Newcomers Guide: Bell County Overview | Welcome to Killeen | City Services | Housing
Published in the Greater Killeen Business Quarterly 2017 Newcomers Guide
Bell County Overview
Located in the heart of Central Texas, Bell County offers a little bit of everything: big city amenities in Killeen, famous live music in Belton, eclectic offerings in Salado and various outdoor activities throughout the region. Bell County has something for everyone!
Of the 254 Texas counties, Bell County is 16th largest with a population of more than 326,000 and is home to 12 communities. Killeen is the county’s largest city, followed by Temple, while Belton serves as the county seat. Bell County comprises some 1,051 square miles of land and 36.9 square miles of water.
The area comprising Bell County has been the site of human habitation since at least 6000 B.C. and early settlers found a rich wildlife population of deer, wild turkeys, wolves, bear, buffalo, antelope, wild horses, ducks, geese, wild hogs and an occasional alligator. While the buffalo, bear, and hogs were hunted to extinction in the county in the 19th century and the last alligator was killed in 1908, Bell County still provides habitat for many wild species, including deer, antelope and numerous species of birds.
The area was first settled in 1834, and the county was officially formed in 1850. By 1870, the county had a population of nearly 10,000. The growth of the Fort Hood-Killeen area was matched by developments in the rest of the county. Bell County’s population shot up to 73,824 in 1950 and increased by 27 to 32 percent every decade thereafter to reach more than 310,000 in 2014.
Harker Heights neighbors Killeen to the east and is one of the fastest-growing communities in Bell County. The city’s population, currently more than 28,000, is expected to grow to more than 30,000 – or approximately 7.5% – by 2022. This is due in large part to the city’s close proximity to Fort Hood, as well as abundant recreational activities provided by numerous city parks and Stillhouse Hollow Lake. Harker Heights also boasts an impressive Farmers Market at Seton Hospital each Saturday from May-October, and a Community Garden year-round. Ample dining, retail and entertainment options are available in the city, and that number will continue to grow with the population.
The City of Nolanville is a growing, vibrant community that maintains the small-town atmosphere located in the heart of Central Texas. With an estimated population of around 5,000, the City strives to live up to its motto of “A Great Place to Live” by offering its residents beautiful scenery and a friendly community feeling.
Belton, home to an estimated 21,000 people, is the county seat. New residents continue to be drawn to Belton by outstanding schools, great parks and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845, the historic college campus provides both students and area residents with educational, cultural and recreational opportunities. Providing a natural backdrop to historic Belton are more than 160 acres of parkland throughout the city. Situated along Belton Lake, Belton is a city abounding with parks and recreational opportunities. Beautiful Nolan Creek meanders through central Belton where residents and visitors can enjoy a walk along the Nolan Creek Hike and Bike Trail.
Temple boasts the county’s second largest population at more than 77,000. Like Killeen, Temple was also founded as a railroad town in the 1800’s but has grown to become so much more than that. Today, Temple is known as one of the nation’s outstanding medical communities, boasting the only health and bioscience institute in Texas. Through the years, many members of the community have worked together to welcome visitors, attract conventions and market Temple as a central meeting point.
While the village of Salado may be small, it has character the size of Texas. The city was an original stop for the stage lines and was home to the first coeducational college in the state. Today, this small community is the art hub of Bell County. The Main Street vicinity is a lively marketplace with more than 60 shops and galleries. Whether you are looking for fine art, antiques, pottery, crafts, collectibles, Americana, Southwestern or south-of-the border decor, handcrafted furniture, trendy or exclusive fashions, gourmet foods and wines or a weekend get-a-way, you’ll find that special something in Salado.
In early 2017 the first portion of Interstate 14 (I-14) was designated to the 25-mile stretch of US 190 from Copperas Cove to Interstate 35 in Belton. Once all segments of the Interstate are designated, it will span from El Paso in the West to Savannah, Georgia in the East. The roadway is expected to increase mobility of the state’s rapidly growing population, as well as connect the many military installations along the route. The presence of an Interstate will also have significant economic benefits for the communities it traverses. The number of businesses that will consider locating in our region will instantly increase, as immediate access to an Interstate highway is a requirement of many investors and business prospects. It’s an exciting time to live in Central Texas!
Bell County is a truly amazing place. With the recreational opportunities, strong economy, arts and culture and the wonderful people, this is a place you’ll want to call home!
Welcome to Killeen
Whether you are moving to the area or just passing through, we are excited to welcome you to our community. Killeen and the surrounding area is a unique place where you’ll find all the amenities of a large city but with small town Texas charm and plenty of Southern hospitality.
Killeen was founded in 1882 as a shipping point for agricultural products grown in about a 20-mile radius. The town was platted by the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad and named for railroad official Frank P. Killeen. The town established all of the necessary services to serve a large rural area along with its own residents. Merchants, doctors, lawyers and other professionals came to town. Schools were established, a government was put in place, and a chamber of commerce was organized to undertake the task of building an infrastructure for the busy agricultural center. By 1940, the population had climbed to 1,265.
Then in 1942, the boom hit with the establishment of Camp Hood, a military post serving as a tank destroyer center. After the United States became involved in World War II, a need developed for a military post to train Soldiers in tank destroyer tactics, and the area west and north of Killeen was chosen by the U.S. Army. The initial installation covered 160,000 acres and consumed most of the best farming country around Killeen, so the economic base quickly shifted from agriculture to military.
