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Council approves changes,

Friday, May 18, 2001 by

More money for City Hall

Costs in line with other new projects

The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve additional funding for the new City Hall. After a brief discussion and public input, the Council agreed in one motion to approve new funding agreements—to cover cost increases—as well as an amended contract with the architects, giving a green light to proceed with the project.

Jan Hilton, with the Redevelopment Services Office, told the Council that the $9.4 million increase in development costs would come from different city departments. The underground parking garage alone requires an additional $3 million, she said, because of design changes.

The additional funding approved for the project raises the overall appropriation from the 2000-01 Redevelopment Services Capital Budget from $37.3 million to $46.7 million, according to city documents. The entire amended building budget for the new city hall project works out to be $192 per square foot, in league with costs to build the new Long Performing Arts Center and Convention Center addition. The new City Hall is scheduled to open January 2004, Hilton said.

Thursday’s vote approves the schematic design of the project as presented to the Council on May 3. It also amends the city’s contract with the architectural firm of Cotera, Kolar, Negrete & Reed, allowing additional payment for services up to $1.23 million for a total amount not to exceed $5.18 million.

Mayor Kirk Watson praised design team members on their ability to work with the public and incorporate the myriad design features and changes suggested. He said the cost increases were due to incorporating the profuse public input. Watson congratulated Austin architect Juan Cotera and the rest of the design team. Cotera responded: “Until today I thought I’d learned everything I could about the democratic process.” He said this process had taught him to keep an open mind.

Council Member Daryl Slusher asked lead architect Antoine Predock if the new metal material on the outside of the building would conduct heat. Predock quickly settled Slusher’s concerns about the design change. “The metal skin of the building has no thermal capacity . . . it would not transfer heat into the building,” he said.

Public comment, scant in comparison to the months of profuse public input, centered around a push to move forward and praise for the design team. “Please, let’s move forward. We couldn’t ask for a more responsive design team,” said Perry Lorenz, downtown landowner, vice chair of the Design Commission and member of the Downtown Commission.

Bruce Willenzik, also a member of the Downtown Commission as well as the Arts Commission, said when the process began he imagined a more traditional design. But he watched the design team work hard to come up with a unique product that will be well worth the extra cost, he said. “I have nothing but praise for the design team and I think we should move forward with this.”

Heat island recommendations

Start moving through system

Futrell says heat reduction will be in new budget

Urban areas, including Austin, can be up to 20 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas. Dark asphalt, more impervious cover and fewer trees are some of the causes of the “heat island” effect. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and Council Member Raul Alvarez have been working with a citizens’ group for several months to come up with strategies to reduce the city’s overall temperature. (See In Fact Daily, Jan. 30, 2001).

The City Council Thursday began the process of adopting a plan to deal with the heat, and decrease the city’s air pollution at the same time. By resolution, the Council asked the City Manager to evaluate the fiscal impact and cost benefits of 14 recommendations made by the citizen’s task force. Those recommendations are:

• Light-colored roof strategies • Expand program for green commercial property • Light-colored pavement strategies • Increased funding for commercial Energy Management Program • Incentive/Enforcement of City Tree-Saving Ordinance • Ordinance Mandating 50% Canopy Coverage Within 15 Years for All New Parking Lots • Landscape Ordinance Requiring 30% Shade Cover Within 15 Years for All Hardscape • Improve/Enforce the 1% Requirement for Trees in CIP Roadway Ordinance • Bus Stops Tree Shade Policy • Change Billing Method for Tree Planting Donations • Expand City Tree Planting Programs • Tree Mapping and Inventory Project • Protection of Urban Forest as Part of City Infrastructure • Landscape Easement Policy Michelle Brinkman, a member of the Urban Transportation Commission (UTC) and participant in the Heat Island Working Group, said Austin could become more livable by changing building and growth practices. As a member of the UTC, she said, “We know that we’re building transportation barriers in this town . . . Having roadways that are subject to high temperatures causes part of these barriers.” She said the recommendations would make thoroughfares more accessible to pedestrians and bicycle riders. Energy activist Paul Robbins criticized President Bush’s energy plan, which emphasizes oil and gas exploration and new nuclear facilities instead of energy conservation. Robbins urged the Council to adopt the recommendations. As a parting note he asked, “What would you rather have in your backyard—a tree or a nuclear plant?”

