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Shenanigans in North Loop

(Background: Endeavor is proposing a vertical mixed-use project on the old Howard Nursery tract, frontage on Koenig Lane - i.e. FM2222, a major arterial roadway. Current zoning would allow strip retail with nothing more than administrative approval. Endeavor's proposal appears quite nice and is even supported by some folks in this neighborhood, but a group of single-family-uber-alles reactionaries has popped up and is trying to stir up opposition to the project).

The author of ILoveNorthLoop has characterized the comments below as "rants" in supporting his decision not to accept comments. (He previously was a bit more civil in email - claiming that he only wanted comments from 'stakeholders' -- although that requirement is listed nowhere on the site nor anywhere the site has been publicized). Anyways, you make the call. Follow the links to get to the articles; my comments in blockquote:

In reference to this post about a 'better location' for this type of project a bit further down the street:

The problem with this retort is that it pretends that we have the authority to take that “better-suited” parcel from its current owners and somehow deliver it to Endeavor for development. We don’t; we have to live in a world where the best choice if we were playing SimCity isn’t always available.

And in reference to this one called "Tell Us What You Think":

Anything that increases housing supply in an area well-served by bicycle routes and bus routes is a positive thing for our city. The fact that Endeavor also wants to make this VMU makes it even more of a win, because it potentially provides services which might induce more of you in the single-family homes to walk to shop/eat/whatever.

The idea that without Endeavor, you’re somehow going to end up with a paradise of small local shops with no homes there is just ludicrous. The next best use of the property would be as strip retail - which generates more, and more annoying, traffic than an apartment-plus-retail development would, without providing the pedestrian amenities.

Luckily, I now see that some people in the neighborhood have commented in a similar vein - so my earlier fear that this would be RG4N part deux, as austinpoliticalreport hoped appears to be overblown. As my former colleague Patrick Goetz tried to tell me, there are some responsible folks up there after all. Those responsible folks had better keep cracking, though, since the Chronicle will probably be jumping all over this in minutes to tell us how noble these neighbors are being in keeping that tract safe for future strip-mall development (one-story retail/fast food outlets surrounded by acres of parking lot).

Update:

The vote was 79-78 to oppose the variance. Note the following comment on ILoveNorthLoop from the celebratory post:

I don’t understand how you could possibly consider this a success. I attended last night planning to oppose based upon this website and the rumors. After listening last night, it was clear that very little of this website is accurate. You have managed to damage the Parkers & Howard’s. You have chased off a fine developer with a plan that was consistent with our Neighborhood Plan. You have fractured the neighborhood by distorting the facts. Do you really think we can now somehow control what happens on this or any other site with CS-MU zoning in our hood? We have just sent the strongest possible signal to the development community, which is “don’t bother talking to us”. Trust me, they no longer will. Shame on you.

The NA president himself indicated that some people want Endeavor to come back and talk some more, but I doubt very much whether anything good will result - since this promise they supposedly made to not pursue the project if the NA opposed the variance would likely come into play. Keep your eyes open.

Updated update: As DSK points out in comments, the comment quoted above has now been removed by the ILoveNorthLoop guy, despite his claim to only be removing comments from non-'stakeholders' (the comment is clearly from somebody in the neighborhood). One wonders why he just didn't make the site subject to manual moderation if he only wanted positive comments to stay.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Urban Design , When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Comments

So in 1999 Austin supposedly faced an "Austin or Houston, You Decide" moment. not only did the city pick "Houston", but since then the real life Houston has actually built effective rail-based mass transit lines (and is building more), and has built more intown densification.
Meanwhile Austin seems to be slipping even FURTHER. We're past the "Austin or Houston" choice now and basically at the point where Austin needs to decide if it's going to force low-density everywhere (and steadily consuming more environmentally sensitive land) or if it's going to allow any responsible infill at all.

Jen has been telling me all about this and I even gave her my 2 cents about how terrible (not really) traffic would be in the neighborhood with this development. We even had dinner last night with the prez of the neighborhood group and he told us alllll about it. It sounds like such a fantastic plan considering the alternatives, which by the way, I don't think any of the opposing neighbors realize doesn't include "do nothing." Apparently they voted on the variance today. Good luck to them!

Looks like the comment you cite is no longer there. Whoever is running that site is a real Class Act (translation: making the neighborhood look pretty bad).

I'm really disappointed in the outcome. But, gauging the comments of the residents, the main sticking point in a close vote (79-78 opposed to granting the height variance) is that the garage in the plan is aligned to empty out to Link and 56th St, a small residential side street. I have hope, perhaps naive, that Endeavor can realign the garage to empty to Koenig, which might turn a close vote against into a vote for.

heyzeus,

A project which emptied out only on Koenig would not be technically feasible - and, in fact, if this project is blocked, the standard strip-mall fast-food crap design would be allowed to exit onto the neighborhood streets with nothing but administrative review.

Oh, it would be feasible. It would just require the developer to forfeit a Koenig-fronting retail slot to allow garage traffic to Koenig.

And yes I'm aware you wouldn't be able to make a left turn onto Koenig. But all of the retail customers will have to make a U-turn at Ave F as well to go west on Koenig.

heyzeus,

My understanding was that the current plan has entrance and exits on both Koenig and the neighborhood street(s). IE, the Koenig path was already planned, but is insufficient in and of itself.

And that model, by the way, is common - the 31 Guadalupe VMU has curb cuts on both 31st and Guadalupe. The Villas have curb cuts on both 29th and Fruth. Etc.

Asking for entrances only on Koenig is perpetuating the suburban model rather than the grid preferred by urbanists. Forcing everybody, even neighborhood drivers, to head out to the major arterial roadway is a step backwards towards suburban sprawl, not a step forwards.

Regardless of the "commonness of the model" for a VMU project to empty its vehicle traffic onto sidewalkless neighborhood side streets, or whether that is more urban than suburban, my point is that, for the people in North Loop that voted against the variance, this was a very common reason given for their decision. A different alignment of that garage would have resulted in a lot of the "no" votes being "yeses."

Yes, that's true, but I don't see how a purely 2222 alignment would be feasible given the lack of median cuts - nor would I expect such a cut to be added anywhere along here. And the sidewalklessness of the neighborhood streets would be a good bargaining tool here - for instance, I would wager that with this VMU project, sidewalks would be put on the streets surrounding the project at a bare minimum, while a standard strip mall project would likely NOT do it while STILL emptying onto those streets.

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