By 1950, the population had jumped to 7,045, and the Department of the Army declared the Killeen military installation as a permanent post, officially establishing Fort Hood. From that day forward, it was the city’s mission to make this area the best place for military families and civilians to live. With tremendous economic growth, Killeen spread its trade area to cover a 100-mile stretch of Central Texas and continues to sustain heavy growth and development. During the decade of 2000-2010, the population grew by 45% and was estimated at more than 140,000 in 2016.
Since its inception, Killeen has striven to make this community the type of place residents and newcomers want to call home. We know what makes us unique. We are a proud military community. It has been said that the strength of our nation is the Army. The strength of the Army is the Soldier. The strength of the Soldier is the Family. And, the strength of the Family is the community. Here, members of the military and their Families are not only defenders of our freedom, they are neighbors, friends and active participants in all that we do.
We learn much from our military neighbors. We learn about loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. During the past decade, we have also learned much about resiliency—the ability to handle setbacks and still reach our full potential. This is a place where you can build a future.
Killeen is located in one of the fastest-growing economic corridors in the nation—an hour’s drive from Austin and just two-to-three hours from San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. This community boasts a growing, diverse population that is younger and better educated than the state average, living in a tolerant community with low barriers to entry. We have a strong talent pool, especially the group of skilled veterans separating from the U.S. Army at Fort Hood; good public education through an established independent school district; and accessible, user-friendly community college and an upper-level, stand-alone, state-supported university. This community also offers a robust transportation system consisting of an excellent Interstate and highway system, rail, and the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
While Killeen has many wonderful attributes, it is clear that the people are what make this place truly special. Because of Killeen’s close relationship and proximity to Fort Hood, we enjoy a diverse and unique population of talented individuals ready to welcome newcomers and visitors alike. Killeen is a place for people who appreciate strong American values and worldly connections where the character of the American Soldier permeates the community so that freedom has a face and pride is personal.
Whether you are looking to make this your home or if you are just passing through, we are glad you are here. For additional information about our community, visit KilleenChamber.com.
The City of Killeen was established May 15, 1882 and incorporated with the adoption of the city charter in 1949. The charter established the council-manager form of government that the City of Killeen still operates under today. The mayor is the city’s chief elected officer and presides over a seven-member City Council, which sets policy. The city manager oversees all operations of city services.
The city elects the mayor and three of its council members at large, meaning that every registered voter within the city limits may vote for these seats. Four council members represent specific geographical areas or districts of the city and are elected exclusively by the registered voters in each respective district. Terms for the mayor and all council members are two years, with a three-consecutive-term limitation for each office. The city holds nonpartisan elections each May with staggered terms. The mayor and at-large council members are elected in even-numbered years, while the four district council members are elected in odd-numbered years.
The City of Killeen has more than 1,300 employees focused on one mission: dedicated service—every day, for everyone. Under the leadership of the city manager, city employees carry out the daily work of providing municipal services to Killeen’s residents, businesses and visitors.
Essential city services include police and fire forces, water, sewer, street maintenance and garbage and recycling services. The city also provides animal services including an animal shelter, city planning, code enforcement, building inspections, human resources and a municipal court.
Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport offers three commercial carriers and 11 departures daily. Skylark Field accommodates private flights and provides hangar space. The Fly Killeen campaign reminds travelers to always check Killeen flights when booking travel for convenience and competitive fares.
Recreation abounds at the city’s 18 parks, two recreation centers, the Tommie Harris Fitness center, two senior centers, two hike and bike trails and Mickey’s Dog Park. For water enthusiasts, Killeen offers the Family Aquatics Center, Long Branch Pool and a spray pad. Golfers can enjoy Stonetree Golf Club, which features 18 holes, practice facilities, a pro shop and clubhouse. Killeen Civic and Conference Center and the Killeen Arts and Activities Center offer space for many types of events. Readers will find a large selection of printed and multimedia materials at two public libraries. For those wanting to get involved, volunteer services offers training, activities and volunteer matching throughout the year.
Revitalization of the city’s historic downtown has renovated seven blocks and brought new beauty and energy to the oldest part of Killeen. The first phase of the revitalization effort replaced sidewalks and roadways and added new decorative crosswalks, lighting and landscaping. New event plazas have brought first-time events into downtown and made annual events feel new again. Façade improvement grants, sign grants, tax abatement opportunities and more are available to new and existing businesses to promote further development. Downtown is bustling and ready for visitors!
Even with continued growth and a booming economy, Killeen continues to be one of most affordable places to live in the country. The cost of living in Killeen is almost 17% lower than the national average, meaning home buyers get more house for their money here. At $105,000, Killeen’s median home price is about 52% lower than the state average of $218,900, offering our residents plenty of options for quality, affordable housing.
If upscale living is what you are looking for, then Killeen has beautiful homes with plenty of space to stretch out. Some of the more luxurious homes in Killeen range from the low $300,000’s to the low $500,000’s. Most of these beauties feature acreage and an abundance of luxurious upgrades, pools and even guest houses all within minutes to the center of town. Buyers may need to add a few more zeros to the prices to get these amenities in a larger city! The area also continues to develop more quality apartment living communities with full feature amenities like workout rooms, pools and saunas, entertainment areas and private parking areas. Meet some of your neighbors or just relax after a hard day’s work without worrying about lawn care. The average rental prices are from about $600 to $1,500 a month, depending on the number of bedrooms.
Texas A&M University-Central Texas has attracted a host of developments in the south part of the city, not only in new homes but in new dining, retail and entertainment. Residents and visitors will also find highway expansion projects that easily connect to other parts of the city, the Killeen airport and neighboring cities, including Georgetown and Austin.
For more information about residential living in the Killeen area, visit KilleenChamber.com for a list of real estate companies.