The Asian American Cultural Center’s proposal to add a senior living facility, child development center and a cultural center with a dumpling house is drawing concern from some Northwest Austin residents who are worried about the impact the new development will have on traffic and flooding issues.
Mark Schweitzer, whose property is adjacent to the AACC’s, said his children attended the school the center operates, and he would like to be able to support founder and CEO Amy Wong Mok’s plan. However, at a community meeting held Wednesday night he and several other residents expressed concern over a lack of details.
“I won’t be in favor until you show me what you’re going to build,” he said.
Wong Mok initially pitched her expansion proposal for the AACC, located at 11713 Jollyville Road, Austin, to residents in April 2016 with significantly taller buildings. After she conducted a compatibility study, she said that limited what the center could build. Wong Mok is also seeing a zoning change from limited office to GR-MU, which is community commercial with mixed-use.
The zoning change would allow for building heights to increase from 40 feet under the current zoning to 60 feet. However, Wong Mok said the compatibility study would restrict building heights to 30-45 feet, or two to three stories, and one parcel could go as high as 55 feet, or four stories. The zoning change would also allow the AACC to build on 75 percent of the property instead of 50 percent under current zoning.
The AACC has occupied the building for 18 years since purchasing the 2.73-acre site from the Dell Jewish Community Center, and before that a Baptist church occupied the space.
“This space has been a community space for 45, 50 years, so we wanted to continue that tradition,” Wong Mok said.
A vision for expansion
In July, Wong Mok applied for the zoning change, and she said the case will go before the Zoning and Platting Commission at 6 p.m. Nov. 6 at Austin City Hall.
The expansion would be completed in phases with a new child development center being built at the rear of the property closest to residential homes. Wong Mok said the compatibility study would limit the height of this building to about 30 feet, or two stories.
Next, the AACC would construct the new senior living facility, which would have about 75-100 units, she said.
“We have the demand in our community,” Wong Mok said. “We already have 75 on the waiting list in our community.”
The last phase would include a cultural center with a tea house and a dumpling house. This would not be open to the public for dining but would serve as the restaurant for the residents, Wong Mok said. The zoning change would also permit her to serve sake and plum wine to the residents.
“What we are trying to do is really add to the community,” she said. “It’s about expanding our community to allow our seniors to have better quality of life.”
The center’s location on Jollyville worries residents about increases in traffic because the roadway is already congested, and several attendees expressed concerns that no traffic study has been conducted. The city of Austin only requires traffic studies if a development is expected to generate more than 2,000 trips per day.
Timo Xzavier, co-president of the adjacent Raintree Estates neighborhood, doubted Wong Mok’s claim that the seniors at the center would likely not drive.
“We have cars, and we know what’s it’s like, especially when it’s raining on Jollyville,” he said.
Schweitzer said several nearby homes have also dealt with repeated flooding issues. Without proper drainage and retention, he said he’s concerned about the increased risk of flooding.
Xzavier said he polled seven nearby neighborhoods about Wong Mok’s proposal, and 95 percent of residents who responded were supportive of new development under the existing zoning.
“They want more community and the community center,” he said.