers to report on fire/medical response times for the department. Different measurements can be used for response times. If we look at the time of dispatch to the time of arrival, the response time has been reduced by an average of 36 seconds since 2012 from 5:53 to 5:17. If we look at the call-to-door response time, which includes 911 call taking, dispatch, turnout time, response, and arrival, the average has been reduced 34 seconds since 2012 from 6:56 to 6:22. Either way it is measured, the department is getting to emergencies more quickly in order to begin critical care and render aid.

Overall, Chief Sullivan reported to council that fire-based EMS has resulted in improved ability to handle concurrent calls or peak demand, improved call-to-door response time, improved reliability, and decreased general fund costs for staffing additional units.

These plans for new stations, equipment, and staff and the report on improved response times are reasons to feel good about emergency services in our city. Despite the fast growth we have been experiencing, our Georgetown Fire/Medical Department is planning and innovating to maintain excellent emergency services on which we can rely.

Council sets vision, goals, and strategies

The Georgetown City Council confirmed a new vision statement for the city and developed five goals and nine strategies to support that vision as a result of a two-month process in 2017.

“Georgetown: A caring community honoring our past and innovating for the future” was approved by the City Council as the new vision statement to express the city’s identity and aspirations.

The vision statement was developed by the City Council in goal setting meetings in November last year. Ideas and input for the vision statement came from residents in two community surveys conducted last September and October. The vision statement helps to align the community’s future direction and serves as a building block for updating the City’s comprehensive plan, future branding initiatives, and City Council goal-setting.

In addition to approving the vision statement, the City Council set five goals and nine strategies to advance those goals.

Council goals

The City Council affirmed five broad goals in support of the overall vision for Georgetown. Those goals, which create a framework for all facets of city operations, include the following:

Cultural: Georgetown is a truly diverse, vibrant, innovative, inclusive, and socially dynamic city where everyone has the opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, our economic, political, and social activities.

Employee: Our outstanding City employees work diligently to bring the vision of council to life and deliver exceptional services to our customers while exemplifying our Core Values.

Internal Business Processes: Our policies and procedures are easy to understand and consistently and professionally applied. Our internal processes are effective, efficient, fair, inventive, and transparent and make us a desired destination for residents and businesses.

Customer: Anyone interacting with the City will have such a positive experience that they will tell everyone about it.

Financial: We maintain a fiscal environment conducive to attaining the goals of the City.

Council strategies

In support of broad goals and the overall mission, the City Council also developed nine strategies to advance the vision and goals. The nine strategies represent a refinement of 14 strategies set by the council in 2015, several of which have been fully accomplished. The new list of strategies serves to establish a direction for city programs and operations. The strategies include:

  1. Become a destination for unique experiences
  2. Create a strategy to increase mobility
  3. Promote greater diversity in our population and our businesses
  4. Create and maintain outstanding aesthetics and a welcoming appearance and spirit
  5. Refine an annexation and MUD strategy
  6. Monitor, promote, and communicate a long-term water and utilities plan and strategy
  7. Expand on our reputation as a City of Innovation
  8. Increase our influence with state government
  9. Expand our role to develop collaborative strategies with Georgetown ISD, Southwestern University, and other entities

The vision, goals, and strategies approved by the City Council serve as a starting point for an update to the City’s comprehensive plan, which is now underway. They also serve as a framework for future projects, programs, budgets, and other initiatives by the City of Georgetown.

Celebrating Earth Day

Every April, the City of Georgetown offers programs and events to celebrate Earth Day. There are many ways you can help our city continue its leadership in environmental stewardship. They include telling our story of innovation in 100 percent renewable energy, learning about our planet at the Georgetown Public Library, and having fun at the Red Poppy Festival in a sustainable way.

Solar power to start

Three years ago, Georgetown announced that our public utility had signed contracts for energy generated by the wind and the sun that would make us a 100-percent-renewable city. In October of 2015, the Spinning Spur 3 project with 97 wind turbines came online. This wind farm near Amarillo has been supplying most of our contracted power needs since then.

This month, the 150-megawatt Buckthorn solar plant near Fort Stockton owned by NRG Energy is set to begin operations. Our municipal electric utility should begin purchasing power from the solar plant this summer. When that happens, our power sources will be 100 percent renewable, making us one of a handful of cites in the U.S. to be powered by the wind and the sun.

