Thursday, September 19, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Asian American center plan could include Rutherford Lane campus

At today’s meeting, City Council will likely direct City Manager Spencer Cronk and his staff to come up with a proposal to incorporate the expansion of the Asian American Resource Center into a master plan for the center as well as the adjacent Rutherford Lane campus.

The proposal comes from Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who has been working with members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to come up with a plan that might include public-private partnerships, senior housing and additional performance venues.

During a discussion at Wednesday’s work session, Flannigan talked about the need to think about the two properties jointly, rather than just the center’s master plan. He said the idea won unanimous approval from the Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Commission on Tuesday.

Flannigan explained on the City Council Message Board, “Having engaged with many leaders among the Austin API community over the past several years on the AARC expansion, I recognized that there are elements and feedback provided by the community that was unable to be achieved in the AARC Master Plan for a variety of reasons. It is my hope that we can think BIGGER than just the AARC Master Plan and recognize that we have a huge underutilized city asset directly adjacent to the AARC at the Rutherford Lane campus.”

Flannigan pointed out that the two properties represent more than 47 acres sitting in an Imagine Austin Job Center and on a priority transit corridor under the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan. He suggested that the city could do more with the properties if considered together and might also add city office space and generate revenue opportunities for the city.

A number of city facilities are already located at the Rutherford Lane campus, including Austin Resource Recovery.

Flannigan explained that “the push came about because the city’s Bond Election Advisory Task Force recommended in February that the three ethnic cultural centers, the Dougherty Arts Center and Mexic-Arte Museum be allocated $67.5 million from the total package.” He is hoping that through a public-private partnership or some other mechanism, the city can find more money for the center.

During the work session, Flannigan said senior housing might be located on either the AARC or the Rutherford Lane property. It is not clear whether those who use and support the AARC would want the housing there, and Flannigan said the city would have to take into consideration whether the location is appropriate for housing.

Greg Montes of the Parks and Recreation Department, who is the project manager for the master plan, answered questions from Council Member Kathie Tovo. She particularly wanted to know about the status of a walkway or bridge between the center and a parking area on the Rutherford Lane site frequently used by people attending center events.

Montes said the bridge would be an immediate improvement, but it was not clear exactly when it would be in place.

Mayor Steve Adler thanked Flannigan for his leadership on the issue. Council members Natasha Harper-Madison, Ann Kitchen and Pio Renteria were his original co-sponsors. Council Member Alison Alter also offered to co-sponsor the resolution on the message board.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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.

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