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BoA OKs wellness project on third try

Thursday, March 21, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

While the Board of Adjustment has twice denied variance requests required to construct an integrated acupuncture clinic and multifamily residence at 1800 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, members approved variances for the third iteration of the project at their March 11 meeting.

Dan Lowe, the project’s new architect, presented the board with two options: one “dispersed two-story scenario” and one “compact three-story option.”

Of the two choices, he noted, “We think this (three-story) option is a more accommodating proposal.”

The board members disagreed.

“I think, again, the two stories is a reasonable ask,” said Board Member Don Leighton-Burwell. He explained that he felt the height limitations were of paramount concern due to the fact that this property, which has Multifamily-High Density (MF-5) zoning, is located next to a single-family home.

Chair William Burkhardt agreed, saying, “Architecturally I prefer option A (the three-story construction), but I don’t feel that it does what we were trying to do with respect to the neighbor.” Board members Melissa Hawthorne and Veronica Rivera expressed their opinions that the triple-level structure was more aesthetically pleasing.

Although the board had hoped to hear the neighborhood’s opinion on the designs, no representatives from the Blackland Neighborhood Association attended the meeting. However, a letter sent to the board expressed the neighborhood’s preference for a two-story structure on the property.

The proposed two-story plan reflects the rapidly changing urban fabric along the East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard urban transit corridor. Lowe presented schematics displaying a building that has 15-foot setbacks to allow for pedestrians to comfortably pass by and plantings to be installed. It also takes into consideration the fact that it backs up to an established neighborhood. In its dual-level iteration, the building is 33 feet high, only three feet above what code allows. This additional three feet is due to the lower story being a commercial clinic rather than residential.

The biggest change to what was presented in January is the removal of the original structure from the property. At the last meeting of the Board of Adjustment, the property owner, Sharon Shuppert, noted that it was important to leave on the original structure to retain the character of the neighborhood.

Hawthorne noted that although the original building is removed from the designs, it was an appropriate choice since keeping a residential home on MLK is “kind of like building one on Lamar.” She noted that the new plans are still “funky and cool.”

Board members unanimously approved the plan for the two-story commercial structure. They simultaneously approved variances to increase impervious cover to 80 percent from 70 percent, decrease the required front setback to 15 feet and increase the permitted two-story structure height for the property to 33 feet.

“I’ve not been very fond of this project, but I applaud y’all for looking at this two-story option,” concluded Leighton-Burwell.

Project rendering by Forsite Studio courtesy of the city of Austin.

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