Georgetown’s identity as a 100 percent renewable power city has garnered interest from companies and conferences. As more stories appear about our sun- and wind-powered city—like the recent spread in Smithsonian magazine—look for more companies and events to back their bags and head to the Greatest and Greenest City on Planet Earth.

Mayors Challenge grant

Last month, Georgetown learned that we are one of 35 cities selected as finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition encouraging city leaders to develop innovative ideas. The challenge is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Georgetown’s innovative idea is to develop a “virtual power plant” in which the city utility creates a network of leased solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses. Georgetown now advances to a six-month “test, learn, and adapt” phase of the competition. Cities refine their ideas with up to $100,000, as well as personalized support from innovation experts, to test and begin building support for their innovations. Cities submit a new application in August 2018 for a chance to win $5 million to implement their idea.

Library programs on Monarch butterflies

Earth Day involves learning about the ecosystems of our planet, and this year the Georgetown Public Library along with the Southwestern University Environmental Studies Program and Smith Library Center are co-sponsoring a group of Earth Day events at the Georgetown library, 402 W. Eighth St.

The library will host two stand-alone discussions on Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “Flight Behavior” April 17 and April 23. On April 30, at 7 p.m. David Wolfe, director of conservation strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund, will present “Monarch Butterflies: Threats and What You Can Do to Help.” Southwestern Professor Emily Northrop will also present a talk on Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. titled “Reducing CO2 Pollution for Monarchs and Humans.” For details, visit library.georgetown.org/flight-behavior.

Red Poppy Festival and Zero Waste initiative

It’s April, and that means it is time for the Red Poppy Festival, our signature celebration of spring. The 19th annual Red Poppy Festival on the downtown Square is April 27-29. I’ll be in the Red Poppy Parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. Joe Nichols is the headliner at the Saturday night concert. The festival organizers continue to work toward the becoming a zero waste event, which means 90 percent of the waste from the event is recycled, composted, or otherwise diverted from the landfill. Last year, zero waste efforts resulted in a 69 percent diversion rate. You can help to reach the zero waste goal by bringing reusable shopping bags and personal water containers to the event and using the recycling and composting stations at the festival. For all the details on the festival, go to RedPoppyFestival.com.

As you can see, there are many ways to learn and be involved in environmental stewardship in Georgetown for Earth Day this year. I hope to see you at the Red Poppy Festival!

One Extraordinary CommUNITY

Mindful of the ongoing national dialogue regarding public trust and policing, the Georgetown Police Department has created a new initiative called CommUNITY. The program is a framework for community engagement and is the brainchild of Police Chief Wayne Nero. I’d like to share with you an overview of the CommUNITY initiative, and in so doing, I think you’ll see how people from across Georgetown are becoming involved.

The initiative recognizes that the police department can take a leadership role in bringing elements of the community together. The police department is more likely to be successful in its primary mission of protecting public safety when there are strong connections among various stakeholder groups in the community.

The name of the initiative, CommUNITY, places emphasis on the unity in community. That idea also is expressed in the vision statement for the CommUNITY initiative—One Extraordinary Community. The mission of the initiative that supports this vision is to forge strong relationships across various stakeholder groups that provide opportunities for constructive dialogue—or problem-solving—which, through mutual trust and understanding, enables unity that is sustainable.

Seven stakeholder groups in the community are the focus of the program. These include neighborhoods, youth, the business community, seniors, faith-based organizations, non-governmental or social service organizations, and news media. Members of the Georgetown Police Department, as well as volunteers with the department, aim to be engaged with these stakeholder groups in a way that is guided by eight principles: accountability, compassion, justice, kindness, knowledge, patience, respect, and unity.

The police department currently works to strengthen engagement with stakeholder groups through a range of programs and efforts. Some of these programs were started many years ago while others are just beginning.

For neighborhoods, these programs and efforts include neighborhood patrols, directed patrols, community discussions, Citizen Police Academy, crime bulletins, and focused problem-solving.

