An enormous development plan for Oak Hill in Southwest Austin has recently announced some changes to the original plans in an effort to gain support from city leaders and nearby neighborhood groups. Located near the intersection of Highway 290 and Highway 71, the development has previously run into concerns about zoning, noise, traffic, and impervious coverage. The developers are hoping the new plans will overcome some, if not all, of those objections.
According to a recent story in the Community Impact Newspaper, there are actually five different landowners in the area who may be a part of the future Town Center in Oak Hill. Whether they can work together to accomplish the development is still under question. Just north of Highway 71, the land is owned by Kimco Realty Corporation (where H-E-B is currently located). Directly across Highway 71, the land is owned by Highland Resources, Inc. (the site of the newly opened Goodwill Industries and Planet Fitness in the building formerly occupied by Albertsons). South of that tract, along the west side of Highway 290 another parcel is currently owned by H-E-B. Further south, the fourth tract is owned by Austin Community College. The final slice is south of the intersection with 1826 and is owned by West Park PUD. It is within this final piece that recent changes to development plans were announced.
Initially, there was some discussion about incorporating all five tracts into a master-planned retail/residential development, but chances of that appear to be low, given the various levels of commitment to the project that have been shown so far. The most aggressive in their planning is the West Park PUD.
A story in the Austin Business Journal indicates that Buffalo Equities Ltd., owned by Rudy Belton, is focused on making changes to the plans for West Park PUD acceptable to the City of Austin and welcomed by neighborhood groups. One of the biggest challenges may be overcoming opposition by local environmental groups who will steadfastly defend limits to the amount of impervious coverage allowed in the development. That’s one reason why the recent changes reduced the amount of impervious coverage (land where paving and building prevents water from returning into the earth) from 40% as originally proposed, down to 25% – a number often targeted by area environmentalists as the upper limit that will be acceptable. In order to achieve enough square footage to satisfy the developer, the decrease in impervious coverage is countered by a request to increase the height limits of the proposed buildings, which is currently capped at 60 feet for that area.
A story in the Austin American-Statesman explained that the 130-acre site of West Park PUD is within the Barton Springs watershed. Past experience has found that the watershed is one of the strongest priorities for environmental protection groups.
The greatest concerns stem from the potential traffic congestion that 1 million square feet of development would add to an already congested area. The Y in Oak Hill is notorious for its traffic issues and, while talk has been ongoing on how to fix the problem, no firm plans are in place on how to relieve traffic in the area. In order to gain support from the nearby residents, the traffic issue will have to be addressed.
To read the article in the Community Impact Newspaper, click here.
To read the article from the Austin Business Journal, click here.
To read the article from the Austin American-Statesman, click here.