Sunday, August 31, 2014

Photographic Visualizations of Cousins Development of Marshall Tract

Jim Lear sent me a photographic visualization of one of the proposed building. The photograph was taken from Thaddeus Cove near the bottom of the hill looking north. I also took a photograph from Lost Creek Blvd looking north.

Jim sent this information with his merged image photograph:

  • The picture was taken at 30°16'52.9"N 97°49'38.3"W, +/- 16.4 feet.
  • The home under construction has studs on the third floor that I measured with a tape measure at 106”.
  • I estimated the distance to the Cousins building will be roughly 10/7 the distance to the home.
  • The distance between floors is 13.5’.
  • Scaling 150” of the Palisades floor by 7/10 because of the additional distance is 105”, almost exactly one stud from the home.
  • The stick in the picture is one home stud with the building scaled to one floor per stud.

I took a series of four overlapping photographs from Lost Creek Blvd looking north into the Marshall tract. I then used a program called Panorama Maker 6 to stitch the photographs together. I scaled a drawing of the buildings to the trees (estimating them to be 20 feet) and placed them in the approximate location of the proposed buildings.

Photographic visualizations are tricky. The camera's perspective is not the same as the eye and changes from lens to lens. Both of us have done as careful a visualization as we can given the tools we have.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Information on Public Hearings

From Planning Commission Comment Form

Zoning Change - What Are the Notification Requirements?

The Applicant and his designated agent, as well as property owners, renters and utility account holders, registered neighborhood associations, community groups and environmental interest groups located within 500 feet of the zoning change are mailed an initial notice of filing within 14 days of application submittal. The notice includes the applicant's contact information, descriptions of the existing and proposed zoning, and Staff contact information. Subsequent notice(s) identifying the date and time of the Land Use Commission and City Council meetings are also mailed prior to these public hearings. Signs which identify the case number are also posted on all properties under zoning review.

Approximate Boundaries: 500 feet from property

There are about 60 homes within 500 feet of the property as well as several office buildings.

What Is a Planned Unit Development (PUD)?

A Planned Unit Development (PUD) is intended for large or complex developments under unified control planned as a single continuous project, to allow single or multi-use projects within its boundaries and provide greater design flexibility for development proposed within the PUD. Use of a PUD district should result in development superior to that which would occur using conventional zoning regulations. PUD zoning is appropriate if the PUD enhances preservation of the natural environment; encourages high quality and innovative design and ensures adequate public facilities and services for development within the PUD.

The minimum size generally considered appropriate for a PUD is ten acres. Absent unique or special topographic constraints or other exceptional circumstances affecting the property, creation of a PUD is not justified for development of tracts of less than ten acres since conventional zoning regulations should provide for adequate development. Please refer to Chapter 25-2, Division 5, (Subpart ASubpart BSubpart C,and Subpart D ).  You can also download the  PUD Ordinance document.

How Tall Will the Tallest Building Be?

Well, it depends upon what you mean by tall. In height above it's base ground level it's only 125 feet, but in elevation above sea level it will be one of the tallest buildings in Austin.

The green represents the elevation of the ground the building is on. Note that Palisades West is a Cousins development also. They picked the two 1,000 foot plateaus in our area to build upon.

Photograph of Austin skyline taken in 2013, Skyscraper, Austin

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cousins PUD Plans

The following are three charts filed by Cousins on their proposed PUD:

  • Land use plan
  • Cut/Fill
  • Notes

New Traffic Generated by Cousins Proposed Development of the Marshall Tract

Cousins plans for development of the Marshall Tract include two office towers (7 and 5 story) with 375,000 square feet of office space and a senior living center with approximately 100 residents.

According  to the Institute of Traffic Engineers Trip Generation book, the office towers will generate 3,700 trips daily, and the senior living center will generate 350 trips daily.

The traffic for the office towers will enter and exit through Las Cimas so there will be no direct impact on Lost Creek Blvd. traffic. However, it will increase traffic on Loop 360 by 8%. The traffic from the senior living center is planned to enter and exit through Lost Creek Blvd. This traffic will increase traffic on Lost Creek Blvd by 3%. These are based on data obtained from TxDOT as shown below.
This analysis is based on average daily traffic counts. Because of morning and evening commuting, there are times when traffic is heavier than at other times. We do have traffic counts on Lost Creek Blvd. by hour and these are shown below.
These were measured in the summer and therefore are understated because it does not include school traffic. The senior living center peak traffic in the morning is estimated to be 6 and the evening to be 8. Neither will impact congestion on Lost Creek Blvd. significantly. However, there may be a safety issue related to the placements of two cuts into Lost Creek Blvd.

We do not have equivalent data from TxDOT on Loop 360.

