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KevinFromTexas Aug 27, 2009 5:50 AM

AUSTIN | Southeast Austin/Riverside Corridor Updates



Fight brewing over East Riverside development
Critics angry over height of planned buildings.

By Shonda Novak, Marty Toohey


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Opponents have mobilized for a fight Thursday at City Hall against an upscale apartment project that would be one of the biggest new developments along East Riverside Drive. The $200 million project, by Houston-based Grayco Partners, would include 1,200 apartments and 97,000 square feet of street-level retail space on about 30 acres bounded by Riverside, South Lakeshore Boulevard and Tinnin Ford Road.

The tallest of the six buildings could be up to 90 feet high, though the current design envisions a maximum of about 75 feet.

The vote Thursday would be the first big development decision by a City Council with two new members, and the first since the city reinstated 1986 rules that limit building heights along the lake.

The Grayco site is separated from the lake by Lakeshore and a city park. It is 390 feet from the shore at its closest point, and 650 at its farthest, said Grayco's attorney, Steve Drenner.

KevinFromTexas Aug 27, 2009 5:53 AM



City of Austin wins with Riverside project


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Austin City Council has an opportunity to create a first-class waterfront district that fits with the values and character of Austin. It could take a big step in that direction today by approving a $200 million project by Grayco Partners that would be built along East Riverside Drive.

The project meets all 28 requirements for the zoning change it is seeking as a planned unit development, which allows for a mixture of uses. The requirements include: limiting impervious cover to existing level, providing for increased waterfront overlay setback, providing 20 percent open space for mixed use, and treating and improving the quality of on-site storm water.

Grayco wants to include some buildings along the northern edge of the project that are 30 feet higher than the 60-foot limit permitted by the city's waterfront overlay ordinance. But height limits can and, in this case, should be modified. To obtain that change, a project must provide superior community benefits. This project does that and more.

chancla Aug 27, 2009 10:42 AM

I'm glad that the paper got behind this. It's about time that people stood up for density and stood up to those NIMBY save townlake people.

Seriously, this project is going to be a football field away from town lake. Height shouldn't even be an issue.

ATXboom Aug 27, 2009 1:02 PM

I find it funny that the people who actually live in that neighborhood WANT that development... meanwhile the same minority group of 20 from a different neighborhood are trying to stop it.

It appears as if the neighborhood engaged in some type of study that got the input of the entire community... not just community leadership. The majority is speaking here!

My take away is that perhaps the city should fund more comprehensive neighborhood studies to gather the collective voice... not just the voice of a few that hang out at city hall all day long.

Scottolini Aug 27, 2009 8:51 PM

This says it all, "The project meets all 28 requirements for the zoning change it is seeking". Seems like a no-brainer.

MichaelB Aug 27, 2009 11:16 PM

I am also happy to see the Statesman back this. I can wait to see who voted how! Gee, wonder how Ms Laura will vote?

JAM Aug 28, 2009 1:31 AM

390 feet from lake seems plenty far back. I don't know why anyone would get upset over this, seems like a good thing.

This orgainization has made it easy to contact your city reps: (of course they are against it, they seem to be against anything, starting to get hard to take them seriously, not sure what is real or not real with these guys sometimes)

KevinFromTexas Aug 28, 2009 2:06 AM

Most of the the trees, Cypress especially, that line the river are 85 to 100 feet tall. The tallest buildings here will probably be 90 feet, though the article mentioned something about one being 120 feet. The taller buildings would be set farthest from the river, 650 feet away infact. You'd be lucky to be able to see them at all from Riverside Drive, let alone from the river (since the elevation is lower) and from the other side.

To put this project into perspective, the CSC/Silicon Labs buildings flanking the city hall downtown, are each around 100 feet tall, and City Hall is 67 feet tall. Even at 120 feet tall, that is such a modest height, even for that area.

Just look at that new office building on West 5th Street. The Capstar at Compass Plaza. It's 100 feet tall and it's hardly noticeable along the river and anywhere around downtown.

I think one thing that drives these anti-development arguments is most people have no idea what a 100 foot building looks like. They hear that number 100 and freak out and think it's a mountain. Of course there are probably a couple hundred 100 foot tall buildings all over Austin.

JAM Aug 28, 2009 3:32 AM


Originally Posted by KevinFromTexas (Post 4428271)
I think one thing that drives these anti-development arguments is most people have no idea what a 100 foot building looks like. They hear that number 100 and freak out and think it's a mountain. Of course there are probably a couple hundred 100 foot tall buildings all over Austin.

Kevin - that is an excellent point, never thought about that but there is probably a lot of truth to that. This would be an excellent question to bring up when speaking with someone against height.

When Spring was going thru the approval process, people were standing on the pedestrian bridge petitioning against it, saying it would create a canyon effect on the lake. I was really taken back by their statements at the time, and now that it is finished, it is simply just funny. Spring seems so far from the lake that it doesn't even matter, yet these people were pationate about the canyon effect it was going to create.

NThomas Aug 29, 2009 5:41 AM

So how did the vote go?

MichaelB Aug 29, 2009 6:06 AM


Originally Posted by NThomas (Post 4430461)
So how did the vote go?

Postponed. Both sides requested a postponement. It was granted. All parties promised no more postponements. (we'll see) Didn't get when it was rescheduled for.

H2O Aug 29, 2009 3:10 PM


Originally Posted by MichaelB (Post 4430486)
Postponed. Both sides requested a postponement. It was granted. All parties promised no more postponements. (we'll see) Didn't get when it was rescheduled for.

