Co-Op District in Hutto is on hold due to combined legal and development policy setbacks

The mixed-use project will eventually be completed, but an exact date is not yet known. (Megan Cardona / Community Impact Newspaper)

Legal issues have disrupted movement in the co-op district in Hutto since May, along with a number of issues that included pandemic and other development delays.

City manager Warren Hutmacher said the mixed-use project will be completed at some point, but what is not yet known is an exact date when it will happen.

When the project was first presented in 2017, the Co-Op District was planned as a lifestyle hub and meeting place for the community, Hutmacher said. Retail, catering and multi-family living spaces are planned on more than 35 hectares.

In May 2017, the Hutto City Council approved MA Partners from Texas as a project developer. Since then, the Hutto City Hall, the public library, and the Southside Market & Barbeque have been built.

The inaction on the property is caused in part by Covid-19 as well as developer delays.

As part of the development agreement, Hutmacher said there are deadlines for MA Partners to build a certain amount of square feet each year before its completion, along with public improvements.

After the company missed its deadlines, MA Partners had to pay fines to the city.

Another contribution to the deadlock is a pause request from River Creek Development Corporation, a municipal subsidiary.

The RCDC was established to oversee the city’s interests in development.

The company manages the city’s responsibilities with public improvement districts, or PID bonds, and ensures that public improvements are made, Hatters said.

Councilors Tanner Rose, Dan Thornton, and Economic Development Corporation Chairman Mike Arismendez are all members of the RCDC board of directors.

In May, the RCDC asked for a break in project development to allow the panel to assess whether the initial development agreements for the project were properly finalized.

Hutmacher said it was a precautionary measure to ensure development is legally on the right track. Some of the issues in question are the legality of the delegation and the funding of the PID bonds, which were made outside of Texas that had not had Texas attorney general approval.

“I think the city has done everything we have to do based on the agreements and we are expecting [MA Partners] perform, ”he said.

If it were up to him, Hutmacher said, the Co-Op District would have been built yesterday.

The issues the project is facing now are complex and need to be resolved before a trial, he said. Once those concerns are addressed and the co-op district is completed, the development will be a major asset to the city and its community.

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