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The View From Rainey St.: City Plans for Garage Spark Controversy

The Austin City Council may make a decision on Thursday that could alter the future of Rainey Street.

It's close to impossible to find parking in the trendy lower downtown district. With so many new restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, the popularity of Rainey Street grows alongside the difficulty of getting in and out by car.

A group of investors (70 Rainey Street LP) which own several Rainey Street lots has presented the city several bids to purchase a property at 64 Rainey St.for a multi-story parking garage. 70 Rainey Street LP is currently planning to use its existing lots to build a 31-story mixed use project.

The city is mulling three options: Selling the lot for $100,000, plus 30 parking spaces and their revenue;  for $400,000, plus 20 parking spaces and their revenue; or for $1.2 million and no parking spaces.

The quarter-acre property sits across the street from the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) at Rainey and River Streets. MACC Advisory Board Chair Juan Oyervides says the MACC took an interest in acquiring the land this summer, and had been in communication with the parks department since.

“We were shocked to suddenly see a For Sale sign [on the property],” said Oyervides. He adds that while the MACC could use more parking, his biggest concern about the sale is what a parking garage will do to the center's view of the skyline. “[70 Rainey Street LP] don’t need this property to build the garage. It would just give them more space.”

Last week, the Mexican American Cultural Center Advisory Board held a special meeting to discuss the sale of 64 Rainey St. But Oyervides says they only knew about it because a board member read it in the paper. “We’re often the last to find out about these things,” he says. (City Council agenda materials from Sept. 27 state "All City Departments were informed of the sale of this property.)

The proposals were postponed from that Sept. 27 meeting, but return for discussion at this Thursday's council meeting.  

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