Thursday, March 10, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

County association project gets measured OK from city panel

Though developers may not get the height they are after, plans to develop the Texas Association of Counties’ offices near the downtown campus of Austin Community College got the unanimous blessing from the Planning Commission Tuesday.

Commissioners voted to change the zoning of 1204 San Antonio St. and 1205 Nueces St. from General Office (GO) to Downtown Mixed Use (DMU). However, instead of the 120 feet allowed under the new zoning, planning commissioners endorsed a limit of 90 feet at 1204 San Antonio St. and a limit of 60 feet at 1205 Nueces St., with a 5:1 floor-to-area ratio on both.

“Usually I am the one fighting against height,” said Commissioner Patricia Seeger. “In this case, it’s the perfect place to put height. It’s not up against a residential area, (and) it’s commercial. … This is downtown, and this is where we should be putting our height.”

Currently, the sites are occupied by two office buildings. The building on San Antonio Street is two stories of office space above two levels of parking. The building on Nueces Street one story, with a surface parking lot. DMU zoning would allow the property to be redeveloped as an office building for the Texas Association of Counties’ offices. Victoria Haase, who works in the city’s Development Services Department, noted that many of the properties in the surrounding area had been rezoned DMU or had been identified in the Downtown Austin Plan as being candidates for DMU zoning, with a height cap of 60 feet.

Alice Glasco, who was representing the Texas Association of Counties before the commission, explained that the plan is to replace “two aging structures” with a new, modern building that would be more energy efficient and allow the organization to provide more services. Plans call for ground-floor retail with office space above.

Blake Tollett spoke against the rezoning as a member of the Old Austin Neighborhood Association and as an adjacent property owner. He said the neighborhood association supports the rezoning with a limit of 60 feet and 2,000 vehicle trips per day.

As a property owner, he explained he had owned the property next-door since 1982, and at that time, the property in question was a parking lot. It has since been replaced with a red brick wall that Tollet called “overwhelming.” He explained that, when that was built, the developers had to redo his basement and roof. “These things, when they go in, it’s a big deal,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Nuckols also brought his personal experience to his vote.
“Twelfth Street is a really nice street to walk down because you’ve got all of those old houses that are now offices, a variety of architectural styles, and it’s got a grassy median. So, I’m approaching this from the perspective of a pedestrian on 12th Street,” said Nuckols. “I don’t think it will ruin my leisurely strolls down 12th street.”

Commissioners also voted to prohibit outdoor entertainment or amplified sound, bail bond services, a stand-alone cocktail lounge, a pawn shop or a liquor store on the property. Although they considered adding a limit of 2,000 vehicle trips per day, commissioners ultimately steered away from that.

Photo of 1205 Nueces Street from Google Maps.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Old West Austin: This historic district is composed of Old Enfield, Pemberton Heights, and Bryker Woods. It borders the Clarksville Historic District and the West Line Historic District to the south. In 2003, the three neighborhoods were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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