Austin Oaks redevelopment design unveiled

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After a week of back-and-forth between residents, city officials, professional designers and developer Spire Realty, a consensus design for the Austin Oaks redevelopment was announced Jan. 28.

The proposed design would require zoning changes for the property, and the city would require the developer to conduct a traffic impact analysis for the development. That TIA would likely result in the developer having to make traffic improvements to the area, according to the design team. The redevelopment design includes an increase in traffic from 5,000 trips per day to 17,000.

An alternative code compliant plan for the redevelopment would have a similar effect on traffic, according to designers, but it would not require a TIA, traffic improvements or allow for additional input from the surrounding neighborhoods.

At a Jan. 29 presentation Mark Meyer, principal of Austin-based designSTUDIO, said certain traffic improvements were included in the design, including adding a traffic light to the intersection of Hart Lane and Spicewood Springs.

The redevelopment’s total footprint would be nearly 1.2 million square feet and would include five office buildings, a hotel, a multifamily building, retail and restaurant space, and two parks, according to the plan.

The three tallest buildings at seven stories would line the MoPac frontage road; buildings farther west along Spicewood Springs Road would be four and five stories high, according to the design.

Also included in the design would be a 2-acre neighborhood park at the intersection of Hart Lane and Executive Center Drive. Trees along Executive Center would be preserved and a 10-foot walkway, parallel parking spots and an 8-foot bicycle lane would be added. A larger park closer to MoPac would surround a natural creek on the property.

At a design presentation Jan. 28, nearly 20 residents voiced options for and against the plan. Resident Jonathan Kaplan said he supported multifamily housing in the project because it would make the area more well lit, populated and safe after dark. He also said the plan was better than what the developer could build under current zoning.

“This is better planning. This is better design,” he said. “I support the plan.”

Resident Kathy Cramer was opposed to allowing seven-story buildings along MoPac.

“I think that’s setting a very dangerous precedent,” she said. “I don’t want this community to sell its soul for the sake of a 2-acre park.”

Under current zoning, building height is limited to five stories.

Charrette facilitator Doug Farr, of Chicago-based Farr Associates, said the designers tried to strike a balance between opposing viewpoints on the redevelopment.

“We’re not making everybody happy,” he said.

Joyce Statz, president of the Northwest Austin Civic Association, said the neighborhood groups must now work with the developer to create a zoning document based on the design that would be legally binding for the property.

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COMMENT
  1. It was a charrette charade. The outcome was determined by overnight changes by the developer and their contracted architects that were not entirely consistent with the proceedings each day before. In the end it ended up being almost the same exact PUD Land Use Plan that the Dallas developer had last proposed before the charrette. Except in the charrette the traffic numbers were fudged because they were not in an official TIA. Watch the traffic numbers go from 17,000 trips per day back up to 19,000 to 20,000 when it has to be official. The charrette ended up right back where they started, a real lube job.

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