Residents voice concern over Great Hills Market redevelopment proposal at public meeting

A developer is seeking to build 372 apartments, restaurants and retail space on the site of Manuel's Mexican Restaurant and the Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills in the Great Hills Market.

A developer is seeking to build 372 apartments, restaurants and retail space on the site of Manuel's Mexican Restaurant and the Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills in the Great Hills Market.

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Great Hills Market
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Great Hills Market
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Great Hills Market Nov. 1 meeting
UPDATED Nov. 2, 12:02 p.m.

Northwest Austin residents voiced concerns over the impact on traffic of the proposed redevelopment of Great Hills Market on Wednesday at a community meeting.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter hosted the meeting Nov. 1 to address questions regarding a proposal to redevelop the Great Hills Market retail center and Regal Arbor 8 movie theater located at 9828 Great Hills Trail, Austin, with apartments, retail and restaurant space, as first reported by Community Impact Newspaper.

The developer is requesting to change the zoning from general retail and limited office zoning, GR-LO, to general commercial services-mixed use to allow for a mix of retail and residential uses. The zoning request also includes a vertical mixed-use overlay that would allow for a vertical building, capped at 60 feet.

The vertical mixed-use overlay would allow for residential development above the retail units. The current zoning requirements do not allow for residential development.

Of the more than 75 attendees at the event, many expressed concern over potential how future residents of a mixed-used development could increase to rush hour traffic in the area nearby the shopping center.

Great Hills resident Julie Range said she came to the meeting to learn more about the development.

“My concerns are if the development is good for the neighborhood and it addresses the reality that Austin is growing and that people will move here and add to traffic," she said. "If they had reasonable places to live like a development like this, it’s not completely unreasonable to have this be residential space instead of commercial space."

Northwest Austin resident Carol Duncan said she supports conserving the existing shopping center.

"Most of us who attended feel that way—wanting to keep the well-established and beloved Manuel's and Regal Arbor 8 Cinema," she said. "There is some familiar charm in the un-shininess of places that have stood the test of time. I realize the inevitability of change, but our residents' voices must be heard by City Council and developers to ensure in writing and the exact changes that will be made and to include feasible compromises."

Amanda Swor of the Drenner Group, which is representing the developer, said the center is likely to be redeveloped even if the zoning case is not approved. The current code allows for office and retail space, which could also affect traffic, said Swor, who fielded most of the questions

Others expressed concern over the potential closing of Manuel’s and Regal Arbor 8 theater.

Manuel’s lease does not end until 2020 and it also includes an option to extend for an additional five years, meaning it could legally remain at the property until 2025, Swor said.

“They have leases and they have legal right to that property. The absolute soonest that anything would happen on the property would be three years, and that would be if Manuel’s chose not to extend their option on the property.” Swor said.

Swor said Regal Arbor 8 would follow a similar timeline.

“We want to try to do everything we can to see the project reflect as much of the desire of the neighbors as possible, and we hope to schedule a meeting with neighbors to continue the conversation with the applicant to see what of their ideas we can incorporate,” said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, Alter’s planning and zoning policy adviser.

The zoning change case for Great Hills Market—recommended by the zoning and platting commission Oct. 17—was originally slated to be heard at Austin City Council on Nov. 2 but was rescheduled to Nov. 9 after a postponement request.

Amy Denney contributed to this report.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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