Development

Lake | Flato + Shepley Bulfinch, City of Austin

Plans for the city’s new central library have been in the works since 2006, when voters approved bond spending for the facility. Library officials now say designs for the building are 60 percent complete – and next steps include bidding out construction contracts and breaking ground next year.

While Austin has previously seen schematic designs of the building, “it’s pretty much as the name of the phase implies – the scheme at that point,” says John Gillum, facilities process manager for the Austin Public Library. “You’re trying to figure out if you can put the building on the site that you have.”

In contrast, Gillum now says the entire design is now over halfway complete. “It’s pretty much a refinement and further development of what we saw in the schematic design. … We know what the finishes are going to be, what the landscaping is going to look like, where things are going to be located, 99 percent certain in the new building,” he says.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It was a full house this morning for an Urban Land Institute breakfast on Waller Creek.

The design competition for the above ground portion of Waller Creek – including an inlet at Waterloo Park, an outlet at Lady Bird Lake, and the creek itself – is nearly at an end. But below ground, there’s still plenty to do.

Joe Pantalion, Deputy Director of the Watershed Protection Department says the Waller Creek tunnel is 60 percent excavated. Once completed, it will keep the water in Waller Creek at a steady flow, and pull 28 acres out of the floodplain.

"It’s actually right on schedule," Pantalion says. "They’ve excavated 2,000 feet north of Fourth Street," the construction site that serves as entrance to the tunnel. "The tunnel’s right under Ninth Street right now. And heading south, the tunnel’s gone about 1,200 feet, which would put it right under the Cesar Chavez bridge [over Waller Creek, between the Austin Convention Center and Iron Works BBQ]." 

While the tunnel is nearing completion, Pantalion says most of next year will be spent reinforcing the structure by lining it with concrete. “We hope to have the tunnel, all the pieces connected – the inlet, the tunnel, the outlet – all by the end of 2014,” he says. 

Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

Changes are coming to the South Lamar Plaza Shopping Center and to the Alamo South Lamar theatre.

A deal to tear down the strip mall and build a mixed-use development is moving forward. Many of the stores that have been at that location for decades will have to move elsewhere.

The Alamo Drafthouse and its karaoke bar, The Highball, will remain. But only after closing for much of 2013 to undergo extensive renovations – including adding three screens to the theatre and expanding the lobby area.

KUT News

The Austin City Council meets today. And in a respite from the long slogs of recent meetings, the council faces a comparatively light 60 item agenda – but likely multiple hours of public testimony on the adoption of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan.

Item 58 is calls for a public hearing and possible adoption of Imagine Austin, a long-term plan for the city’s growth and development which has been in the works since 2009. You can view the plan here.

The hearing won’t start until at least 6 p.m. this evening; the last time the council solicited testimony on the plan, it received four hours’ worth.

Image courtesy City of Austin

The City of Austin wants to know: What do you want our waterfront to look like in 20 years?

Starting tonight, planners are facilitating a three-day discussion on the future of Lady Bird Lake’s “south shore central” area – Congress Avenue, First Street and eastward, including sites like the Hyatt Regency and Austin American-Statesman building. The talks kicked off this morning with boat tours of the area at stake.

Alan Holt, a principal planner with the city, says that this area is lacking in good infrastructure and “like it or not, slated for some big changes because there are a lot of parking lots and development at the end of their shelf life.”

Image courtesy austinplanetarium.org

Memorial Day 2012 Events

Central Texans have several opportunities today to honor veterans for their service. Ceremonies are being held at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin and at Veterans Memorial Plaza in Sun City in Georgetown.

The City of Austin is expecting between 2,500 and 3,000 runners to pound the pavement today for the Capital of Texas Triathlon. You might think you'll catch a break from traffic troubles because of lighter than usual holiday traffic, but the Triathlon is causing some downtown street closures until approximately 3 p.m.

Hitting the road or the water today? Make sure to take a look at our public safety tips and warnings this Memorial Day.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Austin City Council voted unanimously late last night to sell the largest city owned plot of undeveloped land downtown – the former Green Water Treatment Plant site west of the Second Street District, along Cesar Chavez Street. 

Developer Trammell Crow is buying the downtown plot for over $42 million dollars, with plans to build 826 apartments, 200 hotel rooms, retail and more.

The deal requires Trammell Crow to make 10 percent of the apartments affordable to people who make 80 percent of the median family income. The units will remain affordable for much longer than an initially-proposed seven-year term, which the council heard in April before postponing the sale. There will also be some requirements for construction worker pay and safety.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The break’s over: City Council reconvenes this Thursday with a 141 item-long agenda. (Oh, and a four-item addendum.)

As the recent city elections and plans for an urban rail system have preoccupied council members’ time, we’ve prepared a crib sheet for this Thursday’s long slog. (You’re welcome!)

Green Waters Run Deep: Certain  to generate ample discussion at the meeting is Item 12, the sale of the former Green Water Treatment Plant site downtown, along Cesar Chavez Street, to developer Trammel Crow. 

Image courtesy flickr.com/ginapina

A design competition is underway to determine the future of Waller Creek, which winds through the eastern half of Downtown. And tonight, the four teams competing to lead the development of the creek and its immediate surrounds are holding an open house.

A little background: Waller Creek has received sporadic attention over the years, but with the advent of the city’s Waller Creek tunnel project, the flood-prone waterway should finally have a steady flow.  

The project will also pull some 28 acres out of the 100-year floodplain downtown, creating a massive redevelopment opportunity the Waller Creek Conservancy hopes the four design teams will help steer.  

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It being election season in Austin, you’ve likely heard some candidate singing the city’s praises – or blasting Austin’s inclusion on various Top 10 lists as a sign of increasing cost.

