By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president Marty Smith and Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. marketing director Monica Hull, both bursting with pride about dreams about to come true in their city, agree emphatically on one thing: The recent emphasis of civic leaders on retail development comes none too soon.
"We're just too far away from main traffic routes to try to develop heavy industry," Smith said, "and we don't have the space for it. What we're doing now is just what we need to be doing."
She is talking about supporting the growth of hotels and new retail centers as well as renovating large areas that had fallen into disuse, such as the building Wal-Mart vacated near the intersection of Avenue D and U.S. Highway 190 to erect a new facility farther west. Tecon Inc. of Lampasas has bought the old building to turn it into storage, and plans call for pad sites in the former parking lot for restaurants and stores.
About that, Smith says, "I hope we can attract restaurants that aren't also represented in Killeen so that people will have a real choice."
But Hull said, "People hear about things coming in and just keep asking about them. They have to realize that negotiations take a long time. It took us six years to get Applebee's."
Nevertheless, those multiyear phases keep coming to fruition, one by one. The Frontier Hills shopping center on west 190 is rapidly filling up in three buildings–one with 77,000 square feet, one with 54,000 and one with 14,000. Mattress Sleep Center recently moved there.
Another shining star is a Walgreen's drug store, planned to open in October at the intersection of Robertson Avenue and 190. The city provided Walgreen's Inc. with incentives including sanitary sewer relocation, fiber optic lines and a sidewalk, Hull said.
"Typically where a Walgreen's goes in, other stores will build nearby," she said.
The city is also looking for-ward to three new hotels, a 67-unit Comfort Suites nearing completion, a 62-unit Days Inn with an interior corridor and another, yet to be named, with 55 to 60 rooms. The hotels will bring badly-needed meeting space as well as local hospital-ity facilities. Formerly, people looking for either would quickly fill up the small hotels and motels available, and many Cove visitors would have to stay–and eat, and shop–in Killeen.
But the shining star in local development is a planned 668,000-square-foot retail complex planned for 125 acres on the south side of 190 at the east end of the city. The beginnings of that are about a year away because the land belongs to Fort Hood, which has agreed to swap it for 110 acres at Clear Creek and Ammo Road along Mohawk Drive. The land would serve as a buffer for Robert Gray Army Airfield, now a component of the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport. Army and civilian officials expect the swap to be approved. Cove's new land might also include new residential development.
With all the new development comes traffic growth, and it's been getting thick lately. Everywhere it's been measured in the city, about 1,000 more vehicles per day have been counted this year than the same time last year, Hull said. But much of the traffic on 190 will have the option of bypasses now under construction on the north and south side of the city. A great deal of new residential development has been spring-ing up to the north, and several new apartment complexes are planned.
Some other small places have been appearing, too. On Avenue D, a new tanning salon is being prepared a couple of doors away from the newly opened Venice Italian Restaurant. On 190, the Soora Oriental restau-rant has been under construc-tion for some time, and the new Cuppy's coffee kiosk has quickly become a favorite.
"The cities and chambers of commerce are working more closely together than they ever have," Smith said, "and they're coming around to the idea that Fort Hood is the economic hub of the region. Killeen has been clear about that from the start, but it hasn't sunk in in the outlying areas until now. For example, soldiers are stationed at posts for longer periods than they've ever been, and we're seeing parents and grandpar-ents moving to where they are.
"Also, we expect to get a lot more civilian retirees from the North. South Florida is getting full. There's been a movement to South Texas for many years, but I think more of the popula-tion wants to settle north of there."
"We're on our way," Hull said. "We've passed the 30,000 mark in population, and there's something magic about that number. It usually opens up a whole new dimension in development."
But it's pretty clear now that new chimneys won't be the offspring of smokestacks but of the "five hills" prized on all the city's signs and business cards.
As chamber board chair Ira Brand has said, "It's a homey, comfortable place."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.