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Council OKs changes to two properties in East 11th corridor

Monday, November 24, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Council passed a complicated, yet brief, set of motions last week to approve zoning changes on two properties on East 11th Street corridor, while putting a third property on hold indefinitely at the request of the Austin Revitalization Authority.


The shorthand version of these motions is that the ARA plays a role in neither the development of Block 16 nor 17, at least for now. These blocks, both owned by the Urban Renewal Authority, are likely to go out for bid in short order, possibly before the end of the year. Block 18, which will be developed by ARA, was put on hold but must be developed by 2010.


The main message that the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development wanted to send was that two blocks that have been on the table will be available for development, and they will be out for development before the end of the year.


Executive Director Margaret Shaw did not put all the blame on ARA. Shaw said the neighborhood has turned over in the years since the original Neighborhood Combining Conservation District plan was passed. In addition, the economy has seen its own upheavals, including the arrival of other developers.


“We had a complete turn in the last 10 years in what the priorities of the project were,” Shaw said. “Originally, we intended to spur development in this area. Now we’re much more concerned with affordability and the addition of local businesses. Those are priorities that weren’t foreseen in the original plan.”


Last week, Council approved two sets of motions. First, the Neighborhood Combining Conservation District had to be changed. That was followed by the specific zoning changes proposed by the Urban Renewal Authority.


Block 16 – which would be one block east of Interstate 35 on East 11th Street – was approved for both zoning changes and changes to the NCCD. Zoning changes mirror the recommendations of the Planning Commission and will provide some increases in height to the buildings on the property; additional community parking; and an increase in allowable floor-to-area ratio, up to 1:1.6.


While plans on the ARA website show certain proposed development for the site, ARA will not be developing Block 16. Shaw said it was the understanding of the recently renegotiated tri-party agreement – city, Urban Revitalization Authority and Urban Renewal Board – that ARA would not be the developer on the property.


According to the staff notes on Block 16, the intention was to allow some denser development to accelerate responsible development on the property. The development also will occur in a “step down” manner, to allow the height on the block to be set back from the homes in the neighborhood.


The changes also come with the additional caveat to protect the on-site house on the property. The historic Detrick-Hamilton house is intended to be the home to the African American Cultural Museum, as well as the offices of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce. Only the 300-square-foot original footprint of the house will be preserved, with an addition added for the museum and office space.


The zoning changes on Block 16 were joined with Block 18, but Block 18 was carved out of the motion. ARA, which is expected to develop Block 18, could not get consensus from the neighborhoods on the upzoning of the property. In addition, the Urban Renewal Board declined to approve the re-zoning requested by ARA. Neighborhood associations filed a valid petition against the zoning changes.


Block 18, which is where the Victory Grill sits, was put on hold indefinitely. ARA’s deadline for getting some kind of plan to the city is June 2010.


ARA will no longer be the preferred developer on Block 17, which was not on last week’s agenda. Last month, the Urban Renewal Board voted to send the block out for bid. Block 17 is the backside of the Sneed Building and was originally intended for live-work space. ARA had from November 2007 to May 2008 to submit a financing plan on Block 17, Shaw said. That deadline was extended to October.


Due to the credit market and other issues, ARA failed to provide a financial proposal on Block 17 before the October deadline, Shaw said. The URB voted to release the block to all potential bidders.


Council also approved NCCD amendments on the property at 1425 East 12th St., which is not up immediately for redevelopment. The owner is in a holding pattern and wanted to upgrade the convenience store on the site. The amendment expanded the number of uses on the property and allowed the owner to renovate the building.

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