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Hospital developer runs into opposition at Board of Adjustment

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 by Austin Monitor

A developer’s plan to turn an existing medical office building in West Austin into a rehabilitation hospital ran into opposition from several neighborhood groups Monday night. But instead of making a decision on project, the Board of Adjustment postponed the item, urging the parties to sit down and work out their differences.


Developer Gerald Kucera is seeking four variances in order to transform the property at 1600 W. 38th St. into an 80-bed, three-story hospital for post-surgical rehabilitation. Kucera plans to use an existing structure on the property as the hospital, and add a three-story parking complex to the eastern part of the property, which slopes from street level about 40 feet down to Shoal Creek flood plain.


Sarah Crocker, representing the Kucera Companies, said if the building were being built on level ground, the building would be two stories tall, with three levels of below-ground parking. However, with the topography of the lot, parking will be constructed behind the main building, with heights of between 30 and 50 feet.


“We are hoping to maintain the area’s current impervious cover,” Crocker said, adding that the developer wanted modify an existing driveway to serve the building as an emergency vehicle access.


The variances sought by Kucera are to be able to build four stories up to 50 feet, mainly to accommodate the parking facility.


A number of neighborhood groups, including Ridgelea and Rosedale, objected to the proposed height of the project, saying it did not meet compatibility standards.


“We welcome this redevelopment if it can meet the standards,” said Michael Holliman, president of the Ridgelea Neighborhood Group. “But the way they have it drawn up is a problem. They have not demonstrated any hardships for their variances.”


After others raised a protest, Chair Frank Fuentes asked the parties if they had met prior to the board’s meeting to discuss their differences. Both sides answered yes, though it appeared that some of the meetings had been poorly attended.


Fuentes moved to postpone the item until May in order for the developer and the neighborhoods to work out their differences and “bring all this back to us tied up with a bow,” Fuentes said. The motion passed on a 7-0 vote.

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