In 2011, my wife Barbara and I, made a study of traffic on Loop 360 and Lost Creek Blvd. What we found was that there was 1.2M square feet of offices in the immediate area generating traffic that came through the intersection of Lost Creek Blvd. and Loop 360. The two office towers will add 375,000 square feet of office space bringing the total to almost 1.4M square feet, a 31% increase. This increase in office space will bring the office generated traffic on Loop 360 from 9,040 to 12,731 cars per day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Visualization of Buildings in the Context of Lost Creek

I was able to figure out how to import a Google Map with its terrain feature into Sketch Up to make a 3D visualization of Lost Creek with two buildings in it.. This video was created to show how the two buildings proposed for the Marshall Tract by Cousins would look like compared to the neighborhood.
Lost Creek Context for Two Office Buildings from Paul Schumann on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Austin's Hill Country Roadway Ordinance

The Marshall Tract is within the city limits of Austin, although we are not...yet. Loop 360 is designated a Hill Country Roadway and certain restrictions apply to buildings built within 1,000 feet of the roadway.

Visualization of Cousins Proposed Development of the Marshall Tract


The Marshall Tract is 37.4 acres of undeveloped land bordered on two sides by homes in the Lost Creek neighborhood and two sides by office buildings. The land is zones for single family houses (SF2). Cousins, an international real estate developer has proposed to the Marshalls, descendants of the original family who settled the land, to purchase the land if the land can be designated a PUD (Planned Unit Development) and two office towers (7 and 5 story), and a senior living center be built on the land.

The intrusion of the office development into Lost Creek will be substantial and will set a precedent for further land development along Loop 360. No other office development is this offensive to its neighbors.

The purpose of this study was to create visualizations of the proposed project that the residents of Lost Creek could examine and determine for themselves whether they were opposed to the development or not.

Description of Study

The raw material for the visualization created came from the presentation made by Cousins to LCNA on July 31, 2014. A copy of this presentation is available by clicking here.

The key chart used was the draft schematic shown below.

Other maps were used as well and are shown in the appendix
The basic dimensions and contours of the land were digitized. The elements of the development were symbolized by simple rectangles. Positions of the rectangles were placed carefully with approximate dimensions taken from the drawing above.

Symbolic houses and trees (approximately to scale) were placed around the development to provide scale.
The program used to create the visualization was Sketch Up. At my request Sketch Up provided a full working version of their software to me for one month at no cost. (Because of its intended use.) Since I was not experienced with Sketch Up and had to learn the basics quickly, the visualizations are simple.

I did not learn how to make the land contours smooth so they show up as cliffs. Each step in 20 feet, and the elevation starts at 940 feet, the base  plane of the drawing. The boundaries of the 940 foot plane do not match the boundaries of the tract. Some of the tract is lower than 940 feet, but not as low as 920 feet. In order the make the plateau flat and big enough to position the buildings, I took the top 20 feet off the top of the contour (980 feet). The peak is actually at 1,003 feet.

Three types of houses are include – single story, 2 story with low profile and 3 story with high profile. Trees are 20, 30 and 40 feet tall.

The 7 story building is 125 feet tall. The five story office building, the three story senior living center and the two story garage were scaled in height to the 7 story building.

The two roads shown are Lost Creek Blvd., and Quaker Ridge.

The results are shown in the following images.

A video of this model is shown below.
(I tried recording this several different times and unfortunately my computer can't keep up with all the graphics and a voice over, so the audio tract breaks up a couple of time.)

Visualization of the Marshall Tract from Paul Schumann on Vimeo.

For a copy of this post, click here.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Economic Value of the Marshall Tract

The economic value of the developed Marshall Tract is an important consideration in today's world. It's easy to get an estimate of its economic value because the Travis County appraisals are all public knowledge.

The land is current owned by Dan Marshall et al. It is zoned single family residential (SF2). For current tax purposes the land is value at $4,342 for 37.3 acres. That's $116 per acre. It is valued so low because the owners claim a Wildlife Management exemption. Only $106 per year in taxes are paid on the undeveloped land.

As a result there are strong economic reasons why local taxing authorities would embrace significant improvements on the land.

With all the constraints to development of the land – conditional overlays, environmental concerns, entrance and exits, water/sewage and topography – it has been estimated that only 74 houses can be built on the property. If the houses and land were valued at $700,000 to $1M each, the total value of the economic development would be between $52M and $74M.

The Palisades development, considered to be similar to the proposed development on the Marshall Tract, is valued at $106M. And, the Belmont Senior Living Center, considered to be similar to the one proposed for the Marshall tract, is valued at $15M. The total development of the Marshall Tract would be approximately $121M.

The houses and land already in Lost Creek have an average value of $500,000. