Development

Development
4:36 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

Architects, Designers Descend on Lady Bird Lake

The planning area in question, on the south side of Lady Bird Lake
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.”

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AM Update
8:32 am
Mon May 28, 2012

AM Update: Memorial Day Roundup, Austin Planetarium Plans, Spurs' Streak Continues

An artist's rendering of the science and technology museum that would be part of a complex proposed by the Austin Planetarium.
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.

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City Council
12:36 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

City Council Recap: Downtown Land Deal, Animal Center Items Approved

The council voted to sell the former Green Water Treatment Plant site downtown for $42 million.
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.

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City Council
11:17 am
Wed May 23, 2012

City Council Preview: Welcome Back - Now Here's 145 Items

Heading to City Hall this Thursday? You might want to pack a sleeping bag.
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. 

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Downtown
11:17 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Meet the Teams Re-Envisioning Waller Creek Tonight

One of the spaces along Waller Creek today.
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.  

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Austin
2:55 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

The Top 10 Austin Top 10 Lists, Part Two

Austin: The fastest growing, worst driving city for smutty, retired hipsters.
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.”

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Downtown
4:00 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Making the Pitch for Waller Creek

A portion of existing Waller Creek development, near Sixth Street.
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.

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City Budget
4:42 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

Proposed City Budget: $25 Million in Unmet Needs, Even With Property Tax Increase

Offsetting housing cuts and expediting development services are two prominent topics in budget talks.
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.

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City Council
4:57 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

City Council Update: Tune in Next Time

Council punted on two items of interest today.
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.

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film
4:18 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

From Porn House to Drafthouse: Alamo Announces New NYC Location

New York City's storied Metro Theater, which will house the newest Alamo Drafthouse.
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.

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City Council
9:59 am
Thu April 5, 2012

City Council Preview: Battle Over Downtown Affordability, Eyeing Amphitheaters, and Willie in Bronze

A model of a statue honoring The Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson.
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.

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Transportation
11:29 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Learn About 'The High Cost of Free Parking' Tonight

Professor Donald Shoup (left) argues parking should be priced to reflect its true cost.
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.

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Austin
3:12 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Colorado Street Down to One Lane While 'Great Streets' Project Starts

Similar to Second Street, walkways, roads and infrastructure are being improved on Colorado Street
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. 

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Austin
3:15 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

The City's $42 Million Land Sale

Conceptual art from a 2008 presentation shows Second Street extended to Shoal Creek.
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.

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Business
3:01 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Nostalgic 'Upscale' Motel Planned for the Domain

An artist's rendering of the Lone Star Court, a retro motel planned to open at the Domain in 2013
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.”

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development
1:03 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

What to Do With Waller Creek?

Slated for redevelopment, Waller Creek is expected to transform from trashy to classy.
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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Austin
3:44 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

$400 Rent in Downtown Austin? Nonprofit Says They Can Make it Work

Construction of affordable housing downtown could start in less than a year.

At a meeting tonight, Austin nonprofit Foundation Communities is making a pitch for their Capital Studios development – 135 apartments to be located on what's now a parking lot at 11th street and Trinity.  A Foundation Communities spokesperson tells KUT News Capital Studios will be the first truly affordable downtown development in the last 40 years – and with rents ranging from $400 to $650, all bills paid, it’s hard to argue.

The low rents are designed to attract Austinites that work and play downtown, but can’t afford to live there – primarily young adults making $27,000 annually or less. Ten of the units will be reserved for working musicians and artists. Another 27 units will provide permanent supportive housing for clients transitioning out of homelessness, processed through agencies like Caritas, the Trinity Center, and the ARCH.

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Austin
1:49 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Downtown Austin's Density Plan Scrutinized

A rendering of downtown Austin's possible future, taken from the Downtown Austin Plan.
Image courtesy City of Austin/McCann Adams Studio

Is density an urban benefit, in and of itself? Or does density’s costs outweigh its inherit benefits?

Argument over growth is nothing new in local politics, but once redevelopment of downtown Austin took off over a decade ago, the debate gained a new wrinkle: Are developers erecting tall buildings downtown doing the city a favor by curtailing sprawl? Or should the city share in the financial benefits developers reap from building past traditional height limits?

Those issues get a thorough vetting in the Atlantic Cities blog today, which delves into the controversy surrounding the Downtown Austin Plan, and one of its most hotly debated components: a Density Bonus Program.

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Austin
12:12 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Marriott's Downtown Hotel, Controversial Even Before Construction

A rendering of the JW Marriott Hotel, breaking ground this summer on what was the former site of Las Manitas.
Image courtesy White Lodging Services Corporation

It’s rare a place can be so controversial before it even breaks ground, but such has been the case with the JW Marriott hotel, slated for an opening in downtown Austin in 2015.

Part of the reason lies with what the hotel displaced: beloved tex-mex eatery Las Manitas, located at Second St. and Congress Ave. A popular and inexpensive lunch spot with politicos, downtown workers and the bleary-eyed alike, Las Manitas’ closing in 2008 – precipitated by the knowledge a new convention center hotel would be opening on its grounds – prompted another round of soul-searching for what the true “Austin experience” was, and whether it was in danger. The Las Manitas quandary was even prominently featured in a book on Austin’s “weirdness.”

The Austin City Council even considered offering incentives to the restaurant to move, before the proposal was rebuffed in the face of mounting controversy. Still, disagreement over the city’s stance towards the JW Marriott development persisted into 2011, when the council debated whether to waive millions in construction fees. Opponents depicted the waivers as a loss in needed revenue, while proponents pointed to the millions of dollars in taxable property base and hotel occupancy fees the 2,500 room hotel will produce.

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Austin
4:50 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

What Does a $42 Million Aquatic Center Look Like?

The YMCA of Austin has made quite a splash with proposals for a massive pool and aquatics center along the shores of Lady Bird Lake. But their pitch for city investment in the proposal appears to be treading water.

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