“It’s obvious by looking at the presentation that we have a very good start with a very good framework to move forward,” said Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell. “I just want to make sure that everybody understands that this will be an iterative process.”

Futrell promised progress reports at the June 7 and June 14 Council meetings. She said management would get on the agendas of as many boards and commissions as possible before the June deadlines. “We recognize the intent that this be on the table as soon as possible—with dollars—and as part of our budget discussions and preparations,” she concluded.

Council hears citizens on

Long-range roadway plan

Speakers voice neighborhood, environmental concerns

The first of two public hearings on the Austin Metropolitan Area Roadway Plan (AMATP) drew a mixture of environmentalists and neighborhood group members Thursday night. The Council took no action on the plan.

Residents along E. 38th ½ Street and Manor Road lined up to call for a modification of the city’s long-range transportation plan. Mark Lind s poke on behalf of those neighborhoods participating in the Upper Boggy Creek Neighborhood Plan, telling council members they wanted more time to work on their plan before the city adopts the AMATP. “We would like to see Manor Road develop in what we call an ‘alternative transportation corridor’. With the proximity to the University of Texas and the new Mueller development site, we saw it as a great opportunity to develop some dedicated bike lanes, wide sidewalks, and encourage alternative transportation models between the University and the new housing that’s going to go at Mueller,” Lind said.

Under the AMATP, Manor east of I-35 could be expanded from a two-lane road to a four-lane road plus a dedicated turn lane (referred to by Jim Walker of the Mueller Advisory Commission as a “chicken lane” in his written comments to the Council). “We really feel that would be disastrous for the community,” said Lind.

Residents along E. 38th ½ street voiced similar concerns about that roadway and the impact that expansion would have on their area. Both roads run from I-35 east past the old Robert Mueller Airport, which is in the process of being re-developed into a neighborhood with a mixture of residential, office and retail.

The environmental community was also represented at the hearing. Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, told Council members he was specifically concerned about the future of Mopac. “The staff has made some important recommendations . . . in terms of differing with the CAMPO vision of expanding Mopac,” he said. The AMATP does not propose any changes to Mopac. “We think you should work very hard to keep that parkway that’s very nice, with lots of green space, in its existing condition.”

Bunch repeated a familiar refrain when he encouraged the Council to limit development in environmentally-sensitive West Austin, which would be served by an expanded Mopac. “We could prevent these obscenely increasing traffic demands that are driving TxDOT and others to mow down our neighborhoods in west Austin.”

Bunch was followed by Dick Kallerman, the Transportation Chair of the Austin Sierra Club. He echoed Bunch’s comments in praise of the staff’s recommendations that the AMATP include significant differences from the CAMPO 2025 Roadway Plan. “The last time CAMPO did a 35-year plan, you’ll remember that Austin went along with it totally,” Kallerman said. “This time, we’ve made some excellent changes.” Kallerman voiced concern about Lamar Blvd, saying it needs to be preserved as a neighborhood-oriented corridor.

Council members can expect to hear more from SOS and neighborhood groups at the next public hearing on the plan, which is scheduled for May 24th.

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

Kudos for Bergstrom terminal design . . . Austin architect Larry Speck picked up an award this week for the BarbaraJordan Terminal of ABIA. The terminal was selected to receive the Tucker Award of Design Excellence for 2001 by the Building Stone Institute and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The award is given to architects and designers who achieve excellence in designs incorporating natural stone. Speck used more than 50,000 square feet of Texas granite in pillars and carved granite glyphs throughout the terminal . . . Terminal Democracy, Part Two . . . Architect John Nyfeler got a laugh from Mayor Kirk Watson during the public comment period on the new City Hall Thursday. “I recently saw a cartoon on an editorial page,” Nyfeler said. “There was a crowd of people walking down a road and they had come to a crossroads. The sign on the left said, ‘ Directly to Paradise’ and the sign on the right said, ‘ To the Public Hearing to discuss the Roadway Alignment of the Road to Paradise.’” According to Nyfeler, “All of us in Austin were going down the right side of the road.” For the record, Nyfeler (who is a member of a firm that was a finalist for the design team) said he was in favor of the design as presented.

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