Development

Liang Shi for KUT

UPDATE (4/4/13): Senate Bill 507 by State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) passed the Senate unanimously today.

The bill would limit public private partnerships, or P3’s, in the area around the Capitol grounds.  The bill is closely related to SB 894 by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Last month Watson even likened his bill to a failsafe for Whitmire’s initial bill in a committee hearing last month. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

City officials say they're making progress on the Waller Creek Tunnel Project.

Construction crews at Waterloo Park have wrapped up excavating the tunnel and are moving on to building a treatment plant that will help filter floodwaters.

KUT News

Update: The Austin City Council decided to delay their vote Thursday night, citing concerns that they did not have enough information.

City staff will return next week with a sampling of how many properties repealing the Project Duration Ordinance would affect. Mayor Lee Leffingwell was the only council member against the delay last night.

Original Story (March 20, 7:22 p.m.): Permits for building projects may lose their expiration dates, depending on a vote at Thursday’s City Council Meeting.

flickr.com/dingatx

The City Council adopted the Downtown Austin Plan in late 2011. With it, the council OK’d what’s called the Downtown Density Bonus Program. It basically says that developers who want to build more densely than the standards allow would have to offer certain community benefits: things like on-site affordable housing or a paying into a fund for affordable housing elsewhere.

But nearly a year and a half later, Austin’s still waiting on specific guidelines for the Density Bonus Program.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Another South by Southwest has come and gone – and in its wake comes the inevitable cry from some local natives: “Don’t move here.”

Pulling up the drawbridge on SXSW visitors isn’t anything new: back in 1997, one local band minted t-shirts telling folks they could go back home when the music’s over. But as SXSW Interactive continues its explosive growth – with a 25 percent surge this year and over 30,000 attendees – it attracts a different set of attendees than music-loving spring breakers. And some of those attendees may not be going back.

Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney

When you think about downtown Austin, do you ever think about the spaces between the buildings?

Probably not, and you're not alone. That’s may be because alleyways – in movies, and sometimes in real life – are usually shady, dirty and even dangerous places. But some local leaders want to bring the city’s alleys back into the light.

In an alley downtown, I met with Meredith Powell and Dan Cheetham. Powell is with the Art Alliance Austin. The alley, she says “was laid out in the original 1839 map by Edwin Waller and it is on Ninth Street between Brazos and Congress.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In a few days, downtown Austin will be overrun with crowds for South by Southwest – so why is the city practically doing away with downtown parking requirements?

“Many cities are reducing or eliminating their parking requirements as a means of reducing congestion,” argued Chris Riley, the Austin City Council’s resident transportation wonk. Coincidentally, he's the prime proponent of a measure deep-sixing most parking requirements downtown.

KUT News

Nationally recognized city planners descended on Austin today with a bit of advice for the city as it begins to retool its land development code: Don’t screw it up. 

Planning experts from Raleigh, N.C; Madison, WI; Denver, CO; and Dallas briefed members of the Land Development Code Advisory Board in preparation for their first meeting on Tuesday, when they'll begin  to rewrite the code for the first time since 1984. They emphasized that the city needs to get the code right, or prepare for perpetual litigation and complications that come with a sloppy development code.

courtesy Austin Energy

City officials are looking for the public's help in deciding what to do with the land around the Holly Power Plant in East Austin, which is scheduled to be fully decommissioned by later this year.

Currently, plans have designated the 9.3 acres of surrounding land to be handed over to the Austin Parks & Recreation Department for development into a park.

flickr.com/austintexasgov

"Imagine Austin" is closer to becoming a reality.

Last June, the Austin City Council passed the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which will guide city development for the next thirty years. The plan is to make Austin more connected and compact.

Now, people who live in South Austin are invited to weigh-in on how the South Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan is implemented.

INTERA

Arsenic, lead and the byproducts of burned oil were some of the contaminants found underneath an electrical substation at the Seaholm power plant downtown.

The land will eventually be home to Austin’s new central library. Those contaminants have now been removed and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued its seal of approval.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

There’s no City Council meeting this week: Instead, City Hall watchers’ eyes were on Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s 2013 State of the City address, delivered at a Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon on Tuesday.

