At last night’s WCCAC meeting:
1) We learned that the City is negotiating the purchase of three contiguous lots located along southbound frontage road and bounded by 4th and 5th Streets. This area hosts the east bank of Waller Creek between 4th and 5th and is currently used as a surface parking lot. The land acquisition will be purchased with funds from the Waller Creek Tunnel Project, and will likely become a temporary staging ground for the construction of the tunnel. Ironically [to me at least] these lots are not on FEMA’s 100 year flood maps, and therefore wouldn’t directly benefit from the tunnel improvements designed to remove land from the 100 year flood plain. The lots are encumbered by Capitol View Corridors, though. You can see the lots under “Kuykendall Addn”.
2) The WCCAC made an official recommendation to City Council that the Strategy 1 improvements identified by ROMA’s Waller Creek District Master Plan be included in the items for the 2010 Transportation Bond. The bond is limited to issues of mobility, including pedestrian uses such as the conversion of Sabine Street into a promenade.
3) Perry Lorenz provided citizen communication that the 21c project is moving forward and the development team is flying to Austin from Louisville with updates in the first week of December. In addition to getting a more comprehensive project status, we should receive a better idea of the amount and types of consideration the project is paying towards Waller Creek improvements adjacent to the property.
4) The I-35 Makeover project is going to be complete in 2010 and will be funded from the parking fees collected underneath I-35. No word yet on improvements to the 4th Street overpass, but WCCAC requested to be included as a stakeholder should that discussion commence.
5) Matt Knifton of the Texas Rowing Center provided citizen communication about TRC’s bid for the boathouse. Notably, last year TRC donated roughly $30,000 in community outreach in the form of education and classes for minority children and those with disabilities. Matt estimated that as a PARD concessionaire since 1999, the TRC has returned over $400,000 to the city;moreover, throughout a 20 year lease of the new boathouse, there is potential to generate nearly $3MM in concession revenue for the city. The TRC would have the opportunity to further increase their community outreach programs, making the lake more accessible to more Austinites.
In summary, it’s nice to see action and momentum!
Number one on your list is a big deal! I’m happy that it is a purchase rather than a lease. Hopefully that will make it easier to integrate that private land long-term into the overall Waller Creek Master plan and add an active permiter use to Palm Park. I was very excited about the AMOA relocation idea being floated for that location…but perhaps the planetarium that’s looking for a home near the Blanton/Bob Bullock museums could go there.
What’s less clear to me, though, is how the significant amount of public land or non-tax paying properties in the TIF zone factors into the bond repayment. It’s a hefty amount of the area (and now expanding) and it’s pretty apparent that some of it will have to be returned to the tax rolls to make the numbers work. It would be good to understand the financial assumptions baked in there. Page 17 of the plan (ftp://ftp.ci.austin.tx.us/npzd/Waller%20Creek/WallerMasterPlan.pdf) shows the potential build out including on land currently owned by UT, Public Housing, ACVB, Cap Metro(?), and the Police Station (and surprisingly little along Rainey Street). Does this match the financial models? The report indicates 11.4 million square feet of gross floor area can be added assuming the density bonus proposal passes. How much *must* be added to meet targets? The tall towers next to Moonshine and Symphony Square would seem to be the projects at greatest risk of being underbuilt relative to this plan. My concern stems more from a lack of information in a generally bad economic climate than any particular flaw in the plan.
Also, Strategy 1 of the Waller Creek Master plan called out in the report that: “As the City of San Antonio emphasized, it is
important that the design of the creek improvements be led by an architectural firm (rather than an engineering firm) so that the full range of urban design considerations are incorporated and so that a premier public space design is created.” Given the past experience with how the boathouse contract was awarded – will the architect selection go differently for this time around? I saw that that was your agenda item from last night.
Lastly – we missed you at the DANA Urban Core Happy Hour last night. Thank you, though, for your public service that took higher priority. I also think it’s great that you help publicize this important public project.
Jude Galligan says
I’m not entirely familiar with the bond process. At some point potential lenders (bond holders) will need to make the determination of the financial capacity of the TIF. I’m also not entirely sure where the funds are sourced, and if it is sourced with municipal bond money, which banks typically underwrite projects like this. I see nothing wrong with the city leveraging its valuable property, and I expect PPPs to occur rather than a straight sale.
In terms of getting comfortable with the information, last month I provided a crap-ton of market data to a consulting group out of Houston (Spillette and CDS Market Research) who are charged with updating the market potential of the Waller Creek District. I expect we’ll see a report from them soon.
The WCCAC went on record last night to figure out how to bring “world class design to Waller Creek”. We invited the city to present the pros/cons/challenges of a design competition. While I don’t have an answer, I know that the majority of the WCCAC members are concerned about “design by engineer”-itus.
So it looks like I identified the wrong parcel of land. This is not the Northern edge of Palm Park (still a great location for a planetarium or museum) – but the parking lot across from the Hilton Garden Inn between 4th & 5th. Whether the Waller Creek negotiators know about it or not, that’s the spot that the AFD specifically identified as their preferred re-location of the Downtown Fire Station currently at Brush Square. I thought the corner of I-35 and Cesar Chavez would have been good for the AFD for access to major roads and proximity to the water (it’s the special forces/water rescue unit) – but they had already studied the issue and were eyeing this spot instead.
This remains a big deal – just a different big deal. Having the appropriate land available in 5 years is a big hurdle to making this long desired move a reality. Exciting!