Neighbors worry about traffic with large new development

AUSTIN - The largest planned development ever in downtown Austin is generating lots of discussion centering on the property known as the Villas at Town Lake.

The developer of the area, the Sutton Company, is looking to turn the land into a new development. Next door, the Sutton Company will be building Waller Park Place featuring high-rises, office buildings and a hotel.

The company said under current city entitlements, it can build up to 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space including officer, hotel, retail, and residential units on the site with zero height restrictions.

Still, there are concerns by some in the neighboring communities that another high-rise could add too much density to an already congested area.

“Ultimately what you have is two of the largest buildings going on to one of the smallest sites, with one of the fewest ingress and egress options in downtown,” said Landon Turner who is part of the Rainey Neighborhood Association.

The Sutton Company counters that the city council voted to re-zone the property in 2004 to as a central business district which allows for the highest density allowable for creating residences/mixed use facilities in downtown Austin.

While Turner said he isn’t against the development in and of itself, they are against the changes to the covenant until city leaders prove there’s a plan in place to address traffic. Basically, Turner said, the developer and city are trying to put the "cart before the horse" by allowing more growth without planning for all the growth on the roads.

“What our argument is, is that the city has not provided an adequate infrastructure master plan that was promised to the Rainey neighborhood,” said Turner, who is also the general manager of the Shore Condominiums located next to the Villas at Town Lake. “We are so hard to get to and we are essentially blocked in.”

The Sutton Company said that during the site development process, the city required that a traffic impact analysis be completed and that the development plans provide mitigation for the traffic.

According to the Sutton Company, the primary cause of traffic in the area are the bars on Rainey Street. The Sutton Company told KVUE that a 1,000 square foot bar “generates approximately the same amount of traffic as 100 residential units” and that a parking garage could help with much of the traffic problems in the area.

Turner said that he has presented his concerns to Austin Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Tovo. The Mayor Pro Tem told KVUE that her staff is examining what plans are available, if any, to address the road congestion and safety at the site of the new development.

“When I go down there in the evenings and see lots of people in the streets interacting with cars and the way they are, it is a safety situation at this point,” said Tovo.

Tovo said city council will likely delay the request for a covenant change until sometime in October.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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