Youth engagement includes patrols at schools, a Youth Police Academy held over the summer, a new Youth Leadership Program being discussed in partnership with Georgetown ISD, and school safety and security initiatives. Police interactions with youth also include established programs such as Blue Santa, Police Explorers, and the Chase the Chief 5k and Fun Run.

For seniors, programs include the Take Me Home database to help identify persons who may be lost, the Silver Shields program offering safety information for homebound or special-needs seniors, and on-going public education to bring awareness to crimes targeting seniors.

Police engagement with the business community includes business patrols, crime bulletins or analyses, problem-solving, and outreach efforts to enhance crime prevention.

Three other key stakeholder groups include faith-based organizations, non-governmental or social service organizations, and news media. Engagement efforts with these stakeholder groups include sharing resources, community discussions, problem-solving, and sharing positive stories.

The CommUNITY initiative recognizes that members and volunteers of the Georgetown Police Department can effectively engage with these stakeholder groups by building relationships. Those relationships between people are built on a foundation of mutual respect, common problem-solving and meaningful dialogue.

In addition to engagement with stakeholder groups through programs and events, the Chief of Police is in the process of establishing a CommUNITY Advisory Group comprised of leaders from those groups. The advisory group will serve to give counsel to the Chief of Police on a range of community issues. There will also be CommUNITY Stakeholder Subcommittees within each of the stakeholder groups. These subcommittees will include leaders within the specific stakeholder groups as well as police department staff who work collaboratively identifying and developing opportunities for partnership and community engagement.

The CommUNITY initiative is a framework for the Georgetown Police Department to strengthen existing community relationships, as well as strategically build new relationships with the people in our community. The initiative is based on the recognition that police work does not happen in a vacuum, but in relationships with the various stakeholders in the community. As relationships are strengthened, the police department plays a role in helping to bring together Georgetown into one extraordinary community.

Transportation projects update

Mobility and traffic improvements in our fast-growing city are a high priority for many of you. Three years ago, 75 percent of Georgetown voters approved a $105 million set of transportation projects to make key improvements. The election authorized the City to plan, design, or construct 20 transportation projects over 10 years.

Here’s an update on the 2015 transportation bond projects that are underway or starting soon, as well as some other current road projects.

Southwest Bypass

The City’s portion of the Southwest Bypass project is nearly complete. This 2.4-mile arterial is a north-south connector aligning with D.B. Wood Road and extending from University Avenue to Leander Road. The new $18.3 million road—the first 2015 bond project to start construction—will be completed and open to traffic this summer. Another segment of Southwest Bypass is being built by Williamson County. This segment connecting Leander Road to I-35 is slated to be complete in 2020. When finished, Southwest Bypass will create a loop around the southwest quadrant of the city from I-35 to University Avenue.

Rivery Boulevard Extension

This road extends Rivery Boulevard to the north from Williams Drive to Northwest Boulevard. Construction on this 2015 bond project begins this summer. The new four-lane road will provide an alternative to Williams Drive and offer another route in the busy area around Williams Drive and I-35. The road also provides a link from I-35 to the Rivery conference center and retail area and connects to a planned new bridge over I-35 at Northwest Boulevard.

Northwest Boulevard Bridge

The Northwest Boulevard project reconstructs the road from Fontana Drive to Austin Avenue and includes a new bridge over I-35. The bridge will be a new east-west connection over the interstate and an alternative to Williams Drive. This 2015 bond project connects with Rivery Boulevard to the west and FM 971 on the east. Design and right-of-way acquisition are nearing completion this summer. Construction is expected to begin this winter.

FM 971 realignment

Farm to Market 971 will be realigned from Austin Avenue eastward to Gann Street in order to connect with the Northwest Boulevard road and bridge project. This will allow FM 971 to link to Northwest Boulevard and become an east-west connection across I-35. Design work for this 2008 road bond project should be completed this summer.

FM 1460

The Farm to Market 1460 project by the Texas Department of Transportation is a new 3.5 mile highway segment from Quail Valley Drive to University Boulevard. The new four lane road also provides a north-south alternate and reliever to Interstate 35. Funding for the project includes $13 million in Georgetown 2008 transportation bonds as well $11.4 million in federal funding, $7.8 million in state funding, and $2.6 million from the City of Round Rock and Williamson County. The new roadway is expected to be complete later this year.

