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Schlosser proposes higher heights on Sixth Street

Thursday, December 17, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Schlosser Development has found one way around a footprint on Sixth Street that has shrunk significantly due to a new flood plain map: make it taller.

Schlosser is known for its development of the Whole Foods Market site and the Office Max-anchored development just across Sixth Street at the Lamar Boulevard intersection. Schlosser also had plans for the block next to the Whole Foods Market, on Sixth Street at Bowie Avenue, as agent Alice Glasco explained to the Downtown Commission last night. Those never materialized.

At one time, Schlosser’s plan for the block at Sixth Street and Bowie Avenue was for a Target and a movie theater, Glasco noted. But then the economy changed, and changed again, and that block was left in limbo due to flood plain issues.

At Wednesday night’s Downtown Commission meeting, however, Glasco explained that Schlosser had come up with a plan to put two buildings on the block while skirting both the flood plain and the Capitol View corridor challenges. The way it can be achieved, Glasco said, is by increasing height on the part of the block that could be developed, from DMU to CURE.

This 2.7-acre block would be home to two buildings outside the newly imposed flood plain, Glasco said. One building would be a four-story retail site. The other would be a 350-foot tower of, primarily, office space, with residential units and ground-floor retail, as well as at least three levels of underground parking. That would make it roughly the same height as the nearby Spring condominium tower.

Current zoning approval is for an eight-story 120-foot building that could contain 400,000-square-feet of space under current DMU zoning. Schlosser proposed a taller site to accommodate the full 600,000 square-feet allowed on the block under DMU zoning but denied due to the current flood plain issues.

“We’re not asking for additional square footage,” Glasco said, simply. “We’re asking for additional height.”

In essence, if Schlosser had access to its development rights, it would have been 600,000 square feet of development. By increasing the height of the office tower, that original entitlement could be met, Glasco said.

That statement also excluded this site’s participation in the interim density bonus program, a point raised by Chair Mandy Dealey. The site needed no additional density – just height – so it was not necessary to participate in the density bonuses.

Still, Glasco noted, Schlosser has offered improvements to hike-and-bike trails, improvements to Shoal Creek, and a green roof on the four-story building that is anticipated to add $2.25 million to the project.

Glasco also dropped tantalizing details to the Downtown Commission that that office tower’s height might be a lure for a major company, possibly located in the suburbs outside Austin, to move to a downtown location. It was an acknowledgement that while office vacancy rates may be high, businesses still shop for large blocs of office space on the market.

One larger employer courted by Schlosser required at least 450,000 square feet of office space, Glasco said. Two employers courted by the developer had abandoned the project given its limited size, she said.

Details on just how it would look were still vague this week– it is still at the zoning approval stage — except to say the shorter building would be on the Fifth Street side of the block, and the office tower would be on the Bowie Avenue corner at Sixth Street. Commissioners had no problem approving the DMU to CURE up-zoning, unanimously, with Michael McGill absent and Stan Haas abstaining from the vote.

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