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Austin: City Postpones Approval of Long Delayed Officer Tower

Feature Photo: An artist’s rendering of the proposed Schlotzky’s Office Tower. Image: City of Austin. 

Posted 11-13-2020

by Art Benavidez

Austin (Travis County) — The second reading by the City Council to rezone a long-suffering developers’ plan for an officer tower on a former Schlotzky’s restaurant site was postponed at Thursday’s meeting to Dec. 3.

City Council approved the request on first reading on Sept. 17. The delay was at the request of city planning staff.

The developers seek approval to rezone the property from general commercial services-vertical mixed use building to a planned unit development (PUD). City documents show the new structure would be built at an angle, and a four-level parking garage.

There has been persistent opposition from neighboring stakeholders over the proposed height of 96 feet, which far exceeds the 60-foot height limit of the Waterfront Overlay Ordinance that regulates development on the south bank of the Colorado River.

Some support has come from local artist organizations because they will be given 1,000 square feet of space on the bottom floor for an art gallery at no cost. This was a concession negotiated by Council Member Ann Kitchen.

VBX reported on the project in August of 2019, at the time the city was reviewing plans for a seven-story office structure, with ground-level commercial space on a spot on where the Austin-born sandwich chain has an existing local flagship building.

The property in question is 1.260 acres and is located at 218 South Lamar Boulevard in the city’s Zilker neighborhood, just south of the Colorado River, next to ZACH Theatre.

The South Lamar project has been in the works for some time and their concept has gone through several iterations. The present property owners, Michael and William Pfluger, initially asked the city in the spring of 2018 to rezone the parcel to PUD to allow for more vertical construction.

As currently envisioned, the PUD will allow creation of a mixed use space connecting South Lamar Boulevard to the Zach Theatre and PARD parkland. The development would provide a ground floor plaza adjacent to the park and streetscape improvements along Lamar Boulevard.

The PUD would provide pedestrian-oriented uses on the ground floor, upper story office uses, underground vehicular parking, charging stations for electric vehicles, landscaping with 100% native and adapted plants, rainwater harvesting and more.  .

The project would also contribute onsite and adjacent transportation benefits as well as contribute to offsite improvements.

The development would achieve a three-star rating under the Austin Green Building program by providing additional bike parking for tenants and others. 

The Pflugers also propose limiting administrative office space to 50% of the ground floor, and reducing the front and street setbacks to five feet.  

The property owners are proposing the following items to meet PUD requirements:

  •  The rooftop deck would be made available by reservation to local nonprofits.
  • Street yard landscaping will exceed minimum code requirements by 35%.  Landscape area soil depth will exceed minimum code requirements by 6 inches.
  •  Contribute a minimum of $20,000 (not to exceed $27,800) toward a planned Cap Metro bus stop upgrade adjacent to the site and $25,000 toward bike track.

    Aerial view of proposed site: Courtesy of City of Austin.

  • Enhance supplemental zones along Lamar including:
  •  7’ planting zone, 10’ bike track, and15’ landscape /sidewalk zone.
  • 42 caliper inches of trees.
  •  Adopt an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan
  • 5,000 square foot public plaza at street level
  • Provide onsite Art in Public Spaces. The development will provide a 1,000 square foot artist gallery free of charge to a local nonprofit. The gallery will be provided adjacent to the plaza space.
  • Provide a direct pedestrian connection between this site and the PARD-owned park and related facilities to the north and west.
  • Exceed bike parking by 120%.
  •  No onsite residential will be provided. The property owners will pay a fee-in-lieu toward housing in the area at a rate determined by Neighborhood Housing and Conservation Department (NHCD)
  •  Participate in the purple pipe reclaimed water system when available; double piping until then.
  • Four ADA accessible shower facilities
  • Parking on this site will be a community benefit by adding parking for nearby park and theater users. This will not be free or reserved, it will be regular paid parking.

Austin-based Generational Commercial Properties’ 2018 site plans asked for 95 feet of height, but considering the mechanical plant atop, the total height of the building would have been 110 feet. 

The developer has since been working out height, massing, scale and other project details and current sites calculations have a total site area of 54,890 square feet; a total floor-area-ratio of 194,860 SF; 21,956 SF of underground parking; 7,363 SF impervious cover; 23,756 square feet of ground floor area; and 236,940 square feet underground parking. 

The site plan was produced by Austin firm Runa Workshop, the project architect. Austin-based GarzaEMC is listed as the engineer.

VBX Project ID: 2020-7E93

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By |2020-11-13T14:58:48-06:00November 13th, 2020|Construction Preview, Feature Story|

About the Author:

Art Benavidez (Construction News Reporter, Central Texas) is a seasoned journalist with over 15-years of experience in writing breaking news and in-depth features at the local level. He honed his research and reporting skills in newspapers and magazines throughout South and West Texas along with expertise in crafting digital content as Managing Editor of New Image Marketing Research Corporation. Benevidez is a Texas native and graduate of UT-RGV.

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