Zoning commission recommends approval of Austin Oaks planned unit development rezoning case

The Austin Oaks PUD proposal, which involved the redevelopment of an office park near Spicewood Springs Road and MoPac, received a second at the Austin City Council's May 23 meeting.

The Austin Oaks PUD proposal, which involved the redevelopment of an office park near Spicewood Springs Road and MoPac, received a second at the Austin City Council's May 23 meeting.

Updated Nov. 2, 10:08 a.m.

The city’s zoning commission approved the Austin Oaks rezoning case late Tuesday in a decision that opens the door for redeveloping the Northwest Austin site as a planned unit development.

The case went before the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission to rezone the site from mostly commercial to a planned unit development, or PUD. Austin City Council is scheduled to take up the rezoning case at its Nov. 10 meeting.

The existing 445,0322-square-foot Austin Oaks office complex sits on 31.4 acres of land on the southwest corner of Spicewood Springs Road and MoPac. Developer Spire Realty is proposing to build 865,900 square feet of office space, 12,800 square feet of restaurant space and 90,000 square feet of hotel space.

Austin Oaks PUDThe site would also include 250 apartment units of which 10 percent would be reserved for household incomes that earn 60 percent of the area's median family income. Half of those units could be made available to Austin ISD staff.

Spire would also invest $1.55 million in a park near Hart Lane as well as build a trail and additional parkland surrounding the creek, resulting in 11 acres of combined open space.

Commissioners also approved additional restrictions to prohibit liquor sales outside of the hotel and restaurants and ensure the residential units are built after the developer builds 500,000 square feet of commercial space.

Traffic investment
Spire would be required to make several traffic improvements, including adding a traffic signal at Spicewood Springs and Hart Lane and make other improvements at Spicewood Springs and Wood Hollow Drive.

The developer would also have to work with the Texas Department of Transportation to design solutions on the southbound MoPac frontage road, including adding a right turn from Spicewood Springs to MoPac and acceleration and deceleration lanes at Executive Center Drive.

Michael Whellan, who represents Spire Realty, said these traffic improvements would be required on the front end of the project before any certificate of occupancy is issued.

The improvements are required because the proposed development would create about 15,500 new vehicle trips. Some residents are concerned about the effect on neighborhood streets. Resident Brad Parsons said the lack of a signal at Greystone Drive and MoPac raises safety issues should traffic increase. Drivers would have to wait four minutes to turn onto the MoPac frontage road, according to a completed traffic study.

“People are going to try to push that and get broadsided at 50 mph,” he said. “There will be deaths, and this is going to be an extremely dangerous intersection.”

Austin Oaks hearing postponed A designer's rendering shows a proposal for a park from developer Spire Realty for redeveloping the Austin Oaks property.[/caption]

More green space
Residents who voiced support for the plan Tuesday mostly praised its creation of parkland, including adding a park off Hart Lane, which is the side closest to residents.

“The thing I find exciting about this proposal … is that it would create dedicated park equivalent to 5 downtown blocks,” Northwest Hills resident Brewster McCracken said.

Carol Dochen, a Northwest Hills resident and real estate agent, said she likes the plan includes a place for families to recreate.

“The parkland they’re proposing in this development is you have that sense of play and green and enjoyment,” she said. “That’s what I’m hoping we can achieve.”

Save the trees
Those who spoke against the PUD plan raised several issues, including traffic impacts as well as the loss of 44 heritage and protected trees.

David King of the Austin Neighborhoods Council said ANC also expressed concern about cutting the trees down instead of relocating them or redesigning the site around the trees.

Besides providing more traffic improvements, Northwest Hills resident Julie Allen said the plan should also preserve more trees.

“The fact that this is very contentious should give you pause that this needs more consideration,” she said.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.