The Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) is leading the effort to transform Congress Avenue into a truly exceptional place – the greatest street in Austin and one of the great streets in the world. Following the Visioning the Avenue Workshop and Report in 2010, the DAA undertook a number of momentum projects to make positive, visible change on the Avenue. The following is a list of project accomplishments: Congress Avenue Banners, Old Bakery Park, Planters, Buses Moved to Guadalupe & Lavaca, Congress Avenue Tree Lighting, Retail Recruitment, Plaza Life, Sidewalk Vending, Holiday Tree at the Capitol and Bike Rack Sculptures. Read more about DAA’s exciting accomplishments and vision.
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At the Economic Forecast Lunch during the RECA Exchange scheduled for August 9, Real Estate Center of Texas A&M Chief Economist Dr. James Gaines will give share his latest insight and analysis on the local, statewide and national economies and their impact on the commercial real estate industry.
RECA’s half day Exchange brings together hundreds of Austin’s commercial real estate professionals to network and learn about hot topic issues. The event is open to both members and non-members and tickets may be purchased on the RECA website.
After another marathon session, the proposed Grove at Shoal Creek mixed-use project in Central Austin did not get a stamp of approval from the Environmental Commission.
By a vote of 6-4, the advisory board charged with determining whether the 75-acre design achieves superiority as a planned unit development, or PUD, decided against the designation. One of the 11 board members was absent from the meeting.
The project now goes to the Zoning and Platting Commission next week.
It’s the second time the Environmental Commission had taken up the matter this month. At another lengthy session on June 1, when dozens of people spoke out against or in favor of the project.
Garrett Martin, the head of developer ARG Bull Creek Ltd., said pursuit of the project as a PUD under the terms laid out by the Environmental Commission would make it “economically unviable.”
Without the PUD designation, the developer would have to go through a more-traditional zoning process that could delay it even further.
Martin said he intends to move forward with the project as proposed, despite the thumbs down from the Environmental Commission and “will continue to work with the community and city leaders to address concerns as we go through the approval process.”
The proposed development is near 45th Street and Bull Creek Road, a stone’s throw from MoPac Expressway.
The Zoning and Platting Commission is expected to take up the matter at its regularly scheduled meeting June 21. Though that board is likely to consider the Environmental Commission’s determination, it will have its own criteria to judge. Ultimately, the final approval of a PUD designation for the project would be determined by City Council.
Though the Environmental Commission vote appears fairly close, the rift between representatives was deeply rooted in philosophical differences about the commission’s role in Austin’s often enigmatic development process and the commission’s long-term legacy.
Andrew Creel, a commissioner appointed by Councilwoman Ora Houston, vehemently criticized the successful motion by commission Vice Chair Peggy Maceo, which stated that the Grove at Shoal Creek did not achieve superiority with respect to drainage, tree preservation, parkland dedication, sustainability and other related matters. The motion was made around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday night after lengthy discussions with staff and the developer and was ultimately approved with a few modifications.
Austin Business Journal
A large portion of Southpark Meadows shopping center, the biggest development of its kind in the Austin area, has changed hands. Mega-investor The Blackstone Group purchased Phases I and II of the South Austin regional shopping center — about 910,000 square feet — from Canada-based RioCan real estate investment trust.
The deal — part of a $1.9 billion, 50-property portfolio sale — recently closed after being announced last year.
Data provided by Real Capital Analytics, a global data company, indicates an allocation of $270.8 million for the Southpark Meadows portion of the deal. As part of the trade, Blackstone (NYSE: BX) also acquired nearby Stassney Heights, a 102,916-square-foot strip center. A value of $30.7 million was attributed to Stassney Heights by Real Capital Analytics. Those number equate to $299 per square foot for all three properties.
Collectively, Southpark Meadows I, II and III represent the largest shopping center in Austin with 1.52 million square feet, according to Austin Business research — subscribers can see the entire list below. It was built originally by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group and is located at the southwest corner of I-35 and Slaughter Lane.
Phases I and II include Walmart, PetSmart, Hobby Lobby, Best Buy and Sports Authority, which is closing due to corporate bankruptcy. Phase III — mostly the southern portion of the center — is owned by another entity and was not part of the deal.
Stassney Heights is occupied primarily by Lowe’s Home Improvement and Fiesta Mart Inc.
Excel Trust, an affiliate of Blackstone, handles the property management for Southpark Meadows and Stassney Heights.
Austin Business Journal
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From yesterday’s Austin Business Journal
Eight organizations representing Austin real estate and business interests are demanding that the city get back on track with rewriting its land development code dubbed “CodeNext.”
