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Council OKs zoning for massive redevelopment of far South Congress area

Friday, January 27, 2023 by Jo Clifton

City Council on Thursday unanimously approved Community Commercial, Mixed Use and General Commercial Services zoning that will allow the site of a Southeast Austin auto salvage yard to become a vertical mixed-use development with more than 1200 multifamily units and 210,000 square feet of office, as well as a 136,000-square-foot shopping center.

The site at 7900 S. Congress Ave. is currently home to LKQ Pick Your Part, billed as a “one-stop shop for all your used auto parts needs in the Austin, TX area.”

As part of the zoning regulations, the developer will be required to set aside 10 percent of the rental units for families earning no more than 80 percent of the current local median family income for period of 99 years.

A conceptual site plan shows how the project interacts with existing single-family homes on Peaceful Hill Lane. Image by Land Strategies Inc. via city of Austin.

The 43-acre tract runs west from South Congress to Peaceful Hill, a small residential street. Several neighbors came to Thursday’s Council meeting to express their concerns about how the development would impact their single-family homes.

The developer, Corbin Graham of Graham Development, has made a number of concessions to neighbors, said attorney Nikelle Meade, who represents Graham. She told the Austin Monitor, “We had to do a lot of work to make sure that what we were doing was compatible with those single-family homes … so we’re doing a 30-foot buffer” for the homes. “So what they see today is what they’ll continue to see. We also entered into a private agreement with them that we’ll keep existing trees unless they’re diseased or dead.”

Meade said the closest building would be about 75 feet away from the single-family homes. The developer has agreed that some buildings will be limited to 56 feet in height, others to 60 feet.

Graham has also promised to build a 13.5-acre park, which will include an extension of the South Boggy Creek Trail. Meade said all the land that surrounds South Boggy Creek will be dedicated to the city as parkland.

The developer will be required to extend Foremost Drive. The traffic impact analysis recommends improvements to the South Congress/Foremost Drive intersection, including a new traffic signal as well as pedestrian and bicycle elements. South Congress is proposed for the future extension of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Orange Line and is currently served by two Capital Metro bus routes, according to the staff report.

Single-family homeowners Margaret Valenti and John Stokes of the Peaceful Hill Preservation Society asked Council to postpone final approval of the zoning until the next meeting so that they could complete work on a private restrictive covenant with the developer. Stokes said the neighborhood also wants an agreement about various construction issues, such as where construction vehicles will park.

Council Member Vanessa Fuentes read into the record a number of conditions as part of the zoning change. Fuentes and her staff have worked with the neighborhood and the developer to come to an agreement. Although neighbors were not totally satisfied, they did not seem surprised that the case went forward on all three readings Thursday.

The Zoning and Platting Commission approved the rezoning unanimously in December.

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 article has been updated to clarify the number of units.

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