Airport Road

Airport Road is being reconstructed as a five-lane roadway from Lakeway Drive to Halmar Cove. The project is funded by the Georgetown Transportation Enhancement Corporation. Construction is scheduled to start this summer.

Sidewalks

Construction should begin later this year on new sidewalks along Seventh Street and Eighth Street between Maple and Church streets. The sidewalks will improve pedestrian and ADA accessibility between Southwestern University and the Square. An open house meeting was held on May 1 to get feedback on the project from affected property owners. The 2015 transportation bond package includes $10 million for sidewalks over 10 years to address priority projects identified in the Sidewalks Master Plan.

For updates on transportation projects, go to bonds.georgetown.org or follow the City of Georgetown on Facebook, Twitter, or Nextdoor.

Garey Park features fun and natural beauty

Fourteen years after Jack and Cammy Garey announced that they would donate their ranch and home to become a public park, the City of Georgetown held a grand opening celebration for Garey Park on June 9. The 525-acre municipal park is located along the South San Gabriel River at 6450 RM 2243.

Garey Park is an oasis of green, rolling Hill Country land in our bustling metro area. I hope that every Georgetown resident will come and explore our new park along the South San Gabriel River.

As Jack Garey said at the opening celebration, “I’m excited to welcome you all to Garey Park. This is a dream come true for me and my family. I hope you and your family enjoy this land as much as we have.”

An estimated 12,000 people came for the grand opening event that featured tours of Garey House, food trucks, pony rides, a petting zoo, and fly fishing demos from the San Gabriel Fly Fishers. The Good Water Master Naturalists offered information about wildlife viewing and the planned nature trail along the river.

One of the most popular features at Garey Park is a splash pad and a large playground, including three zip lines, slides, swings, and playscape structures. This new splash pad and playscape rival the largest in the state, as Cammy Garey had hoped.

Other features at the park include a dog ranch, an equestrian arena, picnic pavilions, two fishing ponds, and more than 7 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

Garey House is a 6,000-square-foot estate home that has been transformed into an event center with 2,000 square feet of combined indoor event space and 7,500 square feet of combined outdoor event space. Garey House is available as a rental venue for weddings, family reunions, corporate events, and meetings. Find out more about Garey House at gareyhouse.georgetown.org.

The park was donated by Jack and Camille Garey in 2004 along with $5 million for park development. In 2008 Georgetown voters approved a bond for an additional $10 million for the park’s construction. The total project cost of $15 million included $1.5 million for design and $13.5 million for construction.

At 525-acres, Garey Park is one of the largest city parks in the state and is roughly 1.5 times the size of Zilker Park in Austin. To maintain and plan programs for the City’s largest park, Garey Park is staffed with six full-time and three part-time employees, including a park foreman, recreation coordinator, recreation specialist, and group sales and servicing coordinator.

The entrance fee for Garey Park for city residents is $5 for two people and for nonresidents is $10 for two people. Each additional person is $2. The City is offering annual park passes for $100 for residents and $150 nonresidents. There is also an Equestrian Rider Annual Pass, which includes all the benefits as a Garey Park Annual Pass, plus access to the park equestrian amenities. Entry fees cover only a portion of the City’s annual operating costs for the park. No admission fees will be collected on Tuesdays from Sept. 1-May 31.

Park hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. from April 1-Sept. 30 and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. from Oct. 1-March 31.

See all the details about Garey Park at parks.georgetown.org/gareypark. I hope that everyone from Georgetown will visit this beautiful place where you and your family can connect with our natural surroundings. Explore and appreciate this wonderful gift from the Garey family to all of us.

Georgetown’s energy 100 percent renewable with solar plant

Georgetown is now one of the largest cities in the U.S. to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Photovoltaic cells converting sunlight into power became one of our primary energy sources this summer. That happened on July 1 when the city started receiving electricity from the Buckthorn solar plant near Fort Stockton.

The 154-megawatt Buckthorn solar farm, owned by NRG Yield and operated by NRG Renewables, is the result of an agreement the City signed in 2015 to be the sole customer for power from the facility.

