Naked City

Focus on East 12th Street

East 12th Street revitalization was the topic of a forum Nov. 8 organized by the street's business and property owners, the Austin Revitalization Authority, and the Austin Community Development Corporation. Neighbors, business investors, and public officials -- including Mayor Will Wynn and former Dell exec and state Senate candidate Ben Bentzin -- discussed present and future dreams and opportunities for the corridor, part of the urban renewal area whose redevelopment is being managed by the ARA.

The 12th Street owners have complained that the ARA's efforts are too heavily focused on East 11th (where several new projects are under way) and that the ARA urban renewal plan allows too little commercial density on 12th; they presented their own concepts for revitalization, including a "12th Street Towers" project on the site of the long-abandoned Safeway store (now a state surplus-property depot) at 12th and I-35. These projects would require amending the ARA's plan, which calls for a more mixed-use character and scale on East 12th -- including a clutch of long-planned townhomes two blocks east of I-35, to be built by the city, that have become a flash point for the owners' dissatisfaction.

In addition to the ARA changes, the owners also want to extend the existing custom zoning for East 11th -- which allows for greater heights and densities than would be legal under standard city code -- to 12th Street as well. The city's designated neighborhood planning team for the area, the Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods, voted to support this approach Tuesday night, with a provision that community parking lots be built on 12th as well as 11th. The ARA plans to present its 12th Street proposals, potentially reflecting a compromise with the owners' vision, to the community Nov. 18 at Simpson United Methodist Church; the resulting amendments to the ARA plan are expected to reach the City Council early next year.

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