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Developer Granted Delay on Controversial East Austin Tower Decision

City will hear proposal for height increase, opposed by neighborhoods, in August

The Austin City Council has just approved a delay in the hearing of a height-increase proposal for two proposed East Austin residential towers that have been the subject of controversy for several months.

As developers envision it, plans for the One Two East project would include two luxury and market-rate residence towers—one for active seniors, and one of market-rate apartment for individuals and families—on the corner of East 12th Street and the northbound I-35 access road (currently the location of the Lucky Lady Bingo parlor and a CVS drugstore). The bottom floor would house a full-service grocery store, according to their plans. Renderings show townhomes and a plaza facing Branch Street, in back of the structure.

The 2.8-acre site has for several years had entitlements to build up to 150 feet on some portions (some areas were limited to 100 feet due to Capitol view corridor considerations), higher than any other tract on the east side of the highway between Lady Bird Lake and the Mueller neighborhood.

In February, the Austin Planning Commission approved a developers' representative The Drenner Group's request for an additional 35-foot allowance in the existing area with the 150-foot allowance.

Surrounding neighborhood groups officially objected to the allowance due to concerns about traffic on Branch, which narrows to 18 feet wide at some points (and is usually lined on both sides with parking for Franklin Barbecue). The groups were particularly skeptical that two garage entrance points on Branch would work on the narrow street.

In addition, neighborhood residents expressed fear that towers potentially out of scale with the single family homes directly behind them—many sold by the city to residents who qualify for its affordable housing program—will increase taxes and decrease the desirability of the neighborhood, eventually leading to replacement by more large buildings.

Neighbors also expressed concern that the site's history—Huston Tillotson University, the city's African-American (and first) university, was first located there—was not going to be honored.

After the Planning Commission decision, yard signs opposing the increase popped up all over the neighborhoods surrounding the One Two East site. Neighborhoods also organized opposition to send letters and emails explaining their position to council members.

Drenner group held two town hall meetings in the bingo parlor to present its proposed project to surrounding neighborhoods. Both meetings were contentious, though the second one, in early April, was especially heated.

At today's council meeting, Drenner requested a postponement until May. After a neighborhood representative requested a longer postponement, the council set the new hearing for August 4.