The level of hyperbole from opponents of the One Two East project is reaching new heights.
The Austin Planning Commission is scheduled next month to hear a case where the developer of the 2.8-acre site, next to Franklin Barbeque, is asking for a zoning variance to increase the increase the building to 185 feet from 150 feet. Council Member Ora Houston — who opposes the variance — said she sees the as a “brick wall” that blocks out the Eastside community.
One Two East proposes two towers, with 472 apartments, of which half will be dedicated to senior living. In addition, rather than sit on a parking garage pedestal as is typical, it was revealed in September at the Design Commission the developer is talking with HEB, Randalls/Safeway and Sprouts to occupy a 60,000 square foot grocery/pharmacy on the ground floor. In fact, the inclusion of grocer/pharmacy would be an obligation if the zoning change is granted.
If you drive around, you’ll see nearby homes have taken to putting up yard signs and launching a website (nomore12east.com) to stop the project. However earnest their hearts, their logic seems faulty.
As project architect Brett Rhode pointed out to the Design Commission in September, current zoning allows for the development of a single 150-foot with an obscenely ugly, exposed parking pedestal with no street-grade retail.
Here’s a contrast of what is developable under current zoning, atop a rendering of the proposed project, taken from a screenshot of the Design Commission archive tape:
It’s blurry, but you get the idea. I see a proposed project that seeks to integrate into the community with a walkable, affordable grocer is the mark of a project that should be allowed a zoning variance to do so.
It is clear from watching the presentation to the Design Commission that extensive conversations have gone on between the developer and community members. The developers even said they’d thrown $1 million in a pot to help neighbors being priced out due to rising property values. Where the impasse is that resulted in the neighborhood association going to battle after 10 months of negotiating is unknown, because a reasonable person would conclude that redeveloping the site (pictured below) is a good thing.
Given that, I can’t foresee community forces kyboshing a project that was within the current zoning, if that is what the developers opted to do should they lose the variance fight. Current zoning allows for a building with ZERO community benefits, and purely profit driven. One Two East as proposed at 180 feet provides a clear community benefit to a community that faces changes in their way of life due to Austin’s explosive growth whether the site is developed at 150-feet as allowed or 180-feet.
One Two East is just the most recent development to face Austin’s neighborhood political machine. The defunct proposal for the East Side Hotel along E. Cesar Chavez lost to fierce objection from nearby residents concerned about the appropriateness of the project and risks of overflow parking into the neighborhood. Instead, the neighborhood is going to get a 260 unit apartment building. Was it a good trade off for the neighborhood? That remains to be seen, but I’m skeptical. I’m also skeptical the vitriol towards One Two East’s enhanced design isn’t short-sighted.