I attended a ribbon-cutting for the Buckthorn solar facility in late June. At the event, I met officials from NRG Energy and from Wells Fargo, who provided financing for the project. I also met Joe Shuster, county judge in Pecos County where the Buckthorn Plant is located. He shared that our solar plant is one of five located in Pecos County as a result of the county’s solar radiance factor, which is the second highest in the state. The electricity from Buckthorn is sent to our region on transmission lines.

The scale of our newest power plant is impressive. The Buckthorn solar plant is a mile long. It covers 1,250 acres, which is an area the size of 947 football fields.  The plant contains 1.7 million solar panels which are mounted on a single-axis tracking system that rotate over the course of each day. This allows the panels to maintain a 90-degree angle to the sun and maximizes their electricity output.

In addition to the Buckthorn solar farm, Georgetown’s energy providers include Spinning Spur 3, a wind farm near Amarillo owned by EDF Renewable Energy, and the Southwest Mesa and South Trent wind farms in West Texas owned by AEP.

The wind turbines at Spinning Spur 3 in the Panhandle and the two AEP farms produce energy throughout the day. The solar panels at Buckthorn produce power in the daylight hours and especially in the afternoon, which matches our peak demand. The complementary nature of these two power sources is a good fit for our customer demand profile.

Power from wind- and solar-generated energy contracts for Georgetown’s publicly-owned electric utility provide more energy to the Texas electric grid than Georgetown uses. This is why our energy is 100 percent renewable.

Our 20- and 25-year contracts for this energy at a fixed price provide stability for our wholesale power costs. Currently, wind and solar power are among the lowest cost forms of energy in the Texas energy market.

With the startup of the Buckthorn solar plant, Georgetown takes another step forward in continuing to provide customers with 100 percent renewable energy.

So on the hottest days in the summer when the temperatures hit 100 degrees under a blue sky, we can feel a little better about all that Texas sunshine, knowing that it’s working to power our city.

Red Poppy Festival 20th Anniversary

Georgetown celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Red Poppy Festival this year on April 26-28. I hope you will join me at this free, family-friendly festival for a weekend of fun with our friends, family, and neighbors on the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.

Pat Green is the headliner at the Saturday night concert and the Friday night concert features Dysfunkshun Junkshun. Other festival highlights include the Red Poppy Parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. and the Car Show on Saturday at 11 a.m. The concerts, parade, car show, kids’ fun zone, and street festival are all free.

The official 2019 Red Poppy Festival poster is on sale for $5 starting April 5 at the Visitors Center at 103 W. Seventh St.

A new sculpture commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Red Poppy Festival will be unveiled at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 26 during the event. The new sculpture will be in front of the building at 101 E. Seventh St.

For all the details about the festival, go to RedPoppyFestival.com.

Parking and shuttle service

Over the course of the festival, we expect more than 60,000 attendees. We love showing off Georgetown to the region, but with that many people, parking can be a challenge. We do ask that people avoid parking in the neighborhoods, blocking driveways, or parking in fire lanes. For the best experience, plan to carpool or use a ridesharing service to get to the festival. There also is a free shuttle from the First Baptist Church all day on Saturday.

Zero-waste event

The City is working to reduce waste generated by the event. Food vendors are using only compostable plates, dishes, drinking straws, napkins, and cutlery. Composting and recycling stations will be available throughout the festival area. We can all help to reach the zero waste goal by bringing reusable shopping bags and personal water containers to the event and using the recycling and composting stations at the festival.

Volunteers are needed at our eco-stations where recycling, composting, and landfill materials are collected. You will help direct festival goers to put items into the correct collection bin and you will learn about the positive effects of diverting waste for reuse and recycling. Don’t worry, no experience is needed and you’ll get a free Red Poppy Festival shirt! For more information and to sign up visit poppy.georgetown.org/volunteer.

Red Poppy Taste cooking competition

The Red Poppy Festival includes the annual Red Poppy Taste Awards, which is a cooking competition open to chefs, bakers, and cooks of all kinds, levels, and backgrounds. There are two categories: sweet and savory. Winners will be announced and presented their trophy on the Red Poppy Stage on Saturday evening, April 27. To see the rules and to enter, look for the Red Poppy Taste Awards page at RedPoppyFestival.com.

