The Austin Chronicle

ARA All Up in the Victory's Grill

By Lee Nichols, July 18, 2008, News

Public sentiment was overwhelmingly against the Austin Revitalization Authority's proposal to increase the size of a pair of mixed-use developments planned for East 11th Street at a meeting of the city's Urban Renewal Agency Monday night. Most of the ire was directed at the project on "Block 18" of the 11th Street Urban Renewal Plan area, which would put up a dense, four-story building right next door to the venerable Victory Grill, towering over the historic blues club and possibly cutting off side-street access to the venue.

ARA board Chair Charles Urdy and President/CEO Byron Marshall insist that the increase in the project's density has been necessitated by market conditions that have changed since the development was originally conceived in 2001. But 18 people spoke during the meeting's public comment period, and while most expressed support for the project's basic goals of affordable housing and street-level retail, not one supported the ARA's modifications. "I really feel like this current development diminishes the value of the Victory Grill," said club manager Eva Lindsey. "It diminishes the historic value, it diminishes its relative value to the community." Other neighbors complained that the number of proposed office spaces in the project would result in too much auto traffic coming into the neighborhood.

Only four of the URA's board members – barely a quorum – were present at the meeting, and board Chair Kevin Cole asked that any action on whether to recommend the ARA modifications to the city's Planning Commission be postponed until this Monday's meeting, when all seven members are expected to attend. The meeting will take place at the Street-Jones Building, 1000 E. 11th, Room 400A, 6pm.

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