You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

City Council signs off on Austin Oaks redevelopment


Highlights

Council approves Austin Oaks plan, ending a three-year redevelopment fight in Northwest Austin.

New council compromise on Austin Oaks reduced housing from 425 to 375 new units. Up to 41 could be affordable.

After hammering out a final set of trade-offs, the City Council approved the redevelopment plans for the Austin Oaks office park, bringing an end to the nearly three-year fight over the site.

The plan would bring new office towers, retail and up to 375 new housing units — including 41 for lower income residents — to replace the business park, which sits on 31 acres at MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and Spicewood Springs Road. It was approved Thursday night on an 8-2 vote.

“This has been a long process for District 10 and the community around Austin Oaks,” said Council Member Alison Alter, who voted against the final proposal for the project in her Northwest Austin District 10. “I hope that it’s evident to everyone the (zoning) process we have is broken and needs to be changed.”

Council Member Kathie Tovo, who represents Central Austin’s District 9, cast the other nay vote. Council Member Leslie Pool of North Austin’s District 7 was absent.

Some of the council members who voted for the project pointed to Austin’s need for more housing, particularly affordable housing. Mayor Steve Adler noted the council navigated some difficult issues to reach this result.

“I’m proud of what we did today,” Adler said. “I think we were able to find the best way forward.”

Alter’s call to examine how Austin City Hall considers large projects such as Austin Oaks received widespread support on the dais.

Council Member Ann Kitchen, who represents South Austin’s District 5, said the process had become “torturous” — a sentiment echoed by Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria, who represents East Austin’s District 3.

The compromise approved Thursday night cut a floor off one of the two residential buildings (capping both buildings at four stories), downsized two parking garages and included a trigger that guarantees at least 27 income-restricted affordable housing units are built.

The vote came after two hours of debate and days of drama at City Hall as rumors circulated that the project’s developer, Dallas-based Spire Realty, was lobbying neighboring landowners to remove their names from a petition challenging the zoning change for the project.

When the council last took up the project in March, the owners of more than 20 percent of the surrounding land had signed the petition, which meant that a likely unreachable nine-vote supermajority of the City Council would be needed for approval. However, by the time Thursday’s vote came, a couple of those landowners had removed their names from the petition, allowing the council to approve the project with a simple majority.

WATCH: Alter calls out colleagues in heated March debate

The revisions made Thursday marked at least the third major set of changes made to plans to redevelop the aging office park. Initially, in 2014, Spire proposed a development that included two 17-story towers, which surrounding neighborhoods opposed amid concerns the area’s roads would become clogged with additional traffic.

Spire eventually started a new design process that incorporated neighborhood input. That resulted in a downsized plan that called for 1.2 million square feet of development, instead of the originally proposed 1.6 million, and capped building heights at seven stories. The revamped plan also included parkland, affordable housing and improved stormwater drainage. That plan was backed by one major neighborhood group, the North West Austin Civic Association, and the council gave tentative support in December.

Stiff opposition remained to Spire’s downsized plan, which helped fuel Alter’s runoff win in last December’s runoff against then-Council Member Sheri Gallo. Opponents still worried about the added traffic and the loss of trees on the redeveloped site.

RELATED: Opponent uses eggs, diorama, heavy metal music to fight Austin Oaks

After a raucous debate in March, the council approved a series of changes to the proposal. It axed the proposed hotel and replaced it with a second residential building, more than doubling the proposed housing from 200 units to 425 units — and the affordable housing from 20 to 46 units. In exchange, it would allow the developer to add two stories, making it nine stories total, to an office building that would be located next to MoPac and to build larger parking garages.

Thursday’s proposal scaled back some of those changes, including going from 46 affordable housing units to 41, but allowed the office building to keep its nine-story height.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Thanks to Trump, Germany says it can’t rely on the United States — what does that mean?
Thanks to Trump, Germany says it can’t rely on the United States — what does that mean?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a crowd Sunday in southern Germany that Europe can no longer rely on foreign partners. According to The Washington Post:   "Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe 'really must take our fate into...
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Comey needs to be ‘held accountable’ over Clinton investigation decisions 
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Comey needs to be ‘held accountable’ over Clinton investigation decisions 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday that he wants to review a document that then-FBI Director James B. Comey used as the reasoning behind his unusual public closure in July of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified material as secretary of state.   According to a report last week in The Washington Post, Comey...
Trump’s policy tweets contradict what the White House said just last week
Trump’s policy tweets contradict what the White House said just last week

President Donald Trump on Sunday evening called for more spending on health care and said his plan to overhaul the tax code "is actually ahead of schedule," two statements that are at odds with the budget proposal he unveiled just last week.   The statements came as part of a blizzard of Twitter posts the president made after he...
Can an artist improve Austin’s water system?
Can an artist improve Austin’s water system?

Call her the artist charged with helping out the biologists and engineers. Rehab El Sadek, Austin’s first city artist-in-residence, stood at the front of a boat cruising Lady Bird Lake on a recent Tuesday, listening to an enthusiastic stream of information from stormwater superintendent William Fordyce. There are 10,000 water quality facilities...
Opinion: On JFK's 100th birthday, Trump repudiates his legacy
Opinion: On JFK's 100th birthday, Trump repudiates his legacy

Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter are both over 90, and still with us — making it just barely conceivable that John F. Kennedy might have lived to celebrate his 100th birthday on Monday, if he had not been assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Surely JFK would have noted a contrast between his Jan. 20, 1961, inaugural...
More Stories