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Timbercreek Apartments headed for revamp

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 by Jo Clifton

The venerable Timbercreek Apartments at 614 S. First St. will at some point in the near future be demolished and replaced with a larger, modern, more environmentally friendly tower – if all goes according to plan for the developer.

As Jerry Rusthoven of the Planning and Zoning Department told City Council on Tuesday, University Financial of Texas Inc. has submitted the development assessment report the city requires before an applicant can file a planned unit development application. The property is currently zoned MF-3-NP, for a medium-density property. The new development will be a “high-quality, high-density, multifamily project with parking underground,” according to backup material given to Council.

Leah Bojo of the Drenner Group, who represents the developer, told the Austin Monitor that the current complex of approximately 195 apartments was built in 1972 next to East Bouldin Creek at a time when the city did not have the stringent environmental regulations currently in force. She said the new apartment building would be built in a much more sustainable manner.

The apartments are scattered throughout the 8.19-acre site along with parking. The proposed nine-story building is expected to have about 550 rental units. The more compact configuration close to South First Street and away from the creek will allow the developer to remove impervious cover located over environmentally sensitive areas, Bojo said.

In a letter to the city, the developer’s representative said the old apartments and parking lot “produce high pollutant loading and encroach into the Bouldin Creek critical water quality zone as well as the 100-year floodplain. This project will be removing a minimum of 10,000 square feet of impervious cover from the critical water quality zone and restoring the setback area to a natural undeveloped state.”

Rusthoven told Council that the site would have about 50 percent impervious cover, as compared to the current configuration, which has 65 percent impervious cover. The developer has promised that the proposed PUD “will result in a superior development compared to that which could be developed under conventional zoning standards,” according to Bojo’s submission to the city.

The developer is seeking PUD zoning because he is looking to increase the height of the project from 40 feet, which is allowed under the current zoning, to 120 feet. He is also seeking to increase the floor area ratio.

The applicant is working with the Austin Transportation Department on potential roadway improvements on South First Street at the project’s driveway. That might include a new signal or a pedestrian hybrid beacon, according to Rusthoven.

Council Member Kathie Tovo said she was concerned because she had heard that the developer would be seeking to pay a fee in lieu of providing affordable housing units. Bojo told the Monitor that was not the case, but that the application indicated the developer wanted to do a combination of on-site units and a fee in order to maintain flexibility.

Council Member Ann Kitchen said because of the location close to downtown she would be looking to maintain affordable units at the site. “The properties in those areas are generally becoming very expensive,” she noted. “So I think that will be very important for us to understand how they intend and how much they intend to maintain for affordable units.”

In response to a question from Kitchen, Rusthoven said it could take, on average, up to a year and possibly more for the proposal to come back to Council as a PUD zoning request.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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