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Rainey Street condo developer to fund neighborhood traffic study

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 by Syeda Hasan

Yet another new high-rise condo complex could be coming to the Rainey Street neighborhood. But before it breaks ground, developers and residents are working to identify the top traffic needs in the area.

The Austin-based Sutton Company wants to build new condos on a 2-acre plot of land at 80 Red River St. that is currently home to the 58-unit Villas on Town Lake condominiums. The project could dramatically increase that number, and that has prompted concerns from some neighbors about a potential spike in traffic.

“We don’t have any guidance to new developers as they come into our area, and so their view of what needs to happen is restricted to their own specific needs,” said Kitty McMahon, who is president of the Rainey Neighbors Association.

Last week, City Council voted to remove a restriction on the number of units that could be built on the property, opening it up to new growth. The Sutton Company did not respond to requests for an interview, and it’s unclear just how many units it is planning for the Red River Street property. But McMahon said that the company has agreed to pay $50,000 to a handful of neighborhood groups, including hers, to commission a comprehensive traffic study of the area. The analysis is expected to look at what the neighborhood’s needs are and what improvements could mitigate congestion.

“The neighborhood-wide traffic study would have an impact by giving guidance to both the city and those developers, taking into a little bit bigger and broader account as to their new development’s impact on what’s already here,” McMahon said.

Change has come rapidly to Rainey Street, an area that was once dominated by single-family homes. In 2005, Council members rezoned it as a central business district. That designation allowed new commercial development to move in, attracting a lot of new patrons.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo represents District 9, which includes the Rainey Street area. She said it’s important to think about the new development from a public safety standpoint.

“So you have a lot of cars converging on a very small pocket of downtown,” Tovo said. “As well, you have pedestrians walking along the streets, and it creates some real challenges, and so hopefully the traffic study will point to some possible solutions.”

As the process moves forward, the developer will be required to do its own traffic impact analysis. That study will determine how much the developer pays the city to mitigate new condo traffic.

McMahon said the developer’s report won’t be bound by the findings of the neighborhood study, but she believes they’ll try to follow its recommendations in good faith.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Jon Shapley for KUT. Audio from Hasan’s KUT story is embedded below:

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