A developer plans to build a mixed-use tower on a triangular tract just south of downtown Austin — 1.4 acres that once was owned by the family trust of the late Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip.
Richard Suttle Jr., an Austin attorney for the developer, Stream Realty Partners, is asking the city of Austin for a zoning change to build the project.
Plans call for about 270,525 square feet of office space (roughly half the amount in the 525,000-square-foot Frost Bank Tower downtown), along with 21,045 square feet of retail space and 10 residential units, according to the zoning application.
The building would stand, at most, 195 feet tall — about the height, Suttle said, of the Catherine, a 19-story apartment tower nearby that is next to the Hyatt Regency hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake.
Current zoning on the proposed site caps building height at 60 feet, although the city adopted a plan last year that calls for additional height in line with what Stream is proposing.
David Blackbird, regional managing partner for Stream Realty, said the project is in the design phase. There’s no firm timetable yet for breaking ground, although Stream — a national commercial real estate investment, development and management firm based in Dallas — hopes to kick off the project in the next 12 to 24 months, Blackbird said.
The project could take a year to go through the city review process, Suttle said. The Austin City Council would have the final say on any zoning change.
Some representatives of the group representing the surrounding Bouldin Creek neighborhood are taking issue with the planned project over its proposed height and the additional traffic — as many as 5,600 trips a day — in an already congested area.
Bounded by West Riverside Drive, Barton Springs Road and South First Street, the site now houses a Hooters restaurant and parking lot. Hooters will continue to operate for the foreseeable future under its existing lease, Blackbird said.
The tract lies within a larger area along the southern shores of Lady Bird Lake called the South Central Waterfront district. With redevelopment pressures rapidly encroaching in a 118-acre area stretching from Hooters to Joe’s Crab Shack on East Riverside Drive, the city in June 2016 approved the framework for a plan to create a pedestrian-friendly area in the district, an area that includes the American-Statesman site and numerous other mostly privately owned properties
The plan aims to guide the inevitable development heading to the area in a cohesive fashion, and in a way that would allow developers to build taller and larger projects in exchange for providing public benefits like more green space, trails and public areas and improved public connections to and along the waterfront.
Blackbird and Suttle said the zoning and density Stream is seeking is consistent with the South Central Waterfront plan.
“The master plan was well-thought through, was years in the making and will create substantial public benefit,” said Blackbird, who was on a committee of stakeholders who worked with the city to help shape the plan.
The zoning being sought is a called a planned unit development, or PUD. A PUD, Suttle said, “is the only zoning that you can implement the South Central plan under. With that comes the opportunity to prove the project will be superior to standard zoning.” Some of the community benefits to be negotiated with the city “may include enhanced pedestrian and traffic improvements, water quality, offsite green space improvements (and) design.”
Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of the city’s Planning and Development Review Department, said that although details remain to be worked out, “the proposal generally complies with the vision” of the South Central Waterfront plan.
Cory Walton, president of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, said that although the City Council adopted the plan, it is only a framework that hasn’t been fleshed out with no funding mechanism in place yet.
So for now, Walton said, Stream’s proposal is “another one-off land grab that pre-empts and diminishes the plan to put millions of dollars in developer pockets, while hugely costing adjacent residents and all Austinites who travel to and from downtown and Auditorium Shores, or who desire and value visual and physical access to the waterfront’s trails and parks and entertainment facilities.”
Paul Strange, chairman of the Bouldin neighborhood group’s zoning committee, said the site is smaller than the 10 acres for which PUDs have traditionally been approved, although city officials said PUDs have been approved for other projects on smaller sites in the vicinity.
“We definitely don’t feel that a vertical mixed-use project on 1.45 acres should be a PUD, and we are adamant it shouldn’t be a one-off” in an already congested area, Strange said.
The property belonged to the Schulz family for decades. The “Peanuts” creator, who died in 2000, bought the land to diversify his investments.