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Friday, June 7, 2013 by Charlotte Moore
MACC board resoundingly rejects high-rise proposals for Rainey Street
For nearly two hours Wednesday night, there was a heated, almost uncomfortable, virtually one-sided debate at the Mexican American Cultural Center board meeting. The
An estimated 100 people were in attendance, some wearing T-shirts with ¡La Cultura No Se Vende! Translation: Our Culture is Not for
At issue is the potential expansion of the city-operated MACC onto city-owned land at
In October 2012, Austin City Council passed a resolution directing the Parks and Recreation Department to incorporate the land at
But the developers are continuing to make their pitch.
Local consultant Andrew Ramirez presented to the MACC board what he and the 70 Rainey Street LP called a “win-win” development concept. The idea consists of a 31-story high-rise at the corner of Rainey and River streets. Visitors to the MACC would pass the proposed building on their right as they enter the center’s parking lot, but opponents of the development argue that any high-rise development at this location would obstruct views of the MACC.
The developers argue that their concept would actually enhance the current view. The design allows for a café and gallery on the first floor with a covered open porch and 20-foot-high portal facing
In addition, developers would agree to provide the MACC with retail commercial space within the building rent-free for 20 years. Money accrued during the use of the space would go directly to the MACC board. Furthermore, the MACC could stand to get hundreds of thousands from the developer and the city which would go toward art installations, fountains, statues, and landscaping. Developers would reserve five percent of housing in the building for low-to-moderate income leasers.
MACC board members and supporters were overwhelmingly unimpressed.
One supporter referred to the “blood, sweat and tears that have gone into developing (the MACC).”
Ultimately, the board members – including Cassie Smith, who cried when sharing how the MACC and the neighborhood welcomed her five years ago – rejected the plan and reaffirmed their resolve to claim 64 Rainey Street as their own.
Don Reese, local developer and officer of
“We hear the concern,” she said. “I think what got lost in the conversation was that Mr. Ramirez talked about a community space, a space where people can gather. I think the proposal he made addressed a lot of the concerns. It just got lost in the conversation.”
Juan Oyervides, MACC board chair said the decision was both a difficult and emotional one while local businessman and activist Paul Saldaña said he wasn’t worried about losing ground. “We were pretty hopeful that the board would be supporting and reaffirming their previous resolutions,” he said, “so we’re happy with the end result.”
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