Milestone Community Builders, the winning bidder for the 75 acres of land at the southeast corner of 45th Street and Bull Creek Road, has released their survey results and shared some of their thoughts and plans. Rosedale topped the list of neighborhoods in terms of participation in the survey. The feedback session was held on February 11th with neighbors being invited by mail, email, and lawn signs. A summary of the meeting is included below, with permission of (and thanks to) Tom Whatley of the Bull Creek Road Coalition:
Here’s a summary of what Milestone Community Builders said at their meeting with local residents on February 11. They discussed the results of their survey of nearby residents and their plans for the 75 acres of former state property between Bull Creek Rd. and Shoal Creek south of W. 45th St.
Survey response. As their PowerPoint slides for the meeting show (http://www.milestonebullcreek.com/survey), there was a good response (704) from the neighborhoods to the Milestone survey. Oakmont Heights had 104 participants, second best after Rosedale, a much bigger neighborhood – good work Oakmont! Milestone’s own preferences for the site mostly seemed to be confirmed by the survey results, which tracked closely with last year’s Bull Creek Road Coalition survey.
Mixed use development. Milestone has decided on a mixed-use community project – residential, commercial, and office. One emphasis will be preservation of open space, both within the developed portion of the project and especially in the area along Shoal Creek where the heritage trees are located. The most intensive development, particularly the commercial and office components, likely will be along Bull Creek Rd., with the density decreasing with more moderate-density residential and open space components as the development approaches Shoal Creek.
While acknowledging that office space was the least popular choice in the survey, Garrett Martin, the head of Milestone, said that it is essential to make financially workable a mixed-use, higher density project that will allow the maximum preservation of open space. He said increasing the office component also would help with traffic since greater commercial and residential use otherwise would generate an even higher volume.
They seemed to agree with the survey preference that commercial and retail be moderate in size, not a “big box” anchor store like HEB. They also seemed to favor higher density structures that would be generally compatible with the area rather than large-scale buildings.
Site plan and architects. Milestone expects to have a preliminary site plan with more specific details ready within 30 to 45 days. They have hired two architects – Overland Partners, a San Antonio firm http://www.overlandpartners.com/projects/, in charge of the overall creative part of the project, and JHP Architecture, a Dallas firm http://www.jhparch.com/, in charge of “creative and practical.” (Overland designed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.)
Milestone has mentioned repeatedly that they want to build a “legacy” community project that will still be viable in 100 years, and they want to get started on it as soon as possible. As a condition of the sale of the property, the state required a three-year leaseback of the area that includes the existing TxDOT/Department of Motor Vehicles buildings. While this will hinder initial construction in that portion of the property, Milestone says they want a “cohesive” plan for the entire site rather than developing it piece by piece.
Open space and greenbelts.
Everything Milestone presented points toward keeping an open, publicly accessible, natural space along the creek. (However, at one point they did say only that “in all likelihood” they won’t be developing near the creek, so the actual size of the natural area remains to be seen.) The natural area “likely” will be city-owned eventually, but it will be up to the city to deal with issues such as linking the area to the Shoal Creek trail. The planned “community commons” open space in the center of the development probably would be located around the highest point on the site. For access by the public, the concept they presented shows “greenbelts” within the development connecting Bull Creek Rd. with the “commons” and the Shoal Creek natural area. It also shows a green “buffer zone” along Bull Creek Rd. and behind the houses along W. 45th St.
Milestone is consulting with the city on possible solutions for handling the inevitably higher traffic volume that will be generated by their development, including possibly widening Bull Creek Rd. and reconfiguring the W. 45th St./Bull Creek Rd. intersection. (One idea that they rejected was a direct link (ramp?) from the development to MoPac!) Rather than one main entrance to the project, more likely there will be several. They plan to use more parking garages than surface spaces.
Milestone is aware of the potential impact of their development on local water pressure and are working with the city on obtaining a new high-capacity water line that would connect to the main line along MoPac. Their engineers say this new line not only would be more than adequate to supply the new development, but also might improve pressure overall for those east of MoPac.
Milestone seems favorably inclined toward including affordable housing. They noted the point made earlier about employees of Seton Hospital and Westminster Manor being able to live closer to where they work. They also said that the denser the residential component, the more affordable it would be. They hope to use green building and conservation concepts as much as possible.
City review and approval.
Since the state property that Milestone purchased has never been zoned, they will have to get city approval for whatever land use they propose. They are reluctant to use the Planned Unit Development (PUD) approach for gaining city approval of the project rather than obtaining general zoning. (A PUD process focuses more on the specific details of a particular project, while zoning is based on established land-use categories with a general range of permissible uses.) They say the city PUD process is a “mess” and takes too long.