Residents concerned about planned mixed-use development

Neighbors say traffic already gets backed up around the proposed development, but the developer has a plan that hopefully will keep traffic moving.

AUSTIN -- Some residents in Central Austin are concerned about a plan to build a mixed-use development on 75 acres of land at 45th Street and Bull Creek Road.

Homeowners say living in that area means traffic is part of life, but Grayson Cox said the pay off is a peaceful backyard, with a welcome surprise on the other side of his backyard fence. Cox showed KVUE News a large, open space on the other side.

"When it's cooler, I mean this area is just gorgeous," said Cox. "It's blanketed with wildflowers, you've got the heritage oak grove right here."

The Texas Department of Transportation used to own the land and planned to eventually turn it into a cemetery, but the state decided to sell the acreage instead. It first offered the land to the City of Austin. When the city didn't purchase it, a developer did, with plans to turn it into The Grove at Shoal Creek, a mixed-use development with businesses, parks, apartments and houses.

"Our goal is to provide not only truly affordable housing but what I call 'missing middle housing.' I think it's a term that's used in the industry to really service people that want to live centrally but can't buy a $600,000 house," said Garrett Martin, co-owner of The Grove at Shoal Creek.

Members of the Bull Creek Road Coalition (BCRC), which is made up of the seven neighborhood associations around the property, say they support the overall idea of developing the land, but they have three concerns. They want more open park space and less density.

"The zoning application that the developer submitted includes buildings up to six stories, and maybe even seven stories tall. I don't think anyone was really expecting a scale that large when you consider that this property is really sandwiched between single family subdivisions," Cox said.

The BCRC is also fearful of what the development will do to traffic.

"We have a hard enough time; our neighbors to the north have a hard enough time getting in and out of their communities and their driveways. So we're really, really concerned that that's just going to get exponentially worse with the massive scale that the development is currently being proposed for," Cox said.

To address some of the concerns, the developer cut back on the amount of office space from 350,000 square feet to 225,000. Staff said that will help decrease peak hour traffic congestion. They also decreased the number of homes planned for the development from 1,515 to a little less than 1,200. The developer is also proposing upgrades to the intersections of Bull Creek Road at 45th Street and Bull Creek Road at Jackson Avenue before construction starts on the homes. Unlike other road improvement projects associated with developments, staff with The Grove at Shoal Creek are offering to fully fund and construct the upgrades at no cost to the city.

Cox, a transportation engineer, said the proposed intersection improvements will help, but thinks more needs to be done. The BCRC made modifications to the developer's plan and will meet with them in September to discuss options. Both parties said they are looking forward to working with each other and are hopeful they can collaborate to create a space neighbors are pleased with.

The city is still in the process of zoning the property and approving the plan. Developers said they hope to have the land zoned by the end of the year so that construction can begin next spring or summer.


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