City Council
5:04 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

City Council Update: A Seaholm Change at Council

City Council unanimously approved changes to the development agreement governing the renovation of the historic Seaholm Power Plant and its surrounding area.

The revisions come at the request of Seaholm Power LLC, the group overseeing the site’s redevelopment. As Seaholm Power managing partner John Rosato told City Council, the biggest change will allow the plant to build office space at the site.

Under the original 2008 master development agreement, ground-floor office space in the iconic, Art Deco building was prohibited. But developers argued the location and economic changes since 2008 made the space more conducive to retail. Several citizens spoke against the change, arguing the public should have greater access to the unique structure.

“The idea is that we’re bringing this building back to life and that it’s going to be available for other uses,” Rosato told the council. “Those uses now may be office, 20 years from now it may be a retail mall, it might be a large civic use, or maybe the children’s museum will expand and come back to downtown.”

Council ultimately agreed, albeit with an amendment stipulating space would be reserved on the grounds for a café, a restaurant and art, allowing the public greater access to the building.

Also included in the amendments is a change of location for a 315-space parking garage. Originally intended to be built west of Seaholm, the garage will now be built directly under the plant.

Another provision that was unanimously approved is a change that will allow for apartments in lieu of condos, another sign of Austin’s burgeoning rental market. The Seaholm distirct will now house at least 305 apartment units for rent, five percent of which would be set aside as affordable housing for 25 years.

Council member Kathie Tovo asked Rosato what the possibility for extending that length to 40 years was. "That sounds like an interesting idea,” Rosato replied. “If that is the last question we have today, I'd be happy to do that."

Between council’s approval coming at the lunch hour, and all the restaurants talk, food was also on people’s minds.

“Does the restaurant requirement exclude cafeteria?” Leffingwell asked at one point.

“The mayor’s always looking for a good Luby’s,” council member Mike Martinez joked.

 As of this writing, council is currently taking up a public hearing and possible action on proposed rate increases for Austin Energy customers. Short term rental regulations are also up for testimony and action.

The city tells KUT News that 54 minutes worth of speakers are signed up on the Austin Energy item – and 321 minutes worth of speakers regarding short term rentals.