KUT News likes to compile the city’s latest Top 10 accolades – but take it one step further, into a Top 10 list of our own. You can see our previous Top 10 list here.  

As we wrote then, to get a gauge of just how many Austin-happy rankings are floating around, we look for “best cities” rankings including Austin over the last few months. And from that, we compiled this meta-master list, a Top 10 of the city’s most recent Top 10 rankings ranging from the apparent, to the arbitrary, to the really, really arbitrary. So without further ado:

1. You grow up so fast!: No surprise here, but Austin’s growing, and growing fast. Forbes ranks Austin Number One in its April 18 study of “America’s Fastest Growing Cities.”

Photo courtesy Larry Miller, flickr.com/drmillerlg

Could Waller Creek – currently a flood-prone, trash-strewn downtown creek – ultimately stand along New York’s High Line Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park as a premier urban space?

That was one of the rosy assessments the Real Estate Council of Austin shared at a lunchtime talk about the future of the Waller Creek, and its potential as a central riverwalk-style district.

Plans for redeveloping Waller Creek have lurched along with little success dating back to the 1970s. Things began falling into place in 2007, when the city and the county developed a financing agreement to pay for the tunnel that would create a steady flow, and preventing flooding.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The city is proposing a 1.8 cent increase in property taxes. That’s just a hair under the maximum increase allowed – 1.85 cents – without a special tax election.

That’s one of the findings in the City of Austin’s preliminary, proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2013, presented to the City Council this morning.

Going off current median home values – approximately $182,000, but due to change once the county sets new property valuations – that’s a $33 annual increase.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Several high-profile items were put on hold at today's Austin City Council meeting.

One of the items delayed was a resolution requiring additional permitting for outdoor amphitheaters, pushed to council’s next meeting. A decision on the sale of the former Green Water Treatment Plant site was also pushed forward, all the way to April 26. Council members seek to spend the postponement time improving the affordable housing options at the development.

But one ongoing saga drew to a close – almost. Council approved a total of 45 additional permits for Lone Star Cab and Austin Cab, a process that required three separate readings. That said, the ordinance won’t take effect in two months.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/specialkrb

The Alamo Drafthouse will open its first location next year in New York City.

The five-screen theater will be on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, inside the former Metro Theater at 2626 Broadway

The New York Times notes the “turbulent history” of the art deco-adorned theater, which over the years has been an art-house, a porn theater, and more. When the Times checked in on the Metro in 2011, it noted a protracted legal battle had ensnared the property — challenges that have now apparently been resolved.

Photo courtesy capitalareastatues.com

It’s been another busy week for the Austin City Council, with a Tuesday work session delving into geographic representation, and then another installment in its procession of Austin Energy rate discussions. But today council stares down a 93-item long agenda. We’ve culled a few highlights:

Don’t Bogart that Statue: Item nine on the agenda authorizes the acceptance of a seven-foot, bronze statue of Willie Nelson, to be placed nearby the staircase leading to the Austin City Limits studio. It seems a smart fit, as the city already honorarily christened the statue's home, Second Street, as Willie Nelson Boulevard.

Does Green Mean Go?: Item 10 would see the city signing off on plans to develop the site of the former Green Water Treatment Plant, a block east of City Hall. The city would sell the downtown plot to developer Trammell Crow for approximately $42 million; as KUT News previously wrote, Trammell Crow has proposed 826 apartments and 200 hotel rooms, plus retail, hospitality and office space.

Shoup photo courtesy shoup.bol.ucla.edu; parking photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – and no such thing as free parking, according to an influential author speaking in Austin today.

The Urban Transportation Commission and City Council Member Chris Riley are hosting a conversation this evening with Donald Shoup. Shoup’s 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, argues that on-street parking is a valuable commodity in cities, and should be priced accordingly to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution.

KUT News spoke with Shoup this morning. He noted the University  of Texas campus was a perfect example of some of the arguments he’s made.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Travel down one-way Colorado Street will be restricted though the end of June, as the city readies $6 million worth of improvements.

Only one lane will be open between Third and Fifth Street, while the Colorado Street Reconstruction Project gets underway.

Approved by the Austin City Council in December, the initiative is part of the city’s Great Streets project, creating pedestrian-friendly streets similar to those on Second Street, seen above. 

Image courtesy City of Austin

A $500 million development may bring new housing, retail and underground parking to the southwest quadrant of downtown Austin.

Today, the City Council was briefed on the sale of a plot of land facing Lady Bird Lake. The land is the former location of the Green Water Treatment Plant, bordered by Cesar Chavez and Third Street, San Antonio Street and Shoal Creek.

Austin’s first treatment plant, the City Council voted to demolish Green in 2006 to promote taxable development more compatible with downtown.  

Under the terms city staff presented today, the city would sell the plot to TC Austin Development, a subsidiary of development firm Trammell Crow, for $42.4 million.

Photo courtesy of Valencia Group

A company from Houston is getting ready to build a retro motel at the Domain that is reminiscent of motor courts of the 1950s, an era when TVs and coin-operated radios were major selling points.

But in keeping with the 21st century, the hotel is also said to include “high-tech amenities.”

Photo courtesy flickr.com/baggis

The future of Waller Creek – if not downtown in general – is being drafted in a design competition.

Waller Creek, winding through the Eastern portion of downtown Austin, has received sporadic attention and investment over the years. The creek is prone to flooding during heavy rains, which has occasionally claimed the lives of homeless citizens sleeping along its sparsely-traveled banks.

Efforts to address Waller Creek received a boost in in 2006, when the city partnered with the county to fund a tunneling project. Currently underway in Waterloo Park, the tunnel will create a steady flow in the creek and pull nearby land out of the floodplain. But while engineering and construction of the tunnel continues, the city is facilitating a design competition to determine the function and aesthetics of the downtown areas along the creek.  

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