What is your vision for Georgetown?” consultant Ron Cox asked council members in December as they gathered to chart the city’s course for 2023. While each had ideas on shaping the city’s future—from creating a second Square to expanding leadership focus beyond the downtown—all agreed Georgetown needs to become a unified community that preserves our signature small-town charm as well as the attractions that make it a great place to live and do business. Mayor Josh Schroeder said, “It’s maintaining the attributes that we all love and that drew us to this community, even as we continue to grow in population size and evolve as a community.”
Part of what makes Georgetown special is its welcoming nature, Councilman Ben Stewart said. Mayor Schroeder added, “I get so tired of hearing ‘Californians get out of here, Austinites get out of here, and close the door behind you.’ That’s not Georgetown. That’s not us. We’re about bringing those folks in the community and integrating them in the community.”
Georgetown doesn’t just integrate new residents, it follows Sun City’s
example of incorporating developments.
“The whole city could have become a retirement community or we could have been in a timeline in which Georgetown and Sun City never interact,” Mayor Schroeder said. “But the fact that the two have worked cooperatively in symbiosis has been a miracle. Those retired folks somehow fold seamlessly into the rest of the community.”
City Manager David Morgan noted that Sun City also could have been like Brushy Creek—with its own municipal utility district, entity, and identity, as Wolf Ranch by Hillwood originally planned to be before city staff worked to incorporate the residential community. “Instead of, they’re going to be separate and on the edges, we asked how do we bring them in and have an integrated community,” Mr. Morgan said. Councilman Jake French added, “I don’t want us to be a city with a bunch of isolated neighborhoods or groups.”
Beyond the Downtown
Council members also didn’t want Georgetown to be a city that focuses solely on the downtown to the exclusion of other areas. Councilman Ben Stewart said, “We put so much emphasis on decision making for the downtown. As we build out the city around us, we should be mindful about developments to the same degree we think about downtown.” Councilman Shawn Hood added, “With our other six districts seeing tremendous growth, I think it’s going to be extremely important to take the micro vision from downtown to create a macro vision that focuses on other districts.”
One area council should focus on, Councilman Ron Garland noted, is the southeast side. “It has the greatest potential of growth. How do we make sure our vision encapsulates that part of the city too?”
Councilwoman Amanda Parr, senior director of development, major gifts, at Southwestern University, said the university also needs to be part of the conversation. “Georgetown wouldn’t be what it is today without Southwestern. It brings national recognition and attention to the city,” she said, highlighting 500 acres currently planned for development on the campus. Mr. Morgan added, “I think about what the downtown and Old Town would look like without Southwestern. Council will certain discuss planning for the next 500 acres and the university’s ability to create a significant legacy for the city with that next project, much like Sun City did.”
Another project—a plaza and public space known as the City Center—will be developed between the library and historic Light and Water Works building. That locus is part of the effort to expand social and event engagement beyond the downtown and is intended to become Georgetown’s next community gathering place. “We need a second Square,” Councilman Kevin Pitts said, addressing the need to taper the increasing overcrowding in the Square. Councilman Hood added, “One day we’ll be at a place where not everyone can be in downtown at the same time.”
Although much of the discussion was about broadening the focus beyond downtown, Mr. Morgan pointed out that the city center is a big reason people and businesses like CelLink call Georgetown home. In February 2022, CelLink broke ground on a facility that will manufacture flexible circuits used in electric vehicles and battery storage units. “One thing CelLink loved about Georgetown was the downtown,” he said.
Council members discussed several ways to continue attracting newcomers and businesses, including adding infrastructure improvements, parking, and recreational amenities like river trails and park renovations. Another way, Mr. Morgan said, is ensuring land is available for major retailers like Trader Joe’s. “Economic development is not just about recruitment and attraction. It’s how are we setting the table to make room for this business to come? What are we doing to attract business in Georgetown?”