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The City has made progress on the vision of East 11th Street as a visitor-oriented destination consisting of three to five story buildings that provide entertainment, retail and office uses that attract people to this metropolitan area. The vision of East 12th Street as a mixed-use area with combined office, retail and residential uses, which serves the immediate area, has been partially achieved. Through historic preservation of culturally significant structures and several small businesses receiving façade improvement grants dramatically improve the look of the corridor.

Development Strategy

The City through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process, has contracted with Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. (EPS) to prepare an East 11th and 12th Street Development Strategy. EPS has been working with area stakeholders to prepare a plan that responds to the considerable opportunities and challenges facing development within these two corridors.

The Development Strategy will provide a framework for the development of a mixture of commercial, retail and residential component in central east Austin. The assessment of both the current market demand and projections of future demand are critical to developing short-term and long-term strategies.

Scroll down to see 11 key issues identified by stakeholders with analysis conducted by EPS.

Topics

The City of Austin wants your input on the DRAFT Summary of Findings and Recommendations for the East 11th and 12th Street Development Strategy. The City is taking public comments on the draft through February 13, 2012. The EPS Team recognizes the potential of the Study Area to enhance livability in East Austin generally, and to participate more fully in the economic vitality of the City and region.  We believe the vision for the community – a mixed-use environment of moderate scale that offers community services and employment opportunities and respects the adjacent residential neighborhoods, as reflected in the various planning documents and regulations – represents an appropriate and achievable future for the Study Area.  As such, no major overhaul to the vision is recommended.  However, numerous steps can be taken that can help realize that positive vision. The EPS Team recommends efforts be undertaken to facilitate desired revitalization of the East 11th and 12th Streets Study Area. To read and comment on the 9 Recommendations, scroll down below "Analysis" and "Issues" until you see headers labeled "Recommendation."

0 Responses

The City has made progress on the vision of East 11th Street as a visitor-oriented destination consisting of three to five story buildings that provide entertainment, retail and office uses that attract people to this metropolitan area. The vision of East 12th Street as a mixed-use area with combined office, retail and residential uses, which serves the immediate area, has been partially achieved. Through historic preservation of culturally significant structures and several small businesses receiving façade improvement grants dramatically improve the look of the corridor. Development Strategy The City through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process, has contracted with Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. (EPS) to prepare an East 11th and 12th Street Development Strategy. EPS has been working with area stakeholders to prepare a plan that responds to the considerable opportunities and challenges facing development within these two corridors. The Development Strategy will provide a framework for the development of a mixture of commercial, retail and residential component in central east Austin. The assessment of both the current market demand and projections of future demand are critical to developing short-term and long-term strategies. Scroll down to see 11 key issues identified by stakeholders with analysis conducted by EPS.

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Several planning documents govern development in the Study Area, including the Urban Renewal Plan, two NCCDs, and others. In some cases, the regulations are inconsistent among these documents, and the process of interpreting their requirements is exacerbated due to multiple modifications to these documents over the years. In many but not all cases, the development regulations have shifted from being highly prescriptive (e.g., this lot should be developed with this many commercial square feet and this many housing units) to less prescriptive (e.g., this lot should be developed for mixed-use). Where proposed projects do not conform to the most prescriptive regulations among the documents, the process for approval has proven time-consuming and costly, as it requires actions by the URB, Planning Commission, and potentially City Council. Development could be facilitated through reconciliation of the various documents and continuation of the general trend to adhere to the vision for development without being highly prescriptive. What do you think?

8 Responses

Civil Engineer from the Study Team assessed the capacity of existing infrastructure to meet the vision for the area. Current conditions do not indicate deficiencies/failures for existing development, but assessment also included analysis of demand from development scenarios on vacant and underutilized parcels (up to 680,000 sq ft of new buildings). For future development:-- Electrical systems do not appear to require any upgrades for future development.-- Water system on E. 12th Street should be adequate in most cases, but some North-South cross streets may require minor upgrades where lines are 6" or smaller.-- Wastewater system will need upgrades between Chicon and Poquito, and may need upgrades west of San Bernard.-- Stormwater system east of San Bernard may need some upgrades for new development, but no current needs are identified.Infrastructure is typically improved in response to demand generated by development proposals and funded by developers, but could be considered as a proactive public"investment" to facilitate development through cost and time reductions. What do you think?

9 Responses

Electrical and communications poles and wires create visual clutter and may impinge on developability of upper floor uses on certain sites due to proximity (i.e., views from the windows). Relocation of electrical transmission lines may be difficult/expensive due to significant easements required, and these lines are also higher above the street and have more space between poles. Relocation of electrical distribution lines and communications lines would significantly improve the aesthetics of E. 12th Street, and enhance the developability of vacant and underutilized sites. Undergrounding can be funded through property owner/developer contribution or City funding. What are your thoughts?

