9 reactions to the Great Hills Market zoning change approval in Northwest Austin


Many residents are upset over the fate of the Regal Arbor 8 Cinema being sealed after Austin City Council approved a zoning change Feb. 1 that will allow a developer to add residential use to the Great Hills Market retail center at 9829 Great Hills Trail, Austin.

The developer plans to build 372 residential units with retail and restaurants on the first floor. No development would occur until leases on existing businesses expire. The Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills movie theater has a lease through 2020, and Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant just extended its lease through 2025, the owners confirmed.

Residents responded to the story with comments online as well as on Nextdoor, an online neighborhood-based social network.

Here are 9 reactions to news about the zoning change and likely demolition of the movie theater.

1. People love the theater and Manuel’s.

“Whoever is on the council obviously does not live in the area and should not be able to make that decision. [It was an] absolutely horrible decision. It will ruin the area! I drove by last night and the theater and Manuel’s were packed. We need a theater there and a real restaurant there, not a fast-food chain. I can see tearing something down that is not used but not something that is popular and loved!”
—Jennifer W. from Milwood (Posted Feb. 2 on Nextdoor)

“The changes are lousy. I wrote a detailed letter to the Austin City Council about traffic in the entire area, not just on Jollyville Road, and the loss of the cinema, which is the only one of its kind in the Austin area. However, from what I’ve read and seen, Austin has its mind made up.”
—Delaney H. from Rattan Creek (Posted Feb. 3 on Nextdoor)

“Some of my best Austin memories were made at the Arbor cinema. I read somewhere that the developer refuses to build a new theater, claiming that since people’s entertainment habits are currently in flux, the development company can’t be sure that anyone will still want to go to the movies in a few years. I think that’s a stupid, hard-headed position to take. The Arbor cinema is one of the few things that sets this neighborhood apart from all the other boring, generic suburban areas in Austin. Without the Arbor and Barnes and Noble this neighborhood would be a wasteland. I live in an apartment in this neighborhood, and I don’t want to see more built around here, jacking up the price and attracting more shifty residents and street racers. I’d prefer to have more dining, shopping and entertainment options. I’d rather spend money close to home than have to make a special trip to another part of town. This whole development infuriates me.”
—James Bankston (Posted Feb. 5 online)

2. Residents doubt surrounding streets can handle any increase in traffic from new development.

“Strong message sent to object to this project or any further projects until better infrastructure can provided to handle the increase in traffic (trips per day) and services necessary for the community!”
—Beverly R. from Jester Estates (Posted Feb. 4 on Nextdoor)

“We frequent this area almost daily because of the variety of businesses available there and the ease of getting in and out of the area restaurants, shopping, and entertainment—Regal Arbor theater, etc. We believe it has already reached the maximum traffic load without causing significant delays, and we are aware that the senior living center [Overture Arboretum] will make the congestion worse.”
—Janice and George Toreki from Jester Estates (Emailed Feb. 3)

“I think these proposed changes are terrible. I drive and shop in that area often and it is already congested. Jollyville Road will become impossible for driving. I will cease trying to go to my favorite stores and groceries in that area when the proposed changes are completed. It just makes me very sad because there is no need for more apartments, senior living facilities, etc. in that congested area.”
—Shirley Jones (Emailed Feb. 2)

3. Not all concerns from residents over the proposed development were addressed.

“The developer did not address all of the neighbors’ concerns. One of the main concerns is that they’re going to tear down the Arbor cinema, which as an eight-screen theater screening art/indie/foreign films exclusively. [It] is unique in Austin for its offerings and the way it serves the film going/making community for film festivals, premiers of important films, etc.”
—CeeCee (Posted online Feb. 2)

4. Some residents are frustrated that District 10 Council Member Alison Alter voted for the zoning change while a council member from a neighboring district voted no.

[Editor’s note: Alter facilitated several meetings between residents and the developer in an effort to provide more input from the community and relay information.]

“Go here and let Council [Member] Alison Alter of our District 10 know what a poor job she did representing the people of Great Hills regarding the Great Hills Market zoning change. Can’t wait to vote against her.”
—Kristi W. from Great Hills (Posted Feb. 4 on Nextdoor

“Looks like [Council Member Jimmy] Flannigan our Northwest Austin council rep voted correctly and said NO. I don’t believe I saw anything mentioned about fast food. Nothing can begin on this project until the leases currently in place expire [in]2020 and 2025. A lot can happen in that amount of time. The proposal is for standard SmartGowth design. Retail first floor, no drive through allowed, with apartments above.”
—James D. from Springwoods (Posted Feb. 4 on Nextdoor)

Editor’s note: Responses were edited for grammar, style and clarity.

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  1. The Arboretum already has enough traffic. We have the domain. We don’t need to keep crowding people into small spaces. We all love men wells and the arbor theater is a gym and they shouldn’t touch it.

  2. Gosh, I hate to see these new developments in the Arboretum area. We love the theatre and would hate the added congestion. Residents need to organize against tis.

Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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