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Major development on Regiene Road wins first-round OK

Friday, November 19, 2021 by Jo Clifton

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve on first reading Major Planned Development zoning for a 16-acre East Austin site previously zoned for industrial uses. The only industrial use allowed on the site at 6501 and 6705 Regiene Road will be a brewery.

Zoning chief Jerry Rusthoven told Council the only disagreement between the city’s planning staff and the developer was over height. While Kunikco LLC, owned by Daryl Kunik, was seeking a height of 275 feet, staff recommended 120 feet. The case came to Council without a Planning Commission recommendation.

Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison made a motion to approve the zoning as requested by the developer and his agent, Leah Bojo of the Drenner Group.

Bojo told Council her client is planning a “mixed-use hub dedicated to Austin’s creative community,” requiring a change in the zoning as well as the Future Land Use Map. The 275-foot height is important to the developer, Bojo said, because it will allow the property to be a major economic engine. She noted that her client had signed an agreement with the Workers Defense Project to provide the benefits of the Better Builder Program, which seeks to improve the working conditions of construction workers.

According to notes from city staff, the Regiene Road property is directly south of another piece of land that was recently rezoned and will be a “mixed-use, multi-tenant campus featuring a variety of commercial uses.” The project, which is known as the Zen Garden, was approved for maximum building heights ranging from 120 to 400 feet.

Staffers recommended the new zoning because it offers opportunities for multifamily residential, office, retail, restaurant and industrial/creative spaces. They were also favorably impressed by the property’s potential to connect “to a future CapMetro Green Line train station nearby, the opportunity to create a trail connecting to the Southern Walnut Creek Greenbelt, and most important the opportunity to participate in the city of Austin’s SMART Housing Program.”

Several neighborhood representatives in the vicinity told Council they wanted more community benefits than what the developer was offering, but did not offer any resistance to the zoning itself.

While there are no single-family neighborhoods adjacent to the project, the neighborhood representatives have been negotiating with Bojo for concessions from the developer. Nadia Barbot with Pecan Springs-Springdale Hills Neighborhood Association said members of her group had worked hard to come up with an agreement, and complained that “our area is getting incredibly swamped with zoning cases and changes.”

Barbot said they had agreed to the first-reading approval, adding, “we’re appreciative of the Better Builder agreement and the community space of approximately 250 square feet for approximately 25 years for our community to use.” However, she said a number of neighbors had complained at the Planning Commission that the developer would be getting “huge benefits” from the upzoning compared to what longtime East Austinites would be getting.

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