The Drenner Group, which has represented landowner Spire Realty since the original planned unit development application was filed in summer 2014, has been replaced by Michael Whellan of Austin law firm Graves Doughtery Hearon & Moody. At a Nov. 3 Zoning and Platting Commission meeting, Whellan said he is starting the process with a clean slate.
The developer agreed to a charrette, which is a collaborative design process with residents, in September. Whellan was hired shortly thereafter and said he met with neighborhood groups on Oct. 7 and Oct. 27.
“We all agreed to proceed with a design charrette,” he told the commission.
Whellan said he aims to develop a long-term plan for Austin Oaks that works for both the developer and the surrounding community.
In order to meet that goal, Whellan said, he and Spire Realty President Jon Ruff will sit on a steering committee alongside representatives from several nearby neighborhood groups, including Northwest Austin Civic Association, North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association and Allandale Neighborhood Association. The committee would meet weekly, he said.
“It’s a robust group,” Whellan said.
A logistics committee and a committee to ensure community involvement and feedback were also established with residents, he said.
NWACA member Ben Luckens of Luckens Planning Consultants told the commission he was appointed to serve as the volunteer project manager for the design charrette
Whellan asked the commission and city staff to also take an active role in the charrette process, adding that Planning and Zoning Department Manager Jerry Rusthoven agreed to meet with the steering committee that same evening.
Whellan said Spire Realty asked neighborhoods to decide who would run the charrette. At the Oct. 27 meeting, the groups presented and discussed candidates, and the majority of attendees selected Doug Farr of Farr Associates in Chicago as lead facilitator along with an Austin-based design team to work with Farr, according to Whellan. Spire Realty will pay all charrette expenses, he added.
The charrette is scheduled to take place at the Austin Oaks property from Jan. 24-29, he said.
“We’ll be back in February with an ordinance,” he said.
Victoria Haase, Planning and Zoning Department case manager for the Austin Oaks application, said she attended the Oct. 27 meeting, and has seen Whellan use the past month to get up to speed on the project.
Commission Chairman Gabriel Rojas said the commission would expect another update on the charrette process at its first January meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. He also said commissioners would do their best to attend the charrette at the end of January.