Postponed to September 24, 2009.

KevinFromTexas Sep 24, 2009 6:39 AM

^So today (Thursday) would be the day.


Upscale Riverside development a test case for lakeside high-rises

Houston developer offers to pony up for affordable housing - but is it enough?

By Marty Toohey


Thursday, September 24, 2009

As part of a special zoning agreement, a developer who wants to build an upscale East Riverside Drive apartment complex has offered almost $4 million for low-income housing in Austin. But as the City Council prepares for a possible vote today on the plan, a last-minute question has emerged: Is $4 million enough?


KevinFromTexas Sep 25, 2009 6:22 AM


Upscale development on Riverside takes step toward council approval
5-2 vote is first of 3 approvals required for project to go forward.

By Marty Toohey


Friday, September 25, 2009

The Austin City Council gave preliminary approval Thursday to a proposed development on East Riverside Drive. The 5-2 vote was the first of three approvals required for the project to go forward.

Grayco Partners, a Houston-based developer, wants to build four towers, three up to 90 feet high, on 30 acres at Riverside and South Lakeshore Boulevard, about 300 feet from Lady Bird Lake. The buildings would house up to 1,200 apartment units.

As part of the vote, the council required Grayco to return with a list of options for how it could provide affordable housing to offset the loss of 600 relatively low-rent apartments that would be demolished.

Grayco has offered $3.2 million for that purpose. The city's legal department concluded this week that the developer would need to contribute $7.8 million for low-income housing, according to guidelines the council passed this year.

Read more

JAM Sep 26, 2009 6:23 PM

This is a great step forward in making this area much nicer for all Austinites.

Just finished sending a personal thank you note for getting this approved to each council person including Leffingwell and Morrison. Here's an easy way to thank them all.

BTW - If you have not ever been down to this area of town, it's worth the trip to check it out. See for yourself what 90 feet will do. IMO It is irreleavant to the lake. There is ample park space in the area. It council really wants to do something about preserving the area, then they should just tear down the apartments and turn the area in to park land and eliminate S. Lakeshore Blvd.

Jdawgboy Sep 26, 2009 6:55 PM

Okay I did my part and placed a thank you letter to the council.

Myomi Sep 27, 2009 2:08 PM

I think another reason this project might be looked at disdainfully by some is the tone and language used by the media to describe the project. If you look through all the articles (and also listen to some of the TV news reports), politically charged words like high-rise and tower keep being used to describe these projects. Tower? Really? By the definition stated by these forums, high-rise has to be at least 200 feet. These "towers" are half that. They would be mid-rise at best, very similar to what has gone up in West Campus recently. I don't know if these words are being thrown around on purpose, but I can see how people, set in their ways and unwilling to research what's happening on their own, could picture a tower being built next to town lake with these projects being described this way. Granted, I wouldn't even mind if these buildings were towers, but come on, Greyco needs to do a better PR job and at least get the newspapers to correct their language on these projects. I certainly hope everything works out, because everything I have seen and heard about this project makes it seem like a major step in the right direction for that area.

KevinFromTexas Sep 28, 2009 5:57 AM

Yeah, I pointed that out on the comments page. Tower? Really? 120 feet is a decent height in some places, but it's hardly a tower.

By the way, Emporis' definition of a high rise is a building that is at least 115 feet tall, or one that has at least 12 floors. I kind of think it's a dumb cutoff point. Also, the Austin Fire Department, along with most other cities classify buildings that are at least 75 feet tall to be a highrise. That's even more ridiculous though. I remember the articles a while back (a few years) about sprinkler systems being retrofitted into some of the older dorm buildings around UT. The policy said any building at or above 75 feet (a highrise) had to have sprinklers and other fire safety devices. Believe it or not, some of the older dorm buildings didn't have them, or hadn't been updated in years.


Originally Posted by Myomi
Greyco needs to do a better PR job

I'm always sticking up for the correct terms and information on the subject in Statesman articles or anytime a new project comes along. Even if it's not a highrise or skyscraper project, I try to point out what exactly a 100 foot building looks like or one that is 200 feet or just 50 feet. They should put me on the payroll. LOL Seriously, you'd be surprised how many people are oblivious to building heights, and beyond just the normal general public's ignorance of the subject. I would expect the general public wouldn't know how tall most buildings are or know where to find that info, but for these anti-development folks who are raising their voice and opposing these developments, they should know better. If they claim they know what they're talking about and say they're involved and paying attention to the subject, then they should have better information and arguments than they usually bring up. I'm not even trying to change their mind or convince them that skyscrapers are a good idea, just hoping that they and others make informed decisions and opinions on the subject.

KevinFromTexas Dec 17, 2009 11:23 AM


Lakeside apartments heading for final vote
Grayco proposal likely to be approved after affordable housing deal reached.

By Marty Toohey


Published: 11:36 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

A proposal for an upscale Southeast Austin apartment complex is coming back to the Austin City Council today for what looks like a final vote after the city and developer spent months negotiating a deal that has tested the city's vision for urban growth.


KevinFromTexas Jun 14, 2012 7:43 PM

I thought this was under construction already, I guess not. I was asking for the building heights. Apparently it's gone through some design changes, too.


Good afternoon Mr. Lehnhardt,

Thank you for your interest in our Austin project. We have not finalized plans on South Shore District and cannot give much information at this time.
Our initial plans have been revised completely. We should be able to give you more information towards the end of the year.

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