AUSTIN (KXAN) — Accusations of a backroom deal to move a project off MoPac in Austin forward have developers working overtime to find middle ground with neighbors. The Grove at Shoal Creek, a planned unit development, would include various types of homes, including affordable housing, along with retail and parkland on 75 acres of land the state used to own.
Developers have agreed to make changes to try and meet local desires, but some say it’s still not enough.
Wednesday night, developers gave an extensive site place presentation (available here) to surrounding neighborhoods, illustrating changes they’ve made in response to continued concerns about the project.
The changes developers presented include increasing parkland by 26 percent, reducing residential space by 12 percent, office space by 35 percent, large detached homes by 60 percent. But some neighbors still aren’t convinced the project as its presented is a positive addition.
“Just the overall density does not seem appropriate for the space,” Andy Coulson said, who lives just blocks from the site and has for more than a decade.
Despite what some may thing, he insisted, “We’re not against development all together.”
For Coulson and those with the Bull Creek Road Coalition (BCRC), made up of people living in the seven neighborhoods that surround the tract at West 45th Street and Bull Creek Road, traffic is understandably major concern.
Even though developers have agreed to cover the cost of transportation improvements, like widening the intersection of 45th Street and Bull Creek Road, there is still concern about overflow traffic beyond just sole intersection.
“The developer has really reached out to try to ensure that the corner is safe,” Real estate agent Lisa-Marie Contaldi said, who lives just kitty-corner from the site. She, unlike many of her neighbors, welcomes the proposed massive development.
“It might not be a bad idea to have a place for them to go. Rather than just sit in traffic,” she said.
Developers’ presentation to neighbors Wednesday night included results of the city’s traffic impact analysis, focusing in on the intersection of 45th and Bull Creek. The study revealed currently, there is a 68 second wait time at the light, on average. In 2024, that wait time is expected to jump to 95 seconds. That’s if the Grove is not built. But if the Grove project goes through with the addition of lanes at that intersection, the wait time is estimated to drop to 36 seconds.
“I’ve been a participant in the real estate community for so long, I believe that change creates improvement,” Contaldi said.
But as Austinites know full, how that change looks is what causes divide. Garrett Martin, co-owner of the Grove at Shoal Creek, says the whole process began with community surveys and input, in an attempt to work with neighbors rather than fight them.
“There is a difference between I think what they want and what we’re proposing but it’s not a difference in type, it’s a difference in the scale of what’s being considered,” Martin said, explaining what the BCRC wants is, “That’s not something that’s economically viable for us to deliver.”
Coulson went to the meeting Wednesday night and said despite the proposed changes, “They haven’t really moved that far from their initial proposal based on the feedback they’ve been getting.”
The city green-lighted transportation plans for the development. The environmental commission and zoning and platting commissions still have to review the project before it goes to City Council for approval.