Naked City

Dim views of a T-I deal

Naked City
Photo By John Anderson

When Temple-Inland Inc. began going through the city's building process in the early 1990s, real estate lawyer David Armbrust had one personal concern: The company's plans for its new headquarters on South MoPac threatened to block the view of Downtown from his home on a hill above the designated site.

As an attorney well versed in the laws of development rights and view corridors, Armbrust and his neighbors in the Treemont subdivision of West Austin succeeded in getting a view line inked into the Temple-Inland site plan -- a rare victory for a neighborhood group. The agreement prohibits the company from blocking the view of about a dozen homes on Regents Park, a street that overlooks the company headquarters and the city skyline beyond. "We worked with Temple-Inland to get that view line established," said Armbrust, who bought the lot for his home in 1985 from prominent landowner George Nalle.

Now, some 10 years later, Temple-Inland is again working with Regents Park homeowners -- those on the lower end of the hill -- whose views could be affected if the company's expansion plans pass muster with the City Council (Armbrust says his home wouldn't be impacted by the expansion). But environmental activists are trying to hold T-I to another promise: to comply with the Save Our Springs Ordinance. The company won environmental praise in the mid-Nineties when it completed its headquarters in strict compliance with SOS. T-I officials say a space crunch warrants adding another 200,000 square feet to its campus, which would make the complex well in excess of SOS impervious cover limits. This exception to the ordinance requires six votes from the City Council.

Longtime environmentalist Mary Arnold expressed dismay that Mayor Will Wynn and one or two other council members have already signaled their support for the expansion. "I really can't understand how you can say that it's OK for them to get around the ordinance," she said. Noting that T-I and HEB are the only two commercial projects built to SOS standards, she added, "Is HEB now going to come back and say that they need to build onto their development?"

Temple-Inland officials say they have no further comment on the matter.

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SOS, Temple-Inland Inc., David Armbrust, Mary Arnold, George Nalle, HEB, Will Wynn

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