New high rises and public park planned for Statesman site

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An area just south of downtown Austin could get a dramatic transformation. Austin developer Endeavor Real Estate Group announced plans to redevelop the current Austin-American Statesman property.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind property,” said Richard Suttle, attorney representing the project.

He said the owner of the site, Cox Media Group, and Endeavor “understand how special it is, and with that comes the obligation to develop it in a sustainable, sensitive way.”

305 S. Congress Statesman site redevelopment proposal (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Photo)

The 19-acre site is at 305 South Congress Avenue, just south of Lady Bird Lake and next to the Congress Avenue Bridge. Many visitors go to the bridge at night to watch the bats.

Scott and Jessica Butler, visiting from Colorado, said they made bat-watching one of their stops during their trip. Scott said he used to live in Austin, and this is his first time back in six years.

Scott said he lived in Austin 27 years but noticed right away some dramatic changes. “When you get to the other side of the freeway, that’s all new! All the stuff on the east side. Everything seems just more commercial.”

The redevelopment plan calls for building about six buildings. In total, it’ll be 3.6 million square feet of office, retail, hotel and residential space.

The centerpiece, however, will be “a big park welcoming to all Austinites,” said Suttle.

Jessica Butler who was visiting Austin for the first time said she liked how green the city is. “There’s a lot of outdoor things to do around here, I love it.”

Suttle said 12 acres of the property will be open to the public with a park and several different access points to the Hike and Bike Trail. He added that building a pedestrian bridge across Lady Bird Lake is a possibility.

305 S. Congress Statesman site redevelopment proposal (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Photo)

“It’s going to be a very unique and fun project to do because it’s going to enhance our park system, trail system and invite more Austinites downtown into the parks,” he explained.

The project will need a zoning change, Suttle said. The tallest building they’re planning on is 525-feet tall. The height restriction there right now is 400 feet.

But Suttle said he believes the proposal fits the city’s long-term redevelopment goal for the area.

The South Central Waterfront Initiative adopted in 2016 involves 32 separate private properties. The goal is to make it an attractive, pedestrian-friendly area.

The initiative also talks about including affordable housing.

“We will have an affordable housing component within the project,” said Suttle. “It’ll have a substantial number of affordable housing units but we’re not to that level of detail yet.”

The South River City Citizens is a neighborhood group near the Statesman site. They said they would like to meet with the developer to see how the project will impact them.

The Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

Separately, the City of Austin is looking at ways to improve the Congress Avenue Bridge. The Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative calls for reducing the lanes on the bridge to two from three in each direction, creating protected bike lanes and improving the sidewalks.

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