Council Gives an Early OK to a 'Placeholder' Plan for the Grove at Shoal Creek PUD
After months of delays and debate, the planned unit development (PUD) called the Grove at Shoal Creek got initial approval from the Austin City Council Thursday.
The approval includes a cap on office space at the Grove to 115,000 square feet and limits retail space to 100,000 square feet, but Mayor Steve Adler calls this plan a “placeholder.”
“By that I mean this vote is not intended to indicate agreement with or support of these particular caps, nor does it suggest that these are the only two issues on the table,” Adler said. “There are many more issues on the table than this, but it allows the process to move forward.”
The case still requires two more approvals from Council before construction can actually begin. A big reason why the Grove is being so thoroughly vetted is because the developer, ARG Bull Creek, wants to build a PUD. It’s an ambitious zoning designation that allows several different types of developments to be planned as one big project, and the idea is that a PUD should bring some community benefit, like affordable housing. In this case, ARG wants to build housing, office space and retail – all on a largely vacant tract of land in Central Austin.
Attorney Jeff Howard, who represents ARG, told the council that amendments to limit commercial space were “unworkable.”
"[T]hey will not only affect the viability of the project, but also its vibrancy as a mixed-use center,” Howard said. “Office use supports restaurants and retail by providing necessary daytime consumers.”
The common refrain from residents who spoke against the current Grove plan is that a commercial development of this scale doesn’t belong in a neighborhood dominated by single-family homes built along residential streets. Council members heard from Grayson Cox, vice president of the Bull Creek Road Coalition, a neighborhood group that’s been critical of the Grove.
“I think the Grove as its been proposed would be amazing on another site that had better transportation connectivity, but the challenge that we truly have is its location and its limited connectivity,” Cox said.
Cox asked for more time before the next vote to allow for further mediation between residents and the developer. Attorney Jeff Howard said ARG would agree to that, but wouldn’t want it to delay the process any further.
Council Member Ora Houston and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo both voted against the rezoning. Tovo said the current plan does not meet her standards for affordable housing.
“As I’ve indicated before, I don’t believe it yet meets the requirements for superiority that we’ve specified in our code for planned unit developments in particular,” Tovo said. “I think there’s more work to do, significantly more work to do, on affordable housing right now.”
The next public hearing on the Grove is tentatively scheduled for November.