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4th and Congress presents

Tuesday, March 20, 2001 by

Plans to Design Commission

Architect hopes to camouflage parking garage

Members of the Austin Design Commission got an update on the plans for a new building at the northeast corner of Congress and 4th Streets last night. Tim Hendricks, Senior Vice President of Cousins Stone, told the commission he would appreciate a positive letter concerning his project, but the 33-story building needs neither Smart Growth points nor variances from city zoning ordinances. All of those were granted along with the deal for the MexicArte Museum next door. Principal Planner Michele Haussmann of Drenner Stuart Wolff Metcalfe Von Kreisler said the building, which resembles a stylized modern cathedral, lacks only administrative site plan approval and building permits.

Girard Kinney, who is a member of the three-person committee that will consider what to say in the commission’s letter, told architect Turan Duda of Duda/Paine Architects of Durham, N.C., that he was impressed with the project. “It shows a lot of creativity,” he said.

Two residents of The Railyard condominiums, diagonally across Brazos Street from the new project, attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the addition of another parking garage to the area. “We already get the rear end of 301 Congress,” said condo owner Michael O'Shea. “Brazos is turning into an alleyway, of sorts.”

Duda said he had worked to camouflage the 10-story parking garage through use of an exterior Chevron pattern. He explained that the garage must have entrances and exits on both 4th St. and Brazos to prevent cueing in the street and inside the garage.

Duda also stressed that designers had worked to make sure the building reflected both the history of Congress Avenue and the new technology emerging in Austin. “How we fit into the city is an important issue,” Duda said. “We hope this building becomes a good citizen.” Developers have said they could even break ground on the project sometime this year, depending on how quickly space is leased.

Cousins Properties Inc. of Atlanta bought the site in January from local developers, Block 42 Congress Partners Ltd. Cousins Stone will build and manage the tower.

AMLI project 'truly urban'

Black tells Commission

Small projects get a break

Architect Sinclair Black told the Design Commission last night that AMLI’s mixed-use development on West Second Street is one of those projects that defines Smart Growth.

In fact, AMLI’s project was Smart Growth before Smart Growth was popular, Black said. The seven-story project—four buildings latticed together on two acres—is a dense 130 units per acre, just shy of the requirement to be considered a high-rise project. The complex, as it appears in drawings, has a broad base and tapers toward the top.

“The project is conceived as a Smart Growth prototype,” Black told the commissioners, who will make a recommendation on the 220-unit apartment project next month. “The premise behind this building, established early on, was that it would be a truly urban building.”

Beyond the high density, urban in this case means 45,000 square feet of retail space around a ground-floor plaza, two levels of underground parking, wide streetscapes, a concrete frame and a height that rivals the CSC building. Vernooy + Black and Page Southerland Page designed it.

The project sits on the block where the Tips Warehouse once stood, bounded by Second, Third, Lavaca and Colorado. Black told commissioners that a portion of the warehouse foundation—now almost completely demolished—will be incorporated into the plaza of the proposed AMLI project. AMLI has options on a second block, which the company will also be developing.

Retail will be located on all four sides of the project. Black gave few details about ground-level occupants, but first-floor retail will be a partnership between AMLI and Bonner-Carrington. He did promise that the streetscape and lighting would blend into larger projects currently being proposed by city officials.

First, the AMLI project must fit into the ROMA-driven Second Street retail corridor, which will also include the CSC project and the new City Hall. And second, it must also be part of the city’s Great Streets plan, which Black is also involved in developing. To that end, Black has proposed city sidewalks that are 32-feet wide, as opposed to the typical 18-foot width. The wide pedestrian-friendly corridor down to the Austin Convention Center would be a “bold stroke” for downtown, Black told commissioners.

Over the next few weeks, AMLI has scheduled stakeholder meetings with 17 different groups, Black told commissioners. A committee of three commissioners— Girard Kinney, Perry Lorenz and Eleanor McKinney—will bring back a recommendation on the AMLI project the first week of April.

Dripping Springs OK's

New development fees

Small projects get a break

The Dripping Springs City Council has approved a raft of changes in development fees and agreed to allow administrative approval for very small changes to buildings and parking lots. City Administrator Michelle Fischer said projects that could be administratively approved would include driveways, small parking lots or the placement of a shed. The city engineer will handle administrative approvals, called exemptions, at a fee of $500 each.

Fischer said the city rarely grants variances to its sign ordinance, but the fee for a request will go from $50 to $250. The Council also agreed to raise all zoning fees, which have been a uniform $200. New requests for a use permit will be $350, a special use permit $250, and a zoning classification change $300. A request for a variance from zoning requirements will cost $350. Site development fees and subdivision variance requests will jump from $200 to $350 each.

Fischer said the administrative exemption for small projects would help citizens save both time and money. Previously, every project, no matter how small, had to receive approval from the City Council after going through the planning and zoning commission. Applicants were required to hire engineers, some of whom charged up to $2,000 to submit plans.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Elder statesman to run? . . Even though Mayor Kirk Watson has protested, rumors continue to paint him as a man itching to run for Texas Attorney General. Along with several women candidates who have privately or publicly indicated an interest in the job should Watson choose to move on early, former Council Member Gus Garcia is rumored to be thinking about running also. That would make it tough for Garcia’s former aide Mark Yznaga, who has committed to assist Robin Rather in any such campaign . . . Subdivision ordinance changes . . .The City Council has once again scheduled a hearing on proposed changes to the city’s subdivision ordinance for 6 p.m. Thursday. No other hearings are scheduled at that hour, but there are 13 zoning cases scheduled for public hearing at 4 p.m., including the Bennett Tract . . . More road closures . . .Expect slower than usual movement on Barton Springs Road for several weeks due to utility work. The city says one westbound lane will be closed during off-peak hours and one lane eastbound was closed for several hours Monday. Beginning Wednesday, Southern Union Gas will be working on Barton Springs between Kinney Ave. and Sterzing St.(just west of Chuy’s) . . . Also closing . . . East 8th St. from Congress to Brazos will be closed from 6 a.m. today to 2 a.m. Wednesday so that the Texas Cultural Trust Council can celebrate Texas Medal of Arts . . .

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