AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a conversation that’s been happening for years: the prominently placed South Central Waterfront, which right now is home to the old Austin-American Statesman building, could eventually become the latest expansion of Austin’s downtown area.

In Austin, a city that overwhelmingly works to preserve its character, big changes come with lots of concerns. One of the most vocalized during Thursday’s Austin City Council meeting was the lack of park space offered by developers and required under the proposed planned unit development (PUD).

Simply put, a PUD is a set of rules for developers, which typically go beyond what other parts of the city can do, on what can and can’t be built or what is required to be included in the space. Thursday was scheduled to be the second reading for what’s being called the Statesman PUD, but the item was postponed after council got too deep into the night. It needs a third to officially be approved, which is likely to come before the end of the month.

Preliminary plans for the area include high-rise hotels, offices and residential units spread throughout six towers. It also includes affordable housing requirements, and the city plans to build a light rail station in the area. But some shared concern about the lack of outdoor space, which is what the area is primarily used for now.

“This is a beautiful chance to have affordable housing, but in my lane, the parks, we need to preserve this space, and we need to make it accessible to everybody in Austin,” said Laura Cottamsajbel, chair of Austin’s Parks and Recreation board, noting some of the parks space included in the plan are actually underwater.

Right now, you’ll find people walking, running, biking and perhaps most notably, watching bats under Austin’s famous “bat bridge.” It’s something the community wants to keep.

“Change is inevitable, but I feel like it still needs to value this green area along the river, because that’s what like a lot of people love when they come to Austin, what they’re looking for, what people who live here value in Austin,” said Xaviera Stevens, who was walking in the area Thursday.

While some asked the city to squash the PUD Thursday, Councilmember José “Chito” Vela said he’s equally concerned about the parks space, and his top priority has been ensuring the bat bridge remains one of Austin’s most attractive spots.

“One of the most popular, most beautiful, most iconic spots in Austin. We have to protect that area, and we need to create a really world-class public area around there,” he said.

But he also noted the space could go to waste if the city isn’t able to take next steps. During a prior work session on the topic, a representative for the developer said constructions costs are going up so much, there’s a possibility the project won’t be worth the cost.

“My fear honestly is that if the deal falls through we have the abandoned Statesman building that could sit there for another 10 years. It generates very little property tax revenue, it really doesn’t do anything productive at this point,” Vela said. He also noted the current space has a high volume of concrete, which pushes debris into the river during storms.