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Plans for South Congress PUD include rooftop beehives and bird-safe glass

Friday, October 21, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

At its regular meeting this week, the Environmental Commission heard a preview of an upcoming planned unit development proposal for 311-315 South Congress Avenue.

The commission heard the Project Assessment Report from both Housing & Planning Department staff and Steve Drenner of the Drenner Group, the developer’s representative.

Although preliminary, the proposal would create a tower with up to 455 high-rise multifamily units, 30,000 square feet of office space, and 7,500 square feet of pedestrian access and retail on .81 acres at South Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road. The maximum height would be 400 feet, or approximately 36 stories.

The site is currently home to an auto repair and tire shop, as well as commercial retail and office space, and is zoned CS-1-V-NP. The property is within the South Central Waterfront subdistrict of the Waterfront Overlay.

Wendy Rhoades of Housing and Planning said staff members have reviewed the proposal and the applicant has promised to comply with all Tier I and Tier II requirements necessary for the project to be deemed superior. That will include 100 percent on-site water quality treatment, open space in proximity to the Barton Springs bike lane and compliance with the Austin Green Builder Plan.

“Our goal was to do all the things that we could do from a site development standpoint environmentally,” Drenner said. “But also to see what we could do in terms of pushing the envelope from an operational standpoint. So you’re going to hear from me a variety of things that I think, in combination, would set a new standard for sustainability from an operational standpoint within the project.”

In order to maintain compliance with the South Central Waterfront plan, the project will connect to the Barton Springs Road extension currently in the design for the nearby Statesman PUD. Drenner admitted this iteration of the proposal is contingent on that extension and the Statesman PUD going forward.

The project will also feature open space in the northwest corner, rain gardens on South Congress, reclaimed water connections/extensions, solar facilities and electric vehicle charging. Commissioners praised the plan for including an urban beekeeping initiative and complying with LEED bird deterrence guidelines.

There are live oak and Arizona ash trees on the site. The largest ash is slated for removal regardless of the project because it is deemed dangerous. The other ash will be replaced with native trees as the city is currently in the process of eliminating mitigation requirements for Arizona ash, which are not native to Central Texas.

“This is a site that needs some love from a tree standpoint,” Drenner said.

The project assessment will also be presented to City Council at an upcoming work session meeting yet to be scheduled.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been changed since publication to clarify Drenner’s role.

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