Signage up on McGowen between La Branch and Austin streets heralds the property owner’s recent request for a few variances approvals from the city, include reduced building line setbacks on the site. Plans submitted with the request show cross sections of an 8-story midrise (arranged as 3 levels of parking topped by condo units above), which the application says was planned back when the owners were under the impression that the lot already had reduced building setbacks following city approvals of a previous owner’s project on the land that fell through.
As was discovered during the city’s permitting review, the previous variance approval was only applicable to the scrapped project, though the application claims that caveat wasn’t noted with mentions of the variance attached to the property’s plat records. City planners purportedly told the developers (which appear to include Knudson and Allied Orion Group) that they could get the same reduced setback lines approved again if they turn the first floor of the condo project into residences or retail.
The application says a green screen will be used to make the parking lot levels more friendly-looking to pedestrians, but that the developers aren’t too enthused about the prospect of changing up the ground floor usage. “While ground floor commercial/retail is great in theory,” the application reads, “a quick market review determined [that] commercial development is not feasible for this area of Midtown until additional residential density and rooftops are constructed.” And not only is the area not dense enough for retail yet, the applicants argue, but residents don’t like ground-floor units: citing concerns ranging from lighting to noise to crime, the application specifically mentions anecdotes of curious pedestrians peering into ground floor windows (or sleeping next to them) and high ground-floor turnover rates at the Lofts at the Ballpark in East Downtown.
Images: Swamplot inbox (photo), Humphreys & Partners Architects (rendering)