The proposed project plan would see the Fair Market building and other nearby properties redeveloped into a new office complex, along with improvements to the adjacent public green space. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Journal)
Height increase requests for a proposed multi-story office building on East Fifth Street were submitted to the Austin Planning Commission on July 13, potentially paving the way for a new addition to the skyline at mixed use of the Plaza Saltillo station area in the coming years.
The conditional rezoning of several East Austin properties, including the Fair Market Site House at 1100 E. Fifth St., Austin, was forwarded to City Council by commission members earlier this week. Along with the rezoning, commissioners approved the submission of an associated adjustment to the East Cesar Chavez/Plaza Saltillo oriented resort development plan; both elements would grant the planned development an additional height allowance of 25 feet.
The redevelopment proposal from owner Montwalk Holdings Ltd. covers the existing Fair Market space as well as 1100 and 1108 E. Fifth and 502 and 504 Waller streets. The plan revolves around a six-story office building with commercial space on the ground floor and underground parking. Restoration of the undeveloped, city-owned Roy and Matias Velasquez Square just west of the building would also be included in the Montwalk plan if approved by City Council.
Speaking on behalf of Montwalk at the July 13 meeting, Armbrust & Brown attorney Richard Suttle said the development was seeking additional height to take advantage of the area’s transit-oriented development. , or TOD, bonus for building density. With a plan of six stories to a maximum of 85 feet, if approved, he said a contribution of $900,000 to $1 million to the city’s affordable housing programs is expected.
“We’re not trying to interfere in the middle of TOD. … What we want to do is try to take advantage of the density bonus program and contribute to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to get essentially an extra floor of height on this building and allow us to do modern floor-to-ceiling heights,” Suttle said. “It won’t be out of place at all and meets the principles of density planning in and around a TOD.”
The proposal received some opposition from area residents calling the meeting, who said the development would not bring major improvements to the neighborhood in accordance with its amendment to local plans limiting the height of buildings to 60 feet .
“The request for an additional 25 feet in this location, it’s just been difficult for us to find common ground with the requester to understand how it really meets the goals of the neighborhood, how it really makes a difference to the community of people who are already here,” said Kristen Heaney, president of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Outreach Team.
Planning commissioners were also divided on various aspects of the project, with several backing the construction of a large office space in a transit-friendly area that already houses a subway station and bike path a few blocks away. houses from I-35. However, concerns have also been raised about the scope of the building’s parking space given these other mobility options and whether Velasquez Plaza can remain an open community space without being overtaken by extensions to the proposed development.
Suttle said that at this time, multiple stories of underground parking remain a “necessary evil” for upcoming new developments in Austin, although they may be reduced as the project is finalized. He also expressed the willingness of the development team to sign restrictive agreements regarding the use of the public square to ensure that it remains fully accessible.
“We’re turning what was essentially a street into a pocket park or green space,” Suttle said. “It will be a place for our project and the project next door to communicate with each other through the green space, but it is also an area where people can cross between Fifth and Sixth. [streets] and across the neighborhood. … It will not be walled or fenced; it will be open and inviting.”
The Commissioners’ vote for a two-week postponement to allow these matters to be pursued failed 5-3, leading to a 7-1 vote in favor of sending the rezoning and local plan amendment to the advice without formal recommendation. Commission Vice-President Claire Hempel voted against.