Community compromise helps shape development

Community compromise helps shape development Growth slated for Rosedale[/caption]

Construction could start on one of the largest undeveloped plots of Central Austin land by the end of the year.

A new mixed-use community called The Grove at Shoal Creek will be built on 75 acres of vacant land in the Rosedale neighborhood and will include retail, offices, restaurants, apartments, townhomes, single-family homes and a 12-acre park with a 1-acre pond.

More than 130 names for the community were submitted, said Garrett Martin, CEO of MileStone Community Builders, the developer of the project.

Martin's company purchased the land late last year for $47.6 million from the Texas Department of Transportation. He estimates the property will be valued at $500 million once MileStone completes the development.

He has met with leaders of the surrounding neighborhoods to develop a plan for the project and revealed the results from those conversations during an April 2 public meeting.

"I would love to be able [to look back and] say that we created an incredible, vibrant space that will endure for forever, or at least 100 years, and has been a huge benefit to the broader neighborhood," Martin said.

Based on the neighborhood feedback from a MileStone survey, Martin's team created a map that showed where nearby residents preferred higher-density development within the project—mostly on the property's west side along Bull Creek Road. The density decreases near Shoal Creek. The exact acreage of residential, retail, office and restaurant space is not established, according to developers.

Community compromise helps shape development The Grove at Shoal Creek development[/caption]

Businesses within The Grove at Shoal Creek will be local, Martin said. The exact aesthetics of the neighborhood residences—a mixture of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments—has not yet been decided, he said. Instead, a design competition will be held among multiple architects to help determine the look of the new community, Martin said.

The city of Austin considered buying the land last year, but council members opted to not invest in the land because of a lack of funding.

District 7 City Councilwoman Leslie Pool helped create the Bull Creek Road Coalition, which represents the interest of neighborhoods surrounding the development. She said the project planning is still in the early stages, and it cannot yet be determined if a potential collaboration between neighbors and the developers will go as promised, but she does appreciate MileStone's efforts to collaborate.

"I am naturally aligned with the neighborhoods [because] I'm coming to this process as a neighborhood person and as a resident," Pool said. "I recognize this is a unique opportunity for the city, and we need to do our darndest and do right by the asset that we've been handed. We can't replace this untouched land once we build on it."

The BCRC would like to see 30 acres of the land remain untouched and serve as park space, Pool said. However, the total amount of anticipated community green space, including greenbelts and smaller parks, will be 16 acres, Martin said.

"There's a lot of folks that feel like you shouldn't touch [the land] at all, just leave it like it is," Pool said. "I see my role as a council member to protect and preserve that land to the best I can and to support the vision of the neighbors."

Martin said his company has kept its word by adding as much green space as possible for his project to still be viable.

"We feel like we've unequivocally honored the BCRC design principles and the desire for significant public, open green space," Martin said.

BCRC President Carl Hehmsoth said he is happy with MileStone's willingness to meet with the neighbors and surrounding groups to talk about these issues.

"Our major concerns are traffic and traffic," Hehmsoth said. "We need to know the impact on our neighborhoods as far as cut throughs and that kind of stuff."

The BCRC will continue to collaborate with MileStone and anticipates receiving more project details in the coming weeks, Hehmsoth said.

The Grove at Shoal Creek development falls within the boundaries of City Council District 10 represented by Councilwoman Sheri Gallo. She said she is impressed with how MileStone listened to feedback from neighbors and responded to it.

"Fortunately for the neighborhood and the city, the entity that ended up buying the property could best represent what the neighborhoods were looking for, and we're really lucky that MileStone ended up being the owner," Gallo said.

The additional residential inventory at The Grove at Shoal Creek will help ease affordability issues in District 10, Gallo said. She said she is also thankful neighbors have worked together to form the BCRC and provide a unified voice for concerns.

City Council will play a key role in the development moving forward. Because TxDOT previously owned the land, the space remains unzoned, meaning Martin and his team will need council approval for any new zoning, which could dictate the height of the buildings and the density of the development.

Martin said he will continue to accept feedback from community members on what they consider to be the best direction for the project. He and his team members meet with leadership from the surrounding neighborhoods each week to discuss plans and possible changes, he said.

Martin said he will fund improvements for residents along 45th Street to ensure residents have better access to their homes. He also said he will help pay for construction of nearby intersection improvements, such as creating new lanes to help address traffic congestion.

The average wait time at most intersections near the project is between 35 to 55 seconds per vehicle, Martin said. The intersection improvements Martin proposes should prevent the new project from causing more congestion, he said.

Some TxDOT offices currently operate on the land. The buildings and employees will remain on location for the next three years, TxDOT spokesman Nick Wade said, and no new location has been set for those offices.

During those three years Martin and his construction crews will work around the offices. He said it is uncertain as to which area of the project will be developed first, although the single-family homes are likely to be included in the first phase of work.
By Jennifer Curington

Jennifer covers Austin City Council, its various committees and local business news. After covering Florida's 2013 legislative session she graduated from Georgia Southern University and joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2014.


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