Naked City

Gables to hook up bridge?

Naked City

A center alignment option for the Pfluger Bridge extension, made possible by an easement through the land just east of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant, was announced after much anticipation Dec. 15 at the bridge project's Community Advisory Group meeting. Gables Residential Properties Trust, who has the property under contract, revealed preliminary site plans including a mixed-use thoroughfare running from the pedestrian bridge over Town Lake directly through the development, thus easing bicycle and pedestrian connections to Bowie Street, the Market District centered on Sixth and Lamar, and hike and bike paths heading north.

Gables attorney Steve Drenner said, "The process was unusual from a development viewpoint because we started planning around this throughway running directly through the heart of the project." Drenner believes the plan takes advantage of everyone's desire for a multimodal transportation hub in the area, anchored by an anticipated Seaholm commuter rail station. Local bike advocate Eric Anderson, a CAG member and a central figure in the bridge extension's evolution, expressed overall satisfaction with the proposal. "I'm pleased beyond what I think anyone had expected," he said, praising what he called quality human-scale development, and also the open manner in which Gables conducted its discussion with city and community planners, and adding that "narrowly defined goals for the bridge's completion and circulation through the area were more than met."

Drenner says his clients plan to file a zoning application in the next 60 days, at which point debate will intensify over the proposed development's height limitations. Previous plans for the property (known variously as the Lumbermen's Tract, after its owner, and the Sand Beach Reserve) came under fire over the height of proposed waterfront structures; Gables is planning apartments and condominiums and a new home for the Austin Children's Museum. Drenner said he hopes people will reserve judgement until Gables can generate materials that illustrate the project's appearance and compliance with city regulations (including Capitol view corridors), adding that the Gables buildings should be judged alongside other upcoming Downtown high-rise development such as the "ZOM" project – a 260-foot structure planned for the old Strait Music site to the north. "The development feels right," Drenner said, "connecting civic use areas, the Children's Museum, and parklands. We would be remiss in planning the development if it didn't allow for a transportation hub."

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