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Marble Falls explores public-private partnership for new City Hall

Rendering of new Marble Falls City Hall

A conceptual rendering of a redeveloped version of the current Marble Falls City Hall produced by Randall Scott Architects includes spaces for private businesses. The city is considering a public-private partnership to build a new City Hall without debt. Courtesy photo

The city of Marble Falls could prevent debt on its new City Hall project through a public-private partnership, also known as a P3. The partnership would be a collaboration between private investors and the city to finance, plan, and construct a new building that could include commercial space. 

Investors would pay to build the facility and the city would lease, but not own, the space.

With the plan, the city could avoid assuming debt from construction or taking a bond referendum to voters.

City councilors spoke about the possibility during a regular meeting on April 18.

“I think we absolutely need to move forward to understand what the P3 part of this would be,” Mayor Richard Westerman said during the meeting. “That has to be in place first before we can start moving forward, in my opinion.”

Westerman told it wouldn’t be fair to residents to not look for private partners to help guide the project.

“I don’t think it’s good for the citizens or the city if we go out and build a City Hall without getting help financially from anyone,” he said. “We want to do whatever is most financially advantageous for our citizens.”

Another reason for his support is the flexibility a space built by private developers would offer.

“A number of cities have partnered with developers and built the space,” Westerman said. “We could own portions of it, they own portions of it. We’d rent from them for some portions or they rent with us for some portions. We would have long-term leases in case we need space to grow into. We’re really in the beginning stages of exploring it.”

Councilor Dave Rhodes said a public-private partnership should be a crucial aspect of planning the project.

“The P3 thing is what’s critical here,” he told “There are different ways to put public and private interests together.”

Specifically, Rhodes said he would like the city to mirror actions taken by Bee Cave in 2005 when it included its new city hall in a public-private partnership with the developers of the Hill Country Galleria, a $21 million, privately funded mall completed in 2007.

“When they built the (Hill Country Galleria), part of one of the buildings — you almost don’t know it’s there unless you know where to go — is the city hall,” he said. “The city of Bee Cave basically leases a very large space for their city functions. It keeps it off of their (interest and sinking tax roll) completely, and they don’t have any bonds or debt.”

Councilor Dee Haddock agreed with a public-private partnership for a new Marble Falls City Hall.

“I’ve seen it done in the business world,” Haddock told “It’s not unusual.”

While Haddock noted a bond referendum could be “a tough sell” to voters, the councilor’s larger aim would be to ensure the city avoids assuming debt and retains money for other projects.

“It’s not about avoiding a bond referendum,” Haddock said. “It’s about the idea of avoiding going into debt for the city, and we can divert capital dollars to other things that better support the operation of the city for the people that live here.”

Possible sites under consideration include the Old Public Works Garden at Avenue J and Third Street and land recently purchased by the city on Broadway and Second Street. 

One site Rhodes doesn’t see as viable is the current City Hall location at 800 Third St.

“The current City Hall is an old bank building from the 1970s,” he said. “Even if we redeveloped it and put a second story on it, there’s no parking. We’re already out of parking in that building and the city doesn’t need to be on (U.S. 281), which is for all intents and purposes a very highly valuable piece of property.” 

While the need for a new City Hall is evident, Westerman set the timeline for the project far into the future.

“We need it today, but we can’t afford it today,” he told “Just like I do in my own life and in my own businesses, you do things when they make financial sense. We’re years away from building City Hall.”