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East Austin mixed-use project faces trouble at Council

Monday, April 27, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Hoping to win final approval on Thursday, an East Austin developer agreed to take CURE overlay off a proposed vertical mixed-use development zoning in the 1600 block of East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

But that wasn’t enough to get the new zoning approved on third reading. Council Member Mike Martinez, among others, wanted to see the actual wording on the ordinance.

This property – with a complicated mesh of zoning categories – appeared to be losing, rather than gaining, Council support as it moved through the zoning process. Council Members Laura Morrison and Lee Leffingwell voted no on first reading in December. Morrison, Leffingwell and Martinez voted no on second reading in January.

Four properties – 1600, 1602, 1604 and 1606 East Martin Luther King Blvd. – will be combined into a one-acre site just east of UT’s Disch-Falk Field. Current zoning is SF-3-NP in the Upper Boggy Creek neighborhood plan. The neighborhood plan was approved in 2002.

This zoning change has been under discussion since July 2008. The proposed zoning was neighborhood commercial-mixed use-vertical mixed-use building-conditional overlay-central urban redevelopment-neighborhood plan (LR-MU-V-CO-CURE-NP). The intention would be upwards of 66 condo units on top of retail.

The property is near a historic cemetery, but it’s also on a major corridor intended for development.  To sweeten the deal, Ryan Diepenbrock of PWS Real Estate agreed to a minimum of 6 units dedicated to families at 60 percent of median family income. The units must remain affordable for at least 99 years.

A valid petition – three pieces of property equated to 26 percent of the surrounding property owners – was on file for the property. On second reading, the developer was encouraged to drop the CURE overlay, which was offered if the developer would agree to some additional conditions. The valid petition means six of seven Council Members must approve the project.

Diepenbrock told Council the development could still work without the CURE overlay. The neighborhood feared too much commercial with the property – and too much traffic – but the developer’s representative said he could guarantee that those items would still limited. Traffic also would be limited to 2,000 trips a day.

“I have a minor issue with the access conditions at this point,” Diepenbrock said. “Now that we’ve decreased the scope of the project, we can go back and that can be decided at the site plan level.”

The vote on the zoning was put off until this Thursday.

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