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Taco PUD site marches on, again

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Council unanimously gave first-reading approval last week to new planned unit development zoning for the small property known as the Taco PUD just across the street from Lady Bird Lake at Riverside Drive. Although the Taco Cabana has not operated at that location for several years, the name has stuck to the property at 211 S. Lamar Blvd.

Attorney Steve Drenner, representing applicant Huston Street, said his client would provide $3.7 million for affordable housing as part of community benefits once the zoning wins final approval. The package of benefits includes $1.2 million in cash for the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department, as well as $2.5 million in cash to Foundation Communities.

Foundation Communities would use the money to purchase a site at 1508 S. Lamar for 80-90 units of affordable housing less than a mile from the PUD location. Street currently has that property under contract. Drenner indicated that Street would donate the additional money to NHCD if Foundation Communities was unable or unwilling to build there.

The Planning Commission gave the new design its wholehearted approval earlier this month, in spite of complaints from the Zilker Neighborhood Association.

Under the zoning approved by Council in 2013, the site would have provided 175 residential units. The new plan would allow for 108 hotel rooms and 27 luxury condos, along with 18,000 square feet of commercial space and an unknown amount of underground parking.

Neighborhood advocate Kristin McCollum told Council she thought that the new PUD was not much better than the previous PUD and complained about “a giant glass building” that would dominate views of people walking across the Pfluger pedestrian bridge.

Drenner pointed out that the Land Development Code requires that builders install a substantial amount of non-reflective glass and said that the hotel would fully comply with requirements of the code.

Amanda Swor of the Drenner Group outlined proposed upgrades to sewer and drainage facilities as well as proposals to mitigate the impact of new traffic. Swor promised pedestrians coming off the Pfluger bridge that the developer would add a pedestrian beacon so that there would be a safe way to cross Riverside without waiting in the middle of the street. In addition, she said that they would construct “everything that is included in the bond program behind the curb; and on the south side of Riverside we’ll be doing the same thing.”

Swor also said the driveway off South Lamar would allow for traffic to turn right into the property only, so that vehicles would no longer exit onto South Lamar.

Dave Piper, president of the Zilker Neighborhood Association, said his group was well aware of the good work of Foundation Communities, but said that contribution would not be enough to overcome their resistance to adding another 2,000 trips per day to the area. He too complained about the amount of glass the applicant is proposing to use.

Council Member Ann Kitchen had some questions about the glass as well as requirements that the builder use stone for the building. Council Member Alison Alter was worried about the cumulative effects of adding more traffic to an already congested area and suggested more could be done to mitigate those effects.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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