Rule may not limit plans of builders

Park­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Con­tin­ued from A Con­tact Ben Wear at 4453698.

de­vel­op­ers said Tues­day that mar­ket forces, for both of­fice and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties, typ­i­cally re­quire more park­ing spa­ces than the city min­i­mums, and that aban­don­ing those thresh­olds could have lit­tle or no ef­fect on the num­ber of garage spa­ces built for large down­town projects.

“I doubt that you would see much change in the near fu­ture,” said Charles Betts, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Down­town Austin Al­liance, which rep­re­sents down­town prop­erty own­ers. He added the group has no prob­lem with elim­i­nat­ing the re­quire­ment. “De­vel­op­ers and their lenders will build what they feel like the mar­ket re­quires for their project.”

“It doesn’t mat­ter what the city says, or what the city thinks is go­ing to hap­pen in 20 years,” de­vel­oper Ed Wendler said of de­vel­op­ers. “They don’t want to have a build­ing they can’t lease.”

Ri­ley ac­knowl­edged that most build­ings ex­ceed city park­ing min­i­mums now, but he said that the trend na­tion­ally is for de­vel­op­ers to build less park­ing and that elim­i­nat­ing the city rule “would put us in a bet­ter po­si­tion to adapt to changes in the mar­ket­place.”

Larry War­shaw, one of the de­vel­op­ers of the Spring con­do­mini­ums at 300 Bowie St., said the move could cre­ate change over time.

“Per­haps by tak­ing away those re­stric­tions en­tirely it sends a mes­sage, and maybe some­one brave enough will come along and take a chance,” War­shaw said. “No­body wants to build park­ing. It’s ex­pen­sive and doesn’t yield a re­turn.”

The city’s Down­town Com­mis­sion en­dorsed the pro­posal in Oc­to­ber, and the Ur­ban Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion fol­lowed suit Tues­day evening. The ini­tia­tive must clear the city Plan­ning Com­mis­sion be­fore go­ing to the coun­cil, Za­palac said.

Park­ing re­quire­ments in the city code are com­pli­cated, vary­ing by ge­og­ra­phy and the type of use for a build­ing. But for build­ings down­town — bounded by La­mar Boule­vard, MLK Jr. Bou- levard, In­ter­state 35 and Lady Bird Lake — of­fice build­ings gen­er­ally must have at least one park­ing space for ev­ery 1,375 square feet, and condo and apart­ment build­ings must have 0.9 spa­ces for a one-bed­room unit and 1.2 spa­ces for a two-bed­room unit.

At the 252-unit Spring, War­shaw said de­vel­op­ers pro­vided one space for each one-bed­room, and two spa­ces for each twobed­room.

The ex­tent of down­town’s park­ing sur­plus isn’t clear. The April coun­cil res­o­lu­tion said that the av­er­age oc­cu­pancy rate of off-street park­ing is 26 per­cent and that peak oc­cu­pancy is 67 per­cent.

Those fig­ures, Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment spokes­woman Karla Vil­lalon said, were based on a De­cem­ber 2011 sur­vey by the city’s Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment of a sam­pling of down­town garages and sur­face lots to­talling 14,600 spa­ces. The 26 per­cent us­age fig­ure was from Sun­day through Wed­nes­day, and the 67 per­cent us­age was for Thurs­day through Sun­day, and the snap­shots ap­peared to be taken dur­ing evening hours, Vil­lalon said.

She was not aware of a com­pre­hen­sive city study of down­town park­ing in­ven­tory or us­age.

De­vel­oper David Kahn hopes to build a 28story bou­tique ho­tel on the north­west cor­ner of Eighth Street and Congress Av­enue with no park­ing spa­ces as part of the build­ing. The project, as con­ceived now, would also have of­fices and a live mu­sic venue.

Kahn has asked the coun­cil to grant sev­eral vari­ances to city or­di­nances, in­clud­ing al­low­ing use of ex­ist­ing off-site park­ing to count to­ward meet­ing the city’s min­i­mum park­ing re­quire­ment for the project. He said the qui­eter north end of down­town has “an abun­dance of park­ing” and that the ho­tel would use valet ser­vices for guests. The Driskill and In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Stephen F. Austin ho­tels, built be­fore au­to­mo­bile park­ing was an is­sue, do not have garages ei­ther.

So, would re­mov­ing the min­i­mum re­quire­ment change Kahn’s park­ing plans?

“No,” he said. “We need a cer­tain amount of park­ing for our cus­tomers. You still have the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple driv­ing their cars. That’s not go­ing to change any­time soon.”

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