Owing in part to Austin’s good fortunes, the mayor’s speech is traditionally a rosy affair, full of economic achievements. And that was the case this time:  “Austin, Texas is today, I think without question, one of the most widely admired and most emulated cities in America,” said Leffingwell in one of the speech’s many paeans to the city.

flickr.com/honeyroastd

In the past few years, once quaint and quiet Rainey Street has become a haven for the hip, with businesses ubiquitously flipping the neighborhood's historic bungalows into bars.

Tonight, the City of Austin Planning Commission will discuss two possible changes along Rainey Street: one that would encourage the relocation of historic homes, and another measure that would require new bars to seek permits, including public hearings.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin usually ranks against cosmopolitan destinations in the numerous lists it’s named in. But try this one on for size: Provo, Utah.

The metro areas of Austin and Provo lead the nation in expected household growth, according to a new study based on U.S. Census data. The projection is for Austin to grow by 7.4 percent, adding 50,000 households over the next five years.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

In May, the City of Austin invited members of the news media into the Waller Creek tunnel.

Meeting at the construction site at Fourth Street and I-35, reporters traveled down a 26-foot wide shaft, in a metal box lowered by a construction crane. At the time, some 1,300 feet had been excavated. When we checked back in in September, over 3,200 square feet had been excavated.

Above ground, the tunnel is designed to keep flood-prone Waller Creek in its banks. And just what to do with the acres of land pulled out of the flood plain is a hot topic: in October, a design team was named to plot the transformation of the Waller Creek area.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The University of Texas System Board of Regents will meet in Tyler this week and consider, among many things, whether to approve the construction of a system office building in downtown Austin that is projected to cost $102,417,000.

The UT System's downtown Austin offices are currently spread across five aging buildings — the oldest has been around for more than 130 years — with mounting maintenance costs. Officials determined that a change was in order. They decided that the best option would be to construct a 16-story building comprising 258,500 square feet of office space and garage capacity for more than 650 vehicles in a spot — close to the state Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin — where two of their current buildings sit.

flickr.com/diorama_sky

The Austin City Council convenes to a relatively small agenda today: a total of 63 items, counting the agenda addendum.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, it’s no Halloween hangover: this meeting’s high profile items cover some well-tread ground. Let’s take a look.

More Taxi Trouble: Items 27 and 28 comprise the third and final reading of additional taxi permits for Lone Star Cab (20 permits) and Austin Cab (10 permits). As KUT News previously reported, the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin is opposing the new permits. They cite a city report stating the since a first round of additional permits were issued this spring, cab drivers are taking home less pay. Still, with Formula 1 on the horizon, the council feels some pressure to increase the number of cabs on Austin roads. It’s that rock-and-a-hard-place situation – balancing cab drivers’ and customer needs – that’s let the permit approval languish, the Austin Chronicle writes in its council preview.

AMLI

AMLI Residential, builder of several high profile apartment communities in Austin, has announced it is going to build a mid-rise project in Mueller town center.

AMLI says it plans to build a $30 million, 279-unit apartment complex on Simond Avenue, across from Lake Park and the new Austin Children’s Museum. The community will contain 20 percent efficiencies, 56 percent one-bedroom apartments and 24 percent two-bedroom apartments.

Prices for the apartments will be set during the pre-leasing process, but 15 percent of the units will be included in the Mueller Affordable Homes Program, which is for residents who earn 60 percent or less of Austin’s median family income.

http://www.flickr.com/mirsasha/

The Austin City Council may make a decision on Thursday that could alter the future of Rainey Street.

It's close to impossible to find parking in the trendy lower downtown district. With so many new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, the popularity of Rainey Street grows alongside the difficulty of getting in and out by car.

A group of investors (70 Rainey Street LP) which own several Rainey Street lots has presented the city several bids to purchase a property at 64 Rainey St.for a multi-story parking garage. 70 Rainey Street LP is currently planning to use its existing lots to build a 31-story mixed use project.

The city is mulling three options: Selling the lot for $100,000, plus 30 parking spaces and their revenue;  for $400,000, plus 20 parking spaces and their revenue; or for $1.2 million and no parking spaces.

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.

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