Controversies about delays and budget overrides have surfaced in the past couple of months and one of the original members of the original Code Advisory Group — Melissa Neslund — resigned recently, citing her frustration with the process, which was supposed to be completed in September 2015.
The eight organizations, led by the Real Estate Council of Austin, held a press conference Wednesday urging the city to stop procrastinating and “re-litigating Imagine Austin,” said Cid Galindo, president of non-profit Evolve Austin Partners, in a statement.
Imagine Austin was the comprehensive plan adopted by the city in 2012, and CodeNext would codify the process for developers, businesses and residents to follow. But various outside interests have been calling into question issues that many thought were resolved with the adoption of Imagine Austin.
“It’s been four years since the roadmap for CodeNext was laid out in Imagine Austin, and we’re still without a draft of the code,” RECA President Ward Tisdale said in the statement. “Today the project is two years behind schedule, hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget and in jeopardy of collapsing under its own weight.”
Along with Evolve Austin Partners and RECA, the other organizations calling for immediate resolution to the delays and perceived interference are AURA, previously Austinites for Urban Rail Action, a grassroots organization; Austin Apartment Association; Austin Board of Realtors, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Austin Alliance and Home Builders Association of Greater Austin.
The real estate and business coalition said it expects to see a draft of the CodeNext no later than January 2017, supplemented by the following objectives — some that represent a radical shift from current regulations:
The code should include programs that incentivize the construction of below-market housing. Those programs need to be clear, effective, easily implemented and uniform throughout the city.
The code should provide options for missing mid-range and other more affordable housing options throughout the city with limited or no specific regulations as to quantity, density or lot and unit sizes.
The code should revise current concepts of compatibility to support denser options citywide.
The real life impacts from major code proposals should be measured using the Envision Tomorrow tool [a national and urban planning analysis program] and metrics-based planning tools. The impact of the proposed code must be analyzed before it is finalized.
As our founder was an entrepreneur and so many of our customers are hard working entrepreneurs, we would like to add our kudos to this year’s Austin winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, announced last night:
• Emerging winner: Ally Davidson, co-founder and co-CEO of Camp Gladiator
• Technology Services winner: Christopher Hester, CEO, Kinnser Software
• Real Estate, Construction and Infrastructure winner: Greg Henry, founder, Aspen Heights
• Transformational winner: Mark Watson, president and CEO, Argo Group International Holdings
• Emerging winner: Amy Porter, founder and CEO, AffiniPay LLC
• Technology winners: Hank Seale, founder and chairman; and Matt Flake, president and CEO, Q2 Software
Full story in today’s Austin Business Journal>>>
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From the HellaWella blog:
We’re huge fans of standing desks. They help give your circulatory system a break from being sedentary for hours on end, and they may even help sharpen your focus. If you’re still on the fence, then check this out.
An innovative wearable technology for standing desks that creates a new way of interacting with your computer could reduce cyber-slacking and increase healthy movement.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science are hoping to make computing a bit more fun and physically active all while helping computer users kick lazy habits by introducing a foot interaction method for computer users with a standing desk.
Professor Daniel Vogel presented Tap-Kick-Click: Foot Interaction for a Standing Desk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Designing Interactive Systems 2016 in Brisbane, Australia this week.
The idea behind the research project, conducted with master’s student William Saunders, is that computer users at standing desks can increase their physical activity through indirect, discreet two-foot movements that include a combination of kicks, foot taps, jumps and standing postures that are tracked using a depth camera and instrumented shoes.
In addition to increasing physical activity while standing, these techniques use foot input as a cyber-slacking deterrent by requiring the user to stand in a mildly uncomfortable position, such as a lunge, while viewing social networking websites or other distracting content. When the user changes from that position, the distracting content locks again.
“People already use a standing desk to be healthier and more productive. Increasing physical activity by using your feet to enter commands is our main focus, but the anti-cyberslacking pose is something that really pushes the whole idea farther,” said Vogel. “Some people already install software to completely block sites like Facebook when they want to get work done. Our technique lets people use those sites, but since they need to stand in an uncomfortable pose while viewing them, they’re naturally encouraged to keep it brief.”
The researchers demonstrate the Tap-Kick-Click technique with a web browser, document reader and a code debugger, but the system can be paired with almost any desktop application. An on-screen guide helps the user remember and perform associated foot actions while taking a break from working with their hands.
“There’s plenty of research showing that using feet to type or move a cursor isn’t a very good idea. We demonstrate that with the right style of interaction, feet are a good fit for slower tasks with intermittent input. Things like scrolling a webpage while reading or interactive code debugging,” said Vogel. “We hope our system can make computing more physically active and maybe even a bit more fun.”