Austin: Long Awaited Mixed Use Campus Project Gets Nod from City
Feature Illustration: An early concept of the towers of Austin Viie that were to face the U.S. Highway 183 frontage road.
by Art Benavidez
Austin (Travis County) — A mixed use, commercial campus development that has long been planned finally received approval by the Austin City Council last week.
Council rezoned 109.65 acres of a property that is to be known as Austin Viie, 3443 Ed Bluestein Boulevard, from limited industrial services district zoning to limited industrial services-planned development area district zoning.
Austin Viie will be located on part of a 228-acre mixed industrial site that previously housed the Freescale/Motorola campus from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Formerly known as the Eightfold campus, the site was once pitched by the city as a possible home for the Amazon HQ2.
The property is mostly unoccupied with few tenants, according to city documents. Austin Viie will be located along the east side of Ed Bluestein Boulevard between the Colorado River and FM 969.
The developer of the property is Adam Zarafshani who created the special entity 3443Zen Garden LP to own the land, which he purchased in 2016.
It is unclear, however, whether City Council’s action comes in time to salvage Zarafshani’s plans, since his partnership with a Canadian investor soured last year and the property was to have been sold at auction in bankruptcy court two months ago; see the Austin Business Journal’s Sept. 9 article “Old Motorola site in Austin Headed for Bankruptcy Auction.”
The proposed building parameters for Austin Viie.
Zarafshani was requesting several building conditions regarding the campus development that the city went along with. Among these were: (1) permission to reduce the parking and loading area by 50%; (2) Building B of the current campus won’t exceed 160 feet in height during redevelopment; (3) all other buildings east of Semiconductor Drive will be no greater than 120 feet tall.
Zarafshani also requested that buildings in the portion bounded by Ed Bluestein Boulevard, Technicenter Drive, Semiconductor Drive and Central Avenue would not exceed 400 feet (28 floors) and buildings on the remaining portion west of Semiconductor Drive, would not exceed 280 feet (17 floors) of height.
However, the Austin Planning Commission denied those requests and recommended that all other buildings on the property not exceed 120 feet of height. The commission said that this would still allow for the revitalization of the campus and that by increasing building heights and reducing parking requirements, the property will be able to provide a compact campus without requiring “a sea of parking and impervious cover.” There is a floodplain within the property.
Terrence L. Irion with the Austin based law firm Sprouse Shrader Smith PLLC represented Zarafshani and said that the redevelopment of the site would be for a high-tech employment center.
In a letter submitted to the city, Iron said that the entire master plan includes the development of additional land in close proximity to Austin Viie for high density, multifamily use. That phase will incorporate walkable and bikeable access to campus and reduce parking demand.
“We hope to partner with the City of Austin, CTRMA, Travis County and Cap Metro to transform this site into a vibrant hub of activity that will both support Austin’s short term goals for rail and high capacity bus lines impacting where residents will choose to live and work, as well as enhancing the site’s potential to reach Austin’s long term growth goals which favor compact growth capitalizing on land and infrastructure already in place,” Irion stated in his summer 2018 correspondence to the city.
“The Eightfold site sits along the planned expansion of US 183 into a 13 lane toll road and is linked by road, bikeway and future rail lines to nearby designated mixed-use corridors, including Met Center and Colony Park. Eightfold believes that this site has the potential to make a much larger impact on the sustainability and connectivity of Austin as a whole.”
According to the campus site map, the development of Austin Viie will take place in three phases. Phase I would be for the proposed redevelopment of the existing Motorola campus at a proposed 1,400,000 square feet. Phase II would consist of the building five new office towers at a proposed 2,950,00 square feet. Phase III will include buildings for civil use, a market, urban farming and a music venue.
The revised master plan for Austin Viie.
Impervious cover of the site would be at 80%. However, Austin Planning Commission recommended the rezoning in January of this year with the consideration that impervious cover not exceed 60%.
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.