Red Poppy Ride and 5K

Two additional events are a part of the Red Poppy celebration in April. The Red Poppy Ride is a recreational bike ride on Saturday, April 13, with routes of 12, 30, 40, 62, and 100 miles. The ride starts at Richarte High School and ends at Rentsch Brewery. The Red Poppy 5K is on Sunday, April 14. The timed 5K walk/run starts in San Gabriel Park with a route along the San Gabriel River. Go to RedPoppyFestival.com to find out more and register for the Red Poppy Ride or the Red Poppy 5K.

Red Poppy flowers

The Red Poppy Festival is inspired by the red poppy flower, which has become an integral part of Georgetown history. During the First World War, a young soldier from Georgetown sent red poppy seeds home to his mother who planted them in her yard on Seventh Street. They began to grow wild and then spread all over the town. To recognize the history of red poppies in Georgetown, the Texas Legislature certified Georgetown as the Red Poppy Capital of Texas in 1990.

During the month of April, you can tour Georgetown’s Old Town District and see red poppies growing in residential yards north of the Square. Go to RedPoppyFestival.com to see an interactive or printable map that shows where you can see red poppies in Old Town in April.

There are so many ways to experience what makes Georgetown such a special, caring community in April. I hope you will join me April 26-28 on the Square for a memorable 20th

Wolf Crossing and Wolf Lakes to bring retail, corporate offices

Two major development projects announced last year will bring big changes to two corners of the Interstate 35 and Highway 29 intersection—the Wolf crossing retail center on the southeast corner and Wolf Lakes Village on the northwest corner. Both projects will be built on land acquired by Jay Wolf and developed by his children. David Wolf is the developer and landowner for Wolf Crossing and Iva Wolf McLachlan with her husband, Donald McLachlan, are the landowners and lead developers for Wolf Lakes Village.

Wolf Crossing

The Wolf Crossing retail center started construction in October last year. You can see site work happening along I-35 and on University Avenue to prepare for the 250,000-square-foot retail center. The project is being developed by CSW Development with leasing by JLL, and is expected to open later this year.

Wolf Crossing will include new restaurants such as Olive Garden, Jersey Mike’s, Jason’s Deli, First Watch Café, and Austin’s Pizza, as well as Tiff’s Treats and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt. The center also will be home to the first P. Terry’s Burger Stand outside the city of Austin.

Additional key Wolf Crossing tenants include an Aldi grocery store and a Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites with a scenic site along the South San Gabriel River. Other tenants include Verizon, Salons by JC, Austin Regional Clinic, Firestone, and CareNow Urgent Care.

As you can see from the businesses that will be located at Wolf Crossing, the center will provide needed services and amenities for our residents and workforce. The project is an indication of our strong local economy and the response from local retailers and services who want to be in our city.

Wolf Crossing supports the 2016 Georgetown Merchandising Strategy that was developed by our economic development team by providing space for retailers that fill the identified gaps, predominately across multiple restaurant categories. Wolf Crossing will serve not only the residents of Georgetown but our primary trade area of more than 130,000 people. That will bring customers from outside of Georgetown and help to strengthen our economic vitality.

Wolf Lakes Village

Diagonally on the corner opposite Wolf Crossing will be Wolf Lakes Village, a mixed-use, master-planned 164-acre development. Initial plans for the project, which were approved the City Council last year, include office, retail, entertainment, hotels, and 2,400 housing units totaling 5.3 million square feet of development phased over several years.

The town center concept for Wolf Lakes Village features a walkable neighborhood with an amphitheater, open-air pavilion, plaza square, pocket parks, playgrounds, trails, and lakes. The project is projected to begin construction later this year.

Wolf Lakes Village is designed to include a regional employment center with more than 725,000 square feet of corporate office space that would be home to 4,500 employees. The developer estimates the complete development to be valued at $1.7 billion by 2050, versus $460 million if developed as a traditional shopping center. The amount of corporate office space and public areas that will be part of Wolf Lakes Village will make it a unique development in Georgetown.

The City of Georgetown is working with developers, Williamson County, and Texas Department of Transportation to proactively plan capital improvements to improve traffic flow in conjunction with development in the area.

The Wolf Lakes Village and Wolf Crossing developments represent significant milestones for Georgetown. We can thank the Wolf family for their foresight in bringing these quality projects to our city.