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Austin, Central Health weighing two Capitol view corridor options

Requiring a new Capitol view corridor free of obstructions through the south side of the soon-to-be-redeveloped downtown hospital site isn’t a good idea, Austin city staffers said in a memo this week.

But maybe a view corridor next to it could work.

Based on that recommendation, Central Health agreed to ask potential developers to consider one of the two view corridor ideas in their plans to redevelop the University Medical Center Brackenridge property.

To give them time to consider the options, City Council Member Ora Houston is asking the council to postpone further consideration of a Capitol view corridor from Rosewood Park until December.

The so-called Rosewood Park view corridor was the most controversial of five possible vantage lines the city has been studying from East Austin to the Capitol. Existing view corridors limit the height of development from various areas around town so the Capitol can be seen.

But few extend into East Austin, which Houston is seeking to change. Potential view corridors she has asked to study extend outward toward Lott Park, Juniper and Navasota streets, the Texas State Cemetery, Huston-Tillotson University and Rosewood Park — the latter one running right through the UMC Brackenridge site.

With hospital operations moving into the new Dell Seton Medical Center, Central Health plans to create a high-density, mixed-use development on the UMC Brackenridge site to help bankroll the health care programs it provides to uninsured, low income residents.

The buildings proposed for the site would be “significant vertical encroachments” on views, Planning and Zoning Director Gregory Guernsey said in the memo to council members Tuesday, formalizing what was widely understood.

Instead of a view corridor there, Guernsey suggested creating one from Rosewood Avenue east of Thompson Street, a sight line that would go in between buildings Central Health has in its Brackenridge site master plan. That line would affect an undeveloped portion of Austin Can Academy, possibly limiting development there.

For now, Central Health has agreed to include language in its request for development proposals that asks proposers to comment on the economic and functional impacts of the potential view corridors and asking them to create one possible plan that includes either of them.

“There’s no sense in looking at it now because we’d be speculating,” said Clarke Heidrick, a Central Health board member who chairs the Brackenridge Reuse Committee. “We have not agreed to a view corridor, but we’re not opposing it, either. We’re going to see if we can work out something that makes sense.”

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