11 Responses

Roadways and sidewalks are serviceable, but not of similar quality or character to those on other commercial/mixed-use corridors such as E. 11th Street and E. 7th Street.Enhancements to streetscape would improve the aesthetics of E. 12th Street and, if publicly funded, could relieve a cost that can facilitate feasibility for new development.Use of the existing design regulations under Subchapter E may not be appropriate for all properties; a streetscape design plan that unifies the "look and feel" of E. 12th Street could be of benefit in "placemaking" and attracting investment. What do you think?

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1) The Study Area does have a high concentration of affordable housing units. Fully 22% of all housing units in the Study Area ZIP Code (78702) are in various affordable housing programs, compared to just 6% for the City overall. Still, in the 2010 Census, roughly 80% of all households in the Study Area neighborhoods earned below the City's median income of $74,000. The demand for affordable housing is high in this area as it is throughout Austin. 2) The prospects for retail development in the Study Area would be enhanced by increases in local spending potential, and occupants of market-rate housing will have higherincomes to support such businesses. A focus on mixed use, mixed-income developments, combined with net growth in the number of households, can help to make the Study Area a more attractive location and increase the supportable square footage for retailers. Tell us what you think.

9 Responses

Since 2000, the neighborhoods surrounding the Study Area have become significantly more affluent, and property values have increased dramatically. At the same time, the minority population, seniors, and family households have been in decline. Policies such as the Homestead Preservation Ordinance alone have not yet proven to be effective tools to retain long-time residents in these neighborhoods. Potential responses within the Study Area would be the incorporation of some affordable housing into mixedincome projects, prioritization of housing suitable for families, and provision of housing for seniors. What are your thoughts?

10 Responses

The Austin Police Department recognizes the crime issues around E. 12th Street and Chicon, and has taken several steps to address the issues. Such steps have included the enforcement of trespassing/loitering restrictions on private property, closure of "problem" properties, and creation of a Walking Beat Unit followed by a Tactical Support Team for the area. Potential future activities could include the installation of security cameras as have proven effective in other areas of the City, but the community has not yet achieved consensus regarding such installation. Improvement of these crime issues will be critical to achieving revitalization of this section of the Study Area. How should we approach this?

11 Responses

Most of the retail and office space in the Study Area is occupied by locally-owned businesses rather than regional or national businesses. Future development on sites occupied by these businesse may cause their displacement, and they may not be able to afford the rents required to support new construction. In some other development projects involving City land, development agreements have been created whereby the private developers of the land purchased from the City are required to offer a certain proportion of the retail space within those projects to locally-owned businesses. The City also offers several business assistance programs to provide financial and technical resources to assist local businesses. What do you think?

7 Responses

According to the market survey, most neighborhood residents travel well outside the Study Area for their groceries and daily goods and services. The attraction of a grocery store to the Study Area can have a uniquely positive impact on the retail and business prospects for the area, as such stores typically "anchor" commercial centers or districts that also provide other goods and services. Such a store would also significantly enhance the quality of life for neighborhood residents, many of whom are lower-income and may not have convenient access to high quality foods that are mostly available outside the neighborhood. Do you agree?

9 Responses

While some community parking has been provided on both East 11th and 12th Streets, other parking has been removed due to bike lane improvements on the limited right-of-way. Meeting all the parking demands of future projects through on-site structured parking would be costly, and may detract from project feasibility. "Tuck-in" parking -- surface spaces provided adjacent to the public right-of-way such as is provided in certain areas on E. 11th Street -- may provide a more cost-effective parking format, as could the provision of additional public parking resources that can be shared by future development projects. What are you thoughts?

8 Responses

There are numberous publicly-owned parcels in the Study Area parcels, typically acquired and improved with use of federal funding. Most of these parcels have yet to be developed, and represent development opportunities for the future, but also signify unrealized potential in the present. Near-term development of these sites would signify new investment, fill vacant parcels with active uses, and add to the demand for (and potentially supply of) desired commercial uses. Federal regulations affect the process for disposition and development of these parcels, including priorities for affordable housing projects. In cases where federal funding has been invested, factors such as repayment of federal funds must be considered if the sites are developed for uses not originally intended. These issues and other regulatory factors must be addressed in some cases in future development strategies. What solutions do you have in mind?

10 Responses

The NCCDs are the controlling zoning regulation for the Study Area.  However, the NCCDs indicate that developments must conform with the “Project Controls” for various parcels as outlined in the Urban Renewal Plan (URP), which was originally adopted in 1999 and has been modified five times thus far.  On parcels where the URP still has these Project Controls (many have been eliminated over the years), proposals that do not strictly conform to the parcel-specific descriptions of uses, amounts of development, etc., can trigger the need for multi-level project approvals even if those projects otherwise conform to the NCCD entitlements.  The community should re-confirm the importance of the remaining specific Project Controls, or else modify them in favor of more flexible requirements as already have been enacted on many development sites in the Study Area.  If such flexibility were created for those parcels, NCCD-conforming projects could be processed administratively, rather than requiring lengthy, costly, and uncertain review by the Urban Renewal Board, the Planning Commission, and the City Council.  In addition, the URP should be updated as a single consolidated document; presently, it is available as the original document plus five amendments, making it very difficult to navigate.

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In recent years, the City has upgraded infrastructure capacity and placed utilities underground in certain locations on 11thStreet, and also on East 7thStreet.  The removal of many poles and wires and improvement of the un-landscaped, utilitarian streetscape on East 12thStreet would signal the City’s support of the area, and improve its “look and feel” to attract new businesses and other development and community activity.  The EPS Team has estimated that these streetscape and undergrounding projects would have a combined cost of roughly $9 million.  In addition, wastewater infrastructure in certain areas of East 12thStreet may need replacement and upgrades to accommodate future development.  The EPS Team has estimated that these wastewater improvements would cost roughly $1 million.  This $10 million total funding also will help to improve the feasibility of new development and attract private investment by removing significant costs from projects’ financing needs. 

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The Study Area has no grocery store, is described as a “food desert,” and most community members indicate they travel well outside the neighborhood to get their groceries.  In addition to serving the community, a grocery store could anchor more extensive community retail and services.  As the area’s population has grown and increased in income levels, and as the residential and employee population of Downtown Austin continues to grow, a mid-sized grocery store should be increasingly feasible in the Study Area.  Staff resources should be devoted to pursuing such a tenant – potentially incorporated into a mixed-use development that takes advantage of the NCCD’s higher-density allowances – and financial incentives such as New Markets Tax Credits should be explored as necessary. 

2 Responses

Most of the businesses in the Study Area are small and locally owned, and may be susceptible to displacement as new development occurs, particularly if they are renting rather than owning their space.  Through the development solicitation process, all mixed-use or commercial projects on publicly-controlled sites should be strongly encouraged to provide at least 50 percent of commercial space for locally-owned businesses, and may be granted further preference if they also include some commercial space at lease rates below market-rates.

1 Responses

Market analysis indicates that the area has a comparatively high concentration of subsidized housing, relative to the rest of the City, but that seniors and modest-income families have been moving out of the neighborhood, in part due to rising housing costs or taxes.  New development should be encouraged to provide some units large enough for families, including a goal that 10 percent of new units on currently public land should have three or more bedrooms.  Also, the City may wish to support senior housing development on one of the publicly-controlled sites, or may offer incentives to achieve such a development on a privately held site such as the block between 11th and 12th Street just east of IH 35 or at 12th and Chicon.  Other projects that include housing on publicly-controlled sites should be encouraged to provide 10 percent of units affordable at up to 60 percent of Median Family Income (if rentals), but otherwise focus on market-rate and/or ownership housing.  Achievement of these strategies would increase the supply of market-rate housing in the community and dilute the current concentration of “affordable” rental units, but also address some continuing needs for impacted market segments.

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For any development that occurs on publicly owned parcels on both East 11th and 12th Streets, proposing developers should be encouraged through the selection process to provide surplus “community parking” spaces that can serve the greater area.  Many of the developable sites on East 12th Street are constrained by size, and may have difficulty achieving the higher density, higher value uses enabled by current regulations if they must provide even the minimum code-required parking on-site.  Moreover, the bike lanes both east- and west-bound on East 12th Street have reduced the supply of on-street parking by about half.  A new public parking lot on Tract 13 between Waller and Navasota could provide roughly 20 spaces, and reduce the need for costly and space-intensive on-site parking on nearby sites.  Also, “duck-in” parking should be encouraged along the south side of East 12th Street and the north-south streets approaching East 12th Street, to provide a less costly alternative to structured parking.  Finally, the existing community parking lots on both East 11th and 12th Streets should be maintained until and unless other future projects on public or private land can provide similar public parking capacity.

1 Responses

The City of Austin or other quasi-public entities control several parcels in different locations throughout the Study Area (scroll to Figure 2 on page 10). Some of this land has been in public control for over a decade, and has been cleared of previous “slum and blight” conditions but not yet developed.  Some of these sites were acquired or improved using Federal funding, and are subject to requirements regarding development for specific purposes or repayment of those funds.  Infill development on these sites will enhance the physical environment, add services desired by the community and/or create additional support for existing businesses – all signaling to the development industry that the Study Area is receiving attention from the City.  Requests for Proposals (RFPs) should be prepared and distributed for several sites, with minimum standards and desirable “value-added” elements specified.  Specific recommendations for various sites include the following: a.     Block 16 – An RFP was issued for this URA-controlled block in 2008, but received little developer interest, primarily because the real estate market and financing industry were in turmoil at that time.  Most of the requirements of the RFP were reasonable – seeking mixed-use development and requiring modest affordable housing goals (if building rental housing), green building standards, etc. – and need not be substantially altered in a re-issued RFP.  In an updated RFP, synergies with the adjacent African American Cultural and Heritage Facility should be strongly encouraged, as should the inclusion of space for local businesses.  To the extent allowed by law, it would be helpful to provide some flexibility in the financing of the land acquisition, including potential for ground leasing, modestly deferred payments, etc., that may help to enhance opportunities for desirable community benefits. b.     Block 17– This land, sitting immediately north of the Street-Jones and Snell Buildings and facing Juniper Street, is planned to be developed for townhomes or live/work lofts.  The City should expedite development of this land, either through direct construction carried out by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation or near-term transfer of the property to a motivated developer. See Vacant Public Parcels (scroll to Figure 1 on page 6). c.      Block 18 – This URA land just east of the Snell Building on East 11th Street is home to the Victory Grill and East Room.  The community should consider modifying the Urban Renewal Plan to provide site plan flexibility similar to that already provided for Block 16, or confirm that the specific Project Controls for Block 18 should be maintained.  Following that discussion, an RFP should be issued.  Developers should be encouraged to propose various ways to support the historic properties and the African American Cultural Heritage District on this block, in addition to the provision of community parking and space for local businesses. d.     Tract 12 – This City owned land on East 12th Street has already been planned and platted for single-family attached housing (e.g., townhomes).  To contribute more substantially to the commercial activity on East 12th Street, the community should consider modification of the URP to allow uses such as live/work units offering ground floor commercial space within side-by-side townhomes.  The land should be sold as quickly as possible to a motivated developer. e.     Tract 13 – This City owned land is more problematic to develop for housing than most sites, because it is oriented north-south and has limited width between Curve and Waller Street.  The community should consider modifying the URP to encourage retail development on the East 12th Street frontage, plus community parking spaces.  If such modification is approved, the City can issue an RFP for this site that allows for ground leasing, and seek to dedicate the revenues achievable through the leasing opportunity to the modest improvement of the site for community parking and potentially open space.  If consensus cannot be reached to modify the URP for such use, the land should be sold as quickly as possible to a motivated developer.  f.       1120 East 12th Street – This small site should be sold to the highest bidder as quickly as possible, as it offers little opportunity for desired development as a stand-alone site. g.     Tract 5 – This URA site on the north side of East 12th Street between San Bernard and Angelina, is designated in the URP for mixed-use and/or commercial development.  The 0.6-acre site may also be large enough to accommodate senior housing as part of a mixed-use project, and could also be a potential site for a neighborhood grocery.  The resolution of desirable uses for this site may require some community discussion, so the issuance of an RFP may be delayed beyond the next year or two. h.     Community Parking – The existing community parking lots on East 11th and East 12th Street should only be considered for more intensive development if and when adequate replacement spaces can be provided elsewhere in their vicinity. 

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The Austin Police Department has conducted numerous efforts to improve security and law enforcement in this area, including closure of problem houses, enforcement of trespassing/loitering prohibitions, community clean-ups, etc.  These efforts should continue, as should the community discussion regarding the merits of security cameras.  The City does not own any properties near this intersection, but can provide technical assistance and financial incentives to support new development and existing businesses.  The infrastructure funding recommended above may be particularly beneficial for this area, which is a minor commercial node that can be significantly enhanced through streetscape and utility undergrounding, and has the most pressing need for wastewater improvements to expand capacity for envisioned development.  

1 Responses

NHCD and the Urban Renewal Board can initiate certain actions, including preparation of submissions for infrastructure funding, discussions of modifications to existing development regulations, and disposition or development of public land.  Other City departments should also be engaged as a Technical Advisory Group to prioritize and implement desired strategic actions.  Examples of such departments and their potential roles include, without limitation, the following: Law and Planning & Development Review – minor modifications and more user-friendly organization to development regulationsPublic Works, Austin Energy, Watershed Protection, and Austin Water Utility – prioritization, design and construction of infrastructure upgradesEconomic Growth and Redevelopment Services, Real Estate, and Contract and Land Management – solicitation and selection of development proposals, disposition of land prioritization of funds needed for future bond program(s)Austin Police Department – continued law enforcement and community engagement The EPS Team believes that implementation of the strategies and actions summarized above, and discussed in greater detail on subsequent pages, will make major and positive differences in the East 11th and 12th Street Study Area.  The combination of physical improvements, regulatory clarifications, market and business enhancement, and organizational energy will signal the City’s renewed commitment to the area.  Private investment will be attracted, while the community’s longstanding vision and goals will be respected.  And the Study Area will more fully capitalize on its great potential as a vibrant urban neighborhood in Austin.

1 Responses