PUD statesman wins unanimous support from Planning Commission

Friday February 11th, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

A massive mixed-use development planned for the former Austin American Statesman The site moved closer to approval on Tuesday, receiving the Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation – but not before commissioners spent several hours debating what changes they would like to see made to the unit’s planned development.

Preliminary plans for the 19-acre site at 305 S. Congress Ave. includes 1,378 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, a 275-room hotel, and 150,000 square feet of retail and dining, all spread over six towers ranging from 215 to 525 feet high.

The development is set to transform its stretch of Lady Bird Lake waterfront. Eight acres of parks and public spaces are planned, including a boardwalk, a bat-watching area, a reconstructed hiking and biking trail, and areas the development team dubs the Great Lawn and the Great Steps.

Several transportation projects are also planned on or near the site, including an extension of Barton Springs Road, a new street network with wide sidewalks and bike lanes in some places, and a station for Project’s Blue Line light rail. Connect. The developer plans to build 4,000 parking spaces, mainly underground.

The team behind the project includes developer Endeavor Real Estate Group, architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Armbrust & Brown lawyer Richard Suttle.

The planning commission already discussed PUD in December, but the commissioners wanted more time to develop a recommendation. Since then, a small working group has met several times and drafted 18 amendments at PUD. On Tuesday, the committee spent more than five hours discussing and editing the amendments, most of which eventually passed.

Part of the discussion focused on affordable housing on site. The commissioners recommended that at least 4% of the units be subject to income restrictions – in line with what the promoter proposes and what the South Central Waterfront Vision Framework request on this particular site – and that units vary in size to accommodate families. They also recommended making housing affordable for those earning 60% of median family income and renting 4% of commercial space at an affordable rate.

As commissioners and community members hoped for more affordable housing, Suttle insisted that was too much to ask, mainly because the developer is already transferring more than half of the property to the city in the form of parks. and roads.

The question of who should pay for parks and roads has proven controversial. Although the plan was to fund road and park projects on the site through a tax increase reinvestment area, the commissioners voted to recommend that the developer pay for these public works instead of finance them through future property taxes in a TIRZ. “This essentially ensures that no TIF, TIRZ or other taxpayer funding is needed,” the commissioner Grayson Cox said.

The developer only agreed to fund some improvements to the park, but not as much as the commission recommended. Suttle said in December that the developer was unable to fund all of the park and road improvements and that the project would not work without TIRZ funding.

Although the city council approved a TIRZ for the South Central Waterfront area last year, there is still uncertainty when – or even if – Council will decide to divert increased property tax revenues to fund infrastructure projects.

The programming of the park was another important issue. The commission recommended that the developer create a two-year programming plan despite objections from some that the Parks and Recreation Department should be in charge of programming. Proponents of developer-controlled programming wanted to avoid forcing the Parks Department to spend more of its already limited resources.

Other successful amendments included creating three lanes on Barton Springs Road instead of the proposed four, requiring a bat education center and limiting the reflectivity of glass on buildings to protect birds. .

The PUD will be presented to the Board for final approval in the coming months, although no date has yet been set. Council may adopt as many or as few of the Planning Commission amendments as it wishes.

Suttle said if the Council adopted all of the commission’s recommendations, the draft would not be in pencil. “But we’re going to try to push and pull on various things and try to accommodate everything,” he said.

Courtesy of 305 South Congress PUD via City of Austin.

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