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Monday, June 24, 2013 by Charlotte Moore
Debate over Rainey Street parcel set for Council agenda
After months of fiery and impassioned debate about the city-owned lot at
The Mexican American Cultural Center board, MACC supporters and neighbors argue the land is perfect for the center to expand on, that such a building would obscure views of the center, and that another high-rise development would take away from the cultural and historical design of the area.
Late Friday afternoon, a sequence of events involving city leaders quickly coaxed the issue to a new level, possibly paving the way for a group of developers called
In this land-grab back-and-forth, the city has at times displayed a desire to side with the MACC. In October 2012, Austin City Council passed a resolution directing the Parks and Recreation Department to incorporate the land into the master plan for the cultural center, a motion which passed on a 4-3 split.
But at 4:30pm on Friday on the Facebook pages of Austin Tejano Democrats and Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin, Council Member Mike Martinez posted that he received a direct phone call from former Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who requested an item be placed on the City Council agenda to “allow for the conversation and negotiation to take place that would provide a dedicated revenue stream to fully fund the MACC’s completion as well as remove the power lines over the top of the MACC.”
The item would also include direction that the lot at 64 Rainey Street would contain a complete and clear 38-foot setback to allow for any related use to the MACC that the advisory board sees as appropriate, which could be a sculpture garden, history center or open space.
“Knowing full well … there will be those who are absolutely opposed to this and some who will support it, I agreed to place it on the agenda with the understanding that the item could be withdrawn, voted against or adopted depending on the details and support of the item,”
Local businessman and activist Paul Saldaña said
“This latest news obviously is not sitting well with our community,” he said. In response to
Andy Ramirez, long-time local businessman, activist and consultant who supports selling the land to the developers, argues the Parks and Recreation Department has no immediate plans to develop or maintain
“I think if there’s a way that by selling this particular parcel it funds the completion of the MACC, then that’s wonderful,” he said. “I’m more of a businessman. I guess it comes down to what would you prefer? To have a lot where there’s no money to do anything with—not even to maintain it and hope that there’s somewhere down the road to fund the MACC—or to fund it now?”
As of publication of this article, the item is not on the agenda for the June 27 city council meeting. It is expected to be posted as an addendum this week with Council Member Martinez and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole co-sponsoring the item.
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