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St. David's wins first round OK to grow By Mark Richardson

Monday, December 11, 2006 by

Saying they are walled in and have no place to grow but up, officials with St. David’s Medical Center got a first-reading endorsement from City Council last week for its planned unit to expand its facilities at 32nd Street and Red River.

But the first reading approval is far from a final decision, as Council members found themselves between the hospital and the beleaguered Hancock Neighborhood Association, which is dealing simultaneously with the St. David’s plan and plans for the Concordia tract.

The neighborhood is concerned with St. David’s plan to extend some of its buildings up to 175 feet high. Hancock Association President Bart Whatley says the neighborhood wants to limit the height, particularly on the parts of the project that border Red River.

“We don’t want a 125-foot tall wall along Red River,” Whatley said. “We are strongly opposed to their plan as presented. They have failed to demonstrate a concern for the priorities of the neighborhood.”

City staff was recommending that the 15-acre St. David’s tract have a height limit of 175 feet for building on the east side of the property near I-35, 125 feet in the center portion of the property, and 90 feet on the west side as it runs along Red River. St. David’s is also asking for an 87 percent impervious cover.

Another area resident, Ronald Heimrich, told Council Members they might be making a mistake considering the St. David’s and Concordia projects separately.

“You should take a holistic approach to the St. David’s and Concordia PUDs,” he said. “They sit side by side and anything done in one area will affect the other.”

But attorney Dowe Gullatt, speaking for St. David’s, said putting the two PUDs together doesn’t make sense.

“We are using the PUD because it is the most flexible way to design the overall project,” he said “We need the 125-foot height along Red River in order to meet the medical needs of the community.”

Still, several members of the Council were concerned about the affect the projects would have on traffic flow in the area. Gullatt, who is with Clark, Thomas & Winters, said the traffic impact analysis was based on a floor-to-area ration of 3-to-1.

Council Member Brewster McCracken raised concerns about a stretch of sidewalk running along 32nd and Red River streets, noting that the PUD had not included Great Streets improvements on the sidewalk areas.

“That area will have heavy pedestrian use, particularly with mass transit stops along Red River,” he said. “It would be a much better area if it were widened and designed to Great Streets standards.

Gullatt noted that no major changes had been planned along the sidewalk, and that a large retaining wall would have to be moved back several feet to accommodate the width needed for the pedestrian improvements.

McCracken continued to push for the Great Streets improvements, but Council Members Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez stepped in.

After Cole moved to accept the project on first reading with most of the conditions staff had requested, McCracken attempted t make a friendly amendment, seeks to apply core transit rules to the Red River portion of the project. “The cost of the Great Streets in a major concern here,” said Cole. “I don’t see a direct correlation between the hospital and pedestrian traffic in that area.”

Martinez added that there were larger issues to deal with on first reading, and requested that staff prepare some numbers on the sidewalk issue for subsequent votes.

The Council approved the PUD on a 6-0 with Jennifer Kim absent.

Jail expansion cost rises to $65 million By Kimberly Reeves

County staff and HOK Architects have begun preliminary negotiations with Faulkner USA to build additions at the Travis County Jail Complex, additions that will cost double the original estimate taken to the voters in 2005.

Voters approved $23.5 million toward the jail complex expansion in 2005, but a combination of unanticipated county needs, poor building conditions and rising construction costs have pushed the price tag of the expansion up steeply in the last 18 months. At best, Travis County is now looking at a $65 million construction proposition.

Even the recent Request for Proposals has muddied the waters somewhat, with a $14 million gap between the two acceptable bidders: Gilbane and Faulkner USA. This mystified Commissioner Gerald Daugherty at last week’s meeting, who struggled to grasp the wide difference in the price estimates.

“I don't think that either firm is incapable of doing this project. What we're trying to figure out is who can do the job for the county at the best price,” Daugherty said. “That is ultimately what we're looking for. We've got to come out of here picking a horse.”

The fact was that neither met the county’s specifications fully, said Spooner, who added that it was his opinion that Faulkner had made more efforts to cut costs and put together a footprint that required a smaller budget.

In the next phase of negotiations, county officials will begin to hammer out a contract with Faulkner, giving them what Daugherty termed “first chair position” in negotiations. If negotiations were to fall through with Faulkner, Travis County would begin talks with Gilbane.

Edward Spooner of HOK Architects struggled to explain how the applications were different from each other and sometimes even internally inconsistent when it came to project proposals.

“There are situations of conflicting information that was provided where in one section of the proposal where they say, ‘We will comply and meet the elements of the bridging documents,’ but when you look at the specifications or a specific product, our evaluation is that the specific product does not meet the bridging document’s technical guidelines,” he said.

Those are things that can, and will, be clarified in the second phase of negotiations, Spooner assured Daugherty.

County Judge Sam Biscoe pointed out that the Faulkner USA document starts out with a clear 14 pages of values. Those will provide a good starting point for negotiations. Roger El Khoury, Travis County Director of Facilities Management, assured the court he could be ready by the second week of January to tell then whether Faulkner could sign a contract to complete the jail construction.

Initially, the jail complex upgrade and expansion must accomplish a number of goals: replace 888 existing beds; add 228 new beds; and provide an additional 572 variance beds, which would be more temporary beds for spikes in jail population. That 1,688 beds was cut back to a final 1,336 beds when 240 work release beds were cut from the initial proposal due to rising costs on the project.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Help for neighborhood . . . Residents of the Ridgetop Neighborhood near I-35 will be getting some "speed cushions." The City Council last week approved a proposal to allow the Public Works department to install those traffic calming devices to help cut down on the amount of cut-through traffic from drivers trying to avoid traffic on I-35 by detouring through the side streets between 46th and 56 ½ Streets . . . Gale does Dallas . . . Regulars at City Hall will be seeing a lot less of Jennifer Gale, at least until after the May municipal elections in Big D. "I moved to Dallas on September 7th,"Gale told the Council on Thursday, "and I'm announcing that I'm trying for the fourth time to become a member of the Dallas City Council by running for Mayor of the City of Dallas for the second time." . . . Appointments . . . Named by the City Council to Boards and Commissions last week: Chiquita Eugene was a consensus appointment to the African American Resource Advisory Commission; Selena Walsh was a consensus appointment to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs; Bruce Banner was a consensus appointment to the Day Labor Advisory Commission; Council Member Sheryl Cole appointed Kathy Urdy to the Solid Waste Advisory Commission; and Daffney Henry was Mayor Will Wynn's Appointment to the Urban Renewal Board. . . . Meetings . . . The Council Land Use and Transportation Subcommittee meets at 3pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Board meets at 6pm at the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center on the UT Campus . . . The Board of Adjustment/Sign Review Board meets at 5:30pm in Council Chambers at City Hall . . . The Design Commission plans a special called meeting at 12pm in room 1034 at City Hall. They will consider Ballet Austin's request for funding through the Great Streets program . . . SH 130 meeting moves . . . Senator-elect Kirk Watson's SH 130 Corridor Advisory Committee meets today, but in a now location. The group will meet at the Woodward Hotel and Conference Center at 3401 S. I-35. The groups is made of up local officials from all central Texas jurisdictions affected by the SH 130 toll road. . . . Barton Springs meeting . . . The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Board of Directors plans a work session Tuesday at 6pm at the Doubletree Club Hotel Conference Center, located at 1617 North IH-35 (at MLK Blvd.) Board members will discuss and hear invited testimony on setting a limit on the total amount of groundwater that may be withdrawn by wells in the district. The board will meet in its regular session Thursday night at its Manchaca Headquarters.

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