New Bealls building faces public criticism regarding 1431 view

Residents have complained to the city of Marble Falls about a half-block-long stucco wall in the 1500 block of RR 1431, the site of a proposed new Bealls department store under construction, but the developer says await the finished product. Staff photo

Residents have complained to the city of Marble Falls about a half-block-long stucco wall in the 1500 block of RR 1431, the site of a proposed new Bealls department store under construction, but the developer says await the finished product. Staff photo

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

MARBLE FALLS — Construction of a side wall on the proposed new Bealls store on RR 1431 has prompted a torrent of complaints to city officials and on social media that have been critical of the current aesthetics as well as the developer’s decision to position the building’s storefront away from the main roadway.

Marble Falls city staff acknowledge they have received complaints, while more than 50 comments on one Facebook profile page characterized the project in a negative light.

Those comments include:

• “How sad for our beautiful little town. How can something like that happen here?” — Lori Collier

• “That is the biggest ugliest eyesore ever … That thing is disgusting me.” — Randy Clark

A few positive comments suggested sprucing up the existing wall.

Herb Belofsky recommended a “mural depicting the Hill Country’s finest bluebonnets and lake scene.”

Despite the criticism, the developer said more work is planned for the north-facing wall.

“It’s going to have better landscaping than anything you’ve ever seen in the history of Marble Falls,” said Bill Bray of Estes-Bray LLC. “There’s going to be trees, plants, a lot of color, every 25 feet there’s going to be a downspout with a trim color, so when the trim materials are put in and the downspouts, that wall isn’t going to look that way. You’ll have a lot of flowers and plants. It’s going to be real pretty.”

Longtime Marble Falls resident Gary Delz initiated the social media chatter critical of the project.

“It’s just a long, long, huge wall facing 1431 facing H-E-B; no windows, no decor, no nothing,” Delz said in a phone interview Aug. 11. “The question is who’s in charge of restricting the building codes in Marble Falls.”

Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel, who oversees building permits, said staff became aware of the north-facing wall when the developer presented the site plan.

“We had discussions regarding the appearance,” Kraenzel said. “Something along the lines, ‘Is there some way there could be a material break or some architectural differentiation?”’

The city can make a recommendation, but the existing code is limited in its requirement for building construction.

Even though Bray has plans for foliage, downspouts and trim, the existing code does not require which way a building faces but primarily sets a maximum requirement for type of materials used on sides facing any roadways.

“We do have an exterior appearance requirement. It says the exterior of the building facing the street should be of a certain type of material. In this case, it would be masonry, stone, stucco, brick, wood veneer — 75 percent of one of those materials or combination of those materials,” Kraenzel said. “So in Mr. Bray’s case, the north building face is 100 percent stucco. That exceeds the minimum for city standards.”

Delz expressed concerns about the distance of the building from the roadway, which is several feet closer to RR 1431 than nearby businesses.

“(The building) just looks like it’s much closer (to RR 1431) than it should be, like it’s not offset enough for the right-of-way there,” Delz said.

Bray said designers turned the front of the building to face Avenue N to accommodate the 45,000 square-foot floorplan for the 2½-story structure.

“It couldn’t be done any other way,” Bray said. “There would be no parking there. It would be to the side of the building.”

The history of the project dates back to plans several years ago to relocate an existing store to make room for commercial expansion of another venture.

According to city leaders, developer plans included moving the Bealls store, which is currently adjacent to H-E-B at 1503 RR 1431, across the street to make room for a new and bigger H-E-B.

H-E-B officials say that once the current Bealls building is razed, crews will launch construction on the new store at that location.

To accommodate the Bealls development, city officials relocated a portion of Avenue N about 50 yard east to line up with Bluebonnet Drive, closing the old roadway that is now part of the private property for the Bealls project.

The developer offered $150,000 toward the relocated city roadway and participated in the engineering and design of the new road, Bray said.

The city still awaits word from the Texas Department of Transportation on the potential for installing a traffic light at the new Avenue N/1431 intersection, city officials said.

One of the city’s next efforts will involve addressing commercial building construction concerns outlined in the comprehensive plan approved in June.

Even though Bray’s group has vowed to enhance the features of the north-facing wall, a future developer — as the ordinance is now written — has no obligation to do so.

“The majority of the public feedback was that the city should enhance its minimum requirements for the appearance of commercials buildings,” Kraenzel said. “Were’ looking at updating our zoning regulations (as a by-product of public input in the comprehensive plan).

“There’s no specification regarding windows or architectural enhancements,” he added.

An updated proposed building code is expected within the next two months subject to city council approval, Kraenzel said.

The result would impact future projects but not the current one under fire, he added.

At least one of the social media commenters reiterated Bray’s sentiment.

“We need to wait (until) it is all finished. They left ample room between it and the street for shrubs and foliage,” Doug Goree said. “I have a feeling that large wall will be decorated in some way or another.”

Bray said landscaping could be completed by February of 2017.

The Bealls grand opening is scheduled for April 4, 2017.

connie@thepicayune.com

7 thoughts on “New Bealls building faces public criticism regarding 1431 view

  1. It would help a great deal if a display window (or two) was built into the wall facing Hwy 1431. My co-worker suggested a display window that could include seasonally themed displays like Macy’s in NY. I’m a bit insulted that our city officials would allow a developer to place a large solid wall – no matter what material composition – on one of our little town’s main thoroughfares.

  2. If there are going to be trees I hope the developer thinks long and hard on the type ,being as the space between the wall and roadway is not very wide.

  3. Y’all hens quit clucking. The work’s not complete yet.

    Cluck cluck cluck. Buncha uninformed ignorant people running their mouths. Shut up and quit trying to stand in the way of progress. Man!

    1. Hmm. Imo the roosters always makes the most racket. Not the hens. Hens also have the most progress seeing as they can lay eggs everyday..

  4. I understand that the city has asked the state about moving the light but that doesn’t sound like a definite plan. Trees & shrubs will only block vision & make that intersection more of a danger than it has already been for the short time it has been open. I would like to see the owner let some of the younger artists in the area paint a mural, please no Bluebonnets. Something modern… after all when all of us older residents are gone this will be their city. Let’s move forward – make the younger generation feel like they belong. Have a contest, vote on it – no over 25 can enter. Just a thought.

    1. I believe the owner is only taking about placing trees next to the wall. Doubt they would be placed by the new intersection. I also highy doubt the owner would let the younger folks do a mural unless they painted what the owner wanted. Something modern to the younger folks could be Pokémon characters or Gothic related.

  5. Who waived the required setback from the road? Bet you could not build a house that close to the road. Really looks awful. Does not fit in with area, and represents a developer more concerned with maximizing square footage over concerns of aesthetics or fit into the area. Just a big box store jammed on the lot. While private development is not a democracy, and you cannot have a contest for local kids to paint up the building, the city could have leaned on them for something to upgrade the look and design. Would not have taken much to improve over a 25′ concrete wall.

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