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Council approves $23 million in partial purchases for Corridor Construction Program

Friday, September 4, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

City Council has authorized the Office of Real Estate Services to start negotiations with landowners for $23 million in real estate acquisitions from a number of properties along the nine segments of the Corridor Construction Program.

Mike Trimble, director of the Corridor Program Office, told Council on Thursday that the partial acquisitions and corridor improvements are not expected to have negative impacts on local businesses.

Council’s unanimous vote permits the city to make offers to landowners for partial purchases of any of the 2,166 street-facing properties along the program’s 49 miles of right-of-way. In reality, Trimble said the city anticipates impacts to about 160 properties. The city does not plan to make offers to purchase whole properties from any landowner or business.

“What we’re really looking at is slivers of land to help with bike lanes, to help with sidewalks and trails as well as relocate utilities where we need to do that,” said Alex Gale, interim officer at the Office of Real Estate Services.

When acquisitions are necessary to widen the right-of-way, the city will negotiate with landowners for the amount of land needed. The $23 million for the acquisitions will be allocated from the $482 million approved for the Corridor Mobility Program in the 2016 mobility bond.

The Corridor Construction Program includes segments of North Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Airport Boulevard, East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/FM 969, East Riverside Drive, Guadalupe Street, William Cannon Drive, Slaughter Lane and South Lamar Boulevard.

The section of South Lamar Boulevard stretches from Riverside Drive to Ben White Boulevard. As part of the South Lamar Corridor Improvement Program, the city has identified eight parcels for “acquisition of partial interest” as preparation for long-term plans for separated and raised bike lanes, sidewalks and street trees.

The remaining street-facing properties along the South Lamar corridor have been identified for “possible acquisition of partial interest,” including three properties that Council Member Ann Kitchen said have caused particular concern for businesses and residents of District 5. Kitchen said stakeholders worry that the acquisitions and improvements could take parking lot space from the Saxon Pub at 1320 S. Lamar Blvd. or the Broken Spoke at 3201 S. Lamar Blvd. and may also threaten protected trees at Matt’s El Rancho at 2613 S. Lamar Blvd.

“Absolutely not,” said Trimble. “Our intent is not to impact in any substantial way the businesses, parking lots, etc. for those businesses along the corridor. Our first and foremost strategy when it comes to looking at real estate was to mitigate any impacts to property owners.”

Kitchen ultimately praised the city’s “strong effort” to protect the properties “while allowing us to have some amenities along South Lamar with the bike lanes and these sidewalks to make it much more possible and accessible to reach these businesses.”

With Project Connect on the Nov. 3 ballot, Council Member Leslie Pool said District 7 residents have questioned whether the city is getting ahead of itself by authorizing acquisitions in preparation for the new mass transit system. According to Trimble, the purchases are “strictly related” to the approved Corridor Construction Program.

“That being said,” Trimble added, “we have been coordinating very closely with Capital Metro and the Project Connect team, and so we are working very closely together to see what they are anticipating for the Project Connect plan.”

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