As of Oct. 17, Spire’s plans include building 100,000 square feet of retail, 850,000 square feet of offices, and 610 apartments and townhomes, said attorney Stephen Drenner with The Drenner Group PC, the law firm hired by Spire to assist with the planning. The office complex, called Austin Oaks, is located off Executive Center Drive.
The Austin Oaks redevelopment is one of at least four projects considered by Austin City Council on Spicewood Springs Road in the past year. In August, City Council denied a rezoning request to turn the undeveloped site at 4920 Spicewood Springs Road into commercial office space. Construction is also underway on Spicewood Springs on a residential property as well as the new headquarters for the Austin Board of Realtors.
Live, work, play densityTo create strategic density in areas outside of downtown, Drenner said plans at the Austin Oaks site call for low-rise housing and high-rise office buildings, the tallest of which is proposed for 17 stories, or 225 feet high, in an attempt to lessen the number of buildings and parking structures and to protect more trees.
“If not here, where? That is a difficult choice,” Drenner said. “Imagine Austin was supposed to help us answer that question. The fundamentals are that you can’t just have density downtown. … This is intended to be a mixed-use project—the live, work, play idea, which I think is sound planning. Where is there a better place to put it?”
Imagine Austin is the city’s comprehensive plan approved by City Council in 2012. The plan outlines the vision for the city’s development and growth.
Austin Oaks was built in the late 1970s and early 1980s and comprises 12 office buildings. The property sits on 31.37 acres of land and is the 11th-largest multitenant office complex in Austin, with 445,322 square feet of office space, according to Spire.
To achieve Spire’s vision, the site would need to be rezoned from general office to a planned unit development, or PUD, which has a unique set of rules negotiated between the city and the developer, the city’s Planning Manager Jerry Rusthoven said.
A PUD, Rusthoven said, gives developers more flexibility in what can be done with a property. In exchange for City Council granting PUD zoning, the developer must provide “superior development,” or significant benefits to the area where the new development is proposed, he said.
For example, Spire could provide several improvements to help mitigate traffic in the Spicewood Springs and MoPac area by adding a new traffic light, changing the timing of an existing traffic light or adding a turn lane.
If the project is approved by City Council and traffic improvements are made by the developer, intersections in the area could function better in the future than if the project is rejected, Drenner said, citing the proposed development’s traffic impact analysis.
Responsible developmentHowever, increased traffic and the city’s lack of a traffic plan for Spicewood Springs Road concerns some residents. READ MORE