The owners of a longtime North Austin shopping center with one of the city’s most perpetually empty parking lots are currently weighing the possibilities of a denser redevelopment, according to a meeting of the Wooten Neighborhood Association earlier this month. The Anderson Square shopping center, located at the southwest corner of the interchange between Highway 183, West Anderson Lane, and North Lamar Boulevard, currently includes tenants like Hobby Lobby and Planet Fitness.
Though seemingly successful, none of these businesses generate enough traffic to collectively put a dent in the site’s remarkably enormous seven-acre parking lot, a field of pavement so comically vast and empty that a local company uses it for motorcycle training courses. You could show this video to urban planning students:
The approximately 16-acre site has been owned since the early 2000s by an LLC connected to major local land investor Jimmy Nassour, although another group owns a small piece of the center housing a shuttered National Tire and Battery shop at the far north end of the tract, which doesn’t appear to be involved in this potential redevelopment at the moment. A presentation to the Wooten Neighborhood Association by land use consultant Alice Glasco at the group’s May 8 meeting described a plan by the owners to obtain a zoning change adding a Planned Development Area (PDA) overlay to the site, which would allow a taller mixed-use development at the center with a maximum height of up to 250 feet — but the owners say they’re currently planning a 120-foot project, which is about 10 to 12 floors.
Owners of this old power center are looking for a zoning change to build up to 250ft! The adjacent HW is not ideal, but directly across the HW is an active transit center with a future rail cxn.
— YIMBYLAND (@YIMBYLAND) May 17, 2023
According to the owners, any redevelopment here would need to wait two or three years for all the leases at the center to expire, so there’s likely going to be a long tail on this project with plenty of public and city input along the way. Although this site didn’t top our poll earlier this year as a contender for Brodie Oaksification, it definitely showed up in some survey responses due to the extreme visibility of its parking lot — and like the Brodie Oaks project, any reduction of current impervious cover represents a win for the local ecology. It’s sort of remarkable that anyone in Austin tries to micromanage the development of, say, a single apartment building on environmental grounds when something like the Anderson Square parking lot still exists.
So how the hell did all that parking get there in the first place? The Anderson Square shopping center was originally built in 1968, replacing the former Longhorn Drive-In theater, with a new H-E-B grocer as its main tenant — so although we love H-E-B, you can blame the current state of the center on the wildly overparked development patterns of the midcentury era. The site was also home to a number of restaurants and department stores over the years, but as far as we can tell from looking at available satellite photos of the region, this parking lot has never filled up over the last five decades or so. Sounds like it’s high time we tried something else over here!