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Council gives initial approval for plan to transform Sekrit Theater

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 by Jack Craver

At its Dec. 13 meeting, City Council unanimously approved a zoning change that will transform Sekrit Theater into a community of small, eclectic houses.

“I just want to be creative and build something I can be proud of and that my friends and neighbors can be proud of,” said Beau Reichert, the owner of the two-acre property at 1145-1147 Perry Road.

While Reichert purchased the property a decade ago to live on, he eventually began using the large backyard as an event space. Last year Reichert announced he would be shuttering the theater as a result of ongoing complaints from neighbors about noise.

His new vision for the property is to retain the two existing homes on the site – one a standard single-family house and the other a “tiny house”– and add 19 to 22 new homes. All of the homes will have between 400 and 1,000 square feet of footprint, or the area of ground they cover. The total square footage of the homes might be roughly double the footprint if they include a second floor, explained Matt Lewis, an agent for Reichert.

Also remaining in place will be the multiple non-residential structures Reichert has constructed, such as a gazebo and a greenhouse.

Although there is no requirement, Reichert has said he wants four of the units to be permanently restricted to lower-income residents, ideally artists.

Lewis told Council that the existing single-family home that fronts the road would remain in place. Behind it will be a courtyard surrounded by homes. Showing photos of a similar “bungalow court” in Seattle, Lewis described the development as “an amazing opportunity to integrate small houses on small lots.”

The houses, which would all be smaller than average and range in size, would accommodate a “variety of lifestyles,” said Lewis.

In an interview with the Austin Monitor, Lewis said that the development will include on-site parking, though it’s not clear what that will look like. One option is to provide tuck-under parking in the back of each unit. Another is to provide a parking lot for all of the residences to share. One thing that is certain: The cars will not take space in the courtyard.

Council approved changing the zoning from standard single-family zoning (SF-3) to high-density single-family zoning (SF-6) that allows for condominiums or townhouses.

Council Member Leslie Pool expressed enthusiasm about the design envisioned for the new homes.

“I like how they mirror some of the structures that we’ve had in East Austin but that we have maybe lost,” she said. “So that is returning some of that era of structure to our community, so that’s great.”

The Planning Commission had recommended imposing a conditional overlay dictating the size of the residences’ footprints and limiting the property to 22 units, two fewer than SF-6 typically allows. Reichert said he would like the ability to build two more units “to allow more people to enjoy the space.”

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, a devoted foe of conditional overlays, motioned to approve the zoning change without the Planning Commission’s recommended restrictions. Council approved the measure unanimously.

However, the process is not quite over. Council only approved the zoning change on first reading. It must be passed three times to go into effect.

Video still via Vimeo.

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