Hey Austin, maybe a 5-story building next to a train station isn’t the move – TOWERS

A view of the project from over a year ago, when the art gallery space around the corner served as the sole retail outlet – since the design of the building has changed to add more, this rendering may not be entirely faithful to the final product. Image: Moore JH 502, LLC/Andersson-Wise

A five-story office project in a fast-growing northwest neighborhood of downtown Austin has recently entered the early stages of construction, as you may have already noticed from the various fences now erected around the northwest corner of 15th west and Streets of San Antonio. As described in our coverage over a year ago, the project will replace an approximately quarter-acre surface parking lot at 502 West 15th Street with a structure developed by a local private equity firm Scenic Capital Advisors and designed by the Austin Architecture Studio Anderson / Sage, containing three levels of office space over two stories of structured parking, the first digging partially underground to keep the building below its 60-foot height limit. (More on that later.)

When we last looked at the project, its request for a waiver related to its street surface parking screening was unanimously denied by the Planning Commission – we explain it all in excruciating detail here, but basically the proposed building The retail tenant on the ground floor of an art gallery was not large enough to screen all parking or provide what city staff considered acceptable pedestrian use on the ground floor. of the road. We were generally on board with this decision, and while the design details are not all public, it appears the plans for the building now approved by the city have been modified to contain two additional small retail spaces on the main floor. floors facing both West 15th Street and San Antonio Street on either side of the art gallery on the corner – they seem just about perfect for a cafe or similar small-scale use.

A ground level site plan for the approved office building at 502 West 15th Street. We’ve highlighted the two new retail spaces added to the final version of the project to comply with the city’s code for screening its parking structure. Image: Dunaway Associates

The project now seems to be doing a bit more for the pedestrian life of its intersection, and it’s certainly an improvement over the car park – so why aren’t we happy? Well damn, that’s it The music of the Land Development Code! Austin’s perpetual failure to update its old development regulations goes a long way to blocking bad land use patterns here, and we can’t help but see all five floors of this project (three, really, if you don’t count parking) as further proof that this city’s many height restrictions – even those inside the city center, be careful – leave money and opportunities on the table.

Image: Moore JH 502, LLC/Andersson-Wise

Looking at the different areas of downtown fully eligible for the downtown density bonus program, it looks like the 502 tract can max out at 120 feet while participating in the program, or about 10 stories, probably not enough density to justify the additional cost linked to compliance with the various eligibility conditions for the DDBP. Otherwise, building height is limited to 60 feet below the property’s DMU zoning, despite the site’s location directly facing West 15th Street’s main traffic corridor – or the fact much more overwhelming than the light rail station” Government Center” on Orange from Project Connect The line is ready to be built one block from here.

In the end, it is ultimately the responsibility of the city – not that of private developers, who will always seek to maximize profit and minimize risk – to incentivize more density around these transit nodes. before the construction of the stations. Otherwise, by the time Project Connect finally cuts the ribbon, many of these prime locations for transit-oriented development will instead host permanent policy failures. Shit, man.

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