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Urban Renewal Board votes to end Revitalization Authority’s projects

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Austin Revitalization Authority’s last potential project on East 11th Street slipped away Monday night with nary a peep, a sharp contrast to the heated exchanges about the authority’s role in East Side development at its last meeting.


The Urban Renewal Board did not discuss the three motions that members made at last night’s meeting, motions intended to address the three major blocks on East 11th Street owned by the city and ready for redevelopment: Block 16, closest to I-35; Block 17 on land behind the Street-Jones Building; and Block 18, which is the block on which the Victory Grill now sits.


Board members, minus Kevin Cole and Cristina De La Fuente-Valadez, made three quick motions with little discussion.


One was to withdraw from consideration a proposal on Block 16 that would put community parking at 903 and 905 Juniper. Public meetings next week are cancelled. Staff is given 60 days to come with a proposal on community parking through the corridors that is less intrusive to residential neighborhoods.


The second was to acknowledge stalled negotiations on Block 17, held by ARA for development, and direct staff to come back with alternatives within the next 30 days as to how the Urban Renewal Agency could move forward to address the stalled negotiations, including any and all potential legal remedies.


And finally, in the case of Block 18, recognize that ARA had missed development deadlines under the tri-party agreement. As Sean Garretson noted, the Urban Renewal Board would respectfully decline ARA’s request for exclusive, or any phased, development of the block.


That leaves the authority with its work on preserving the East Room, plus its various community-based projects and the leasing of the Snell and Street-Jones buildings. And while ARA board members fought vehemently at the most recent meetings over the group’s role, or lack thereof, in spurring East 11th Street development, only Greg Smith, ARA interim executive director, was in the audience at last night’s Urban Renewal Board meeting.


Smith, who presented the board with his monthly report, was circumspect about the decisions of the Urban Renewal Board.


“There is life for ARA after the tri-party agreement,” Smith said.


ARA still exists, regardless of the development decisions, Smith said. ARA’s existence, or non-existence, was not tied to landing another development deal. The organization would continue to have a role in the community.


The city and Urban Renewal Board still have much to do on the East 12th Street corridor, although the potential for ARA to act as a developer on any city-owned property, at this point, appears to be dim.

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