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New restaurant row planned for East 2nd Street at Convention Center

Tuesday, July 11, 2000 by

Board of Adjustment okays to build with only handicapped parking

People attending events at the Austin Convention Center will have three new dining options if developer Sandy Gottesman's plans for a block long string of new eateries works out according to plan. The Board of Adjustment cleared a big hurdle for those plans last night by voting 5-0 to approve a variance to allow the three restaurants to operate with no parking spaces on-site except for a minimum of three for handicapped parking. City Code requires restaurants to have one parking space per 75 square feet of gross space, except that restaurants of less than 6,000 square feet require no parking. In this case, each of the three would be larger than that, and 60 parking spaces would have been required without the variance.

Attorney Richard Suttle of Armbrust Brown & Davis, who represented Gottesman and the J17 Fortune LP, pointed to the abundance of off-street parking facilities surrounding the site. "Sandy Gottesman wants to kick-start the 2nd Street retail corridor by remodeling these warehouses," he said, referring to two buildings on the north side of East 2nd Street between Trinity and San Jacinto streets. "The idea is to kick-start the pedestrian corridor at this end and hope it moves west." Retail is already being included in the new offices under construction for Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) at the other end of 2nd Street, and Amli Residential and Bonner Carrington plan to include retail in the apartment buildings on 2nd Street opposite the CSC offices.

Suttle said the two existing buildings were constructed with no parking and to provide on-site parking would require demolition of at least part of the existing structures. He said new parking facilities were not needed because patrons for lunch would most likely already be parked downtown and would walk to the restaurants, while those coming to dine in the evening would be able to use existing parking nearby that's available at night. "Downtown organizations are not encouraging more parking (facilities)," he said. Valet parking service is planned in at least one spot on the combined sites, most likely at 2nd and Trinity.

A sketch of the site layout showed rows of trees on 2nd Street and on Trinity Street. Board Member Wanda Penn said that was a good idea and asked they be "as large as humanly possible."

"I've always felt the code was written, as it pertains to restaurants and parking, for suburban areas. This is downtown," said Board Member Frank Fuentes. "I think this is a reasonable request and I move approval."

Vice Chair Betty Edgemond, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Chair Herman Thun, said, "The sidewalks there are lethal," and she stressed they should be improved. Edgemond also insisted that at least three handicapped parking spaces be provided on-site as a condition of the variance.

Ben Turner of Consort Inc., who is doing the civil engineering on the project, said four handicapped parking spaces could be provided, although technically, since handicapped parking is dictated by code to be a percentage of regular parking, a variance to require no parking would, in essence, require no handicapped parking either. The motion included a requirement for at least three on-site handicapped parking spaces.

Although the existing structures stretch along 2nd Street, both face side streets. The warehouse at 201 San Jacinto houses the Gallery of the Republic. That structure covers Lots 1-3 of Block 16 of the original city. It has an improvement area of 10,128 square feet on 0.41 acres of land and carries an assessed value of $890,000, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District. The warehouse at 200 Trinity, directly opposite the west side of the Austin Convention Center, currently houses Pseudo Rock, a recreational facility for indoor rock climbing. That building has an improvement area of 10,081 square feet on 0.41 acres and covers Lots 4-6 of Block 16 of the original city. It carries an assessed market value of $696,383. Accessible only from the alley and behind these two major structures is the Austin Carriage Service at 203 San Jacinto.

A sketch of the new facilities indicates that a China bistro would be constructed at the corner of 2nd and San Jacinto, a steakhouse and wine bar would go into the center of the block, and a proposed third restaurant of 9,880 square feet, for which a specific use has not yet been determined, would face Trinity Street.

Development consultant Bob Liverman of The Liverman Co. tells In Fact Daily that a site development permit will be needed for the project and he hopes to submit that to the City of Austin within 60 days. Turner says the permit is needed because of the proposed change in use.

As reported by In Fact Daily on June 15, Valencia Hotel Corp. plans to build a 212 room, 16 story hotel on the northwest corner of 2nd and San Jacinto.

New homeless shelters gets okay to reduce required parking

7th Street Hope Center to be built adjacent to Salvation Army

Sandy Gottesman's restaurant plans weren't the only application to get a break from the Board of Adjustment last night, as the 7th Street Hope Center was granted a variance to decrease required parking by 19 spaces to aid in construction of a new structure to serve homeless people, to be built on the northeast corner of East 7th and Neches streets.

Jim Bennett represented the Salvation Army in the application that covers Lots 1-4 of Block 88 of the original city, which lies in the 500 block of East 7th Street, immediately south of the existing Salvation Army facility. The Hope Center is a project to be built in concert with the City of Austin, the Salvation Army and other entities providing services for the homeless, Bennett said. The site is currently being used for surface parking and has 53 parking spaces. No new driveways will be added.

R. Murray Legge of LZT Architects Inc. told board members a contract between the City of Austin and the Salvation Army "is in the works." "The numbers in the application is the worst-case scenario," Legge said.

The board voted 5-0 to grant the variance, noting that since the new facility would be serving the homeless, it is unlikely that many clients would have vehicles to park. In addition, staff will be working in split shifts, further reducing parking requirements. Joe Daywood and Robert Wy, the latter on behalf of Frost National Bank, executor, submitted written objections to the application but no one spoke against the variance at the hearing last night.

The Hope Center will provide a shelter, resource center and clinic. Food service will be provided by the adjacent Salvation Army facility. The application states an intention to "incorporate many" of the Downtown Design Guidelines.

Nobel laureate gets a pool…Although no one seemed aware of it at the time, the Board of Adjustment had before it the winner of a Nobel Prize for physics humbly asking for a variance last night so that he could build a swimming pool at his residence at 2509 Scenic Drive. Dr. Steven Weinberg told board members he suffers from adult onset diabetes and "it's very important to me to get that exercise." Attorney David Herndon said Weinberg's property is bisected by Scenic Drive and regulations don't allow him to count the property on the side facing Lake Austin as part of the impervious cover calculation; if it did, the pool and other structures would be well within the impervious cover limits for the total property, 45 percent. The variance would allow an extra 150 square feet of impervious cover, for a total of 49 percent impervious cover. The existing house built in the early 1950s already exceeds 45 percent, Herndon said. The board voted 5-0 to grant the variance. For the benefit of history buffs: Weinberg shared the Nobel Prize in 1979. At the time Weinberg won the Nobel Prize he was affiliated with Harvard University, and he shared the prize with two others, "for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current."

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