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Rock climbing gym to relocate, pending rezoning

Friday, October 21, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

A locally owned rock climbing gym may be getting a new home. Crux Climbing Center plans to open a new location near SouthPark Meadows and leave its current location on South Congress, should a rezoning request prove successful.

“We’re not sure if our current location is sustainable,” Grace Nicholas, head of operations at the climbing gym, told the Zoning and Platting Commission on Tuesday. She explained that the landlord at Crux’s South Austin location unexpectedly raised the rent, forcing Crux to search for another property. 

Crux plans to move to a 4-acre property at 220 Ralph Ablanedo Dr. if City Council will agree to rezone the site from Limited Industrial Services (LI) to General Commercial Services (CS). On Tuesday, ZAP recommended approval, paving the way for a Council vote on Nov. 3. 

The new location would have around 27,000 square feet of indoor climbing space – about the same size as the current South Austin location – as well as a 4,000-square-foot retail space reserved for a local business. Crux also has a gym in Central Austin near the former Highland Mall. 

Several people, including two neighbors, spoke in favor of the rezoning. 

“The reason that I’m in favor of the Crux development is that it’s a local company with roots in the community,” Susan Harkey said. Another neighbor, Jonathan Schmid, said that “having a community-focused center like Crux is the best-case scenario for this property.”

But other neighbors were not on board. Several spoke against the rezoning largely out of fear of more traffic on Ralph Ablanedo Drive, a substandard road with no sidewalks. 

“(Crux) sounds like a great place,” Susan Hambright said, “but it sounds like it’s more of a place that needs to be on a corridor like Congress Avenue.” Hambright said she doesn’t want to see any more development along Ralph Ablanedo until the city brings traffic improvements.  

Amanda Brown, a consultant representing Crux, argued that a rock climbing gym would bring far fewer trips compared to other types of development. “A 4-acre multifamily development would be generating thousands of trips out of a site of this size,” Brown said. Crux and the retail space would generate a total of 658 trips per day, according to Brown.

Per a 2005 rezoning, the site is currently limited to 300 trips a day. Brown said that removing the trip limit is the main reason for the rezoning. She added that there will be on-site parking so that drivers won’t park on nearby streets. 

While the city has no immediate plans to upgrade Ralph Ablanedo, commissioners noted that it will at least require Crux to upgrade the infrastructure along its street frontage and pay a street impact fee toward future improvements.

Another neighbor, John Stokes, said the project doesn’t offer a good transition to nearby single-family neighborhoods. “It goes from zero to 100 miles an hour nonstop,” he said, referring to the proposed intensity of land use compared to single-family homes.

In response to neighbors’ concerns, Brown said the project will be designed so neighbors aren’t looking at a “big, imposing building.” The rezoning would also limit building height to 35 feet along Peaceful Hill Lane and 50 feet elsewhere – 10 feet below the typically height limit in CS zoning. 

Commissioners voted 8-1-1, with Commissioner Jolene Kiolbassa against and Commissioner David King abstaining, to recommend City Council approve the rezoning. 

Photo caption: View of the site from Ralph Ablanedo Drive. Photo by Google Maps.

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