County closes on deal to buy down­town lot

Ero­sion could cause biker or jog­ger to tum­ble into lake.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - — FARZAD MASHHOOD, AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF mtoohey@states­ RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN Con­tact Marty Toohey at 4453673.

Travis County of­fi­cials on Fri­day closed on a deal to buy a down­town lot for $7.25 mil­lion, nar­rowly ap­proved by com­mis­sion­ers in March.

The county was wait­ing to re­zone the prop­erty to close on the pur­chase to be able to build be­yond two sto­ries. With the lot re­zoned, the county can build sev­eral sto­ries.

Com­mis­sion­ers Karen Huber and Sarah Eck­hardt had op­posed the pur­chase in the March 20 meet­ing, say­ing they be­lieved the build­ing cost too much. Records with the Travis Cen­tral Ap­praisal District show the quar­ter-acre lot to be worth $1.04 mil­lion and of­fi­cials said in March that the land was in­de­pen­dently ap­praised at $3.7 mil­lion. The pur­chase, how­ever, is not just for land and also came with en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign for a 140,000 square foot build­ing by Devel­op­ment 2000 Inc.

If built, an of­fice at the lot would likely house county pros­e­cu­tors, County Judge Sam Bis­coe has said.

The pur­chase was paid for with bonds that don’t re­quire voter ap­proval.

By Mar­tyToohey

Down­town bi­cy­clists and jog­gers, take note: The city of Austin will be clos­ing a por­tion of the But­ler hike­and-bike trail along Lady Bird Lake to re­build a por­tion that of­fi­cials fear could soon crum­ble into the water.

Con­struc­tion crews will fence off a quar­ter-mile stretch of trail just east of the Sea­holm Power Plant some time next week. That means bi­cy­clists and jog­gers on the north side of the lake will be rerouted to West Ce­sar Chavez Street for the next six months, rather than be­ing able to fol­low the trail as it traces the shore­line and tra­verses the penin­sula that juts into the lake at Shoal Creek. The sec­tion be­ing closed in­cludes the small bridge that con­nects the penin­sula to the shore­line.

The city is clos­ing that stretch be­cause the penin­sula has been erod­ing for decades and is now los­ing about a foot a year on the Lady Bird Lake side. A por­tion of the shore­line has eroded to within a few feet of the trail and some­one who veers off the trail could eas­ily wind up tak­ing a swim, city of­fi­cials say.

“It wouldn’t take long for (ero­sion) to get be­low the trail,” said Mor­gan Byars, the city en­gi­neer over­see­ing the $1 mil­lion re­pair. The money will come from drainage util­ity fees paid through water bills.

The city had been con­sid­er­ing two so­lu­tions to the ero­sion. One called for cut­ting a chan­nel across the penin­sula and span­ning that chan­nel with a sec­ond bridge. The idea was dis­carded in fa­vor of shoring up the penin­sula with lime­stone boul­ders and adding trees and other veg­e­ta­tion to hide the work. Crews will work to pre­serve view cor­ri­dors across the lake, Byars said.

Byars said the city built the penin­sula in the 1960s to chan­nel Shoal Creek water down­stream of the in­takes of the Sea­holm and Green Water Treat­ment plants. This kept the plants from tak­ing in the dirty, de­bris-choked water that cour­ses down Shoal Creek dur­ing floods. But ero­sion has shaved about 20 feet from the penin­sula’s width, and water now washes over it dur­ing floods, Byars said.

Some­one ap­par­ently tried to curb the prob­lem years ago by dump­ing ce­ment along the shore­line, but the idea has not halted the ero­sion, Byars said.

Bi­cy­clists will be able to use the path­way on the south side of Ce­sar Chavez Street dur­ing con­struc­tion, but it is too nar­row for two-way bike traf­fic “and not ideal,” Byars said.

The city will host a meet­ing Wed­nes­day for the pub­lic to ask ques­tions of the con­trac­tor hired for the project. The meet­ing is at 6 p.m. in Room 325 of One Texas Cen­ter Of­fice, 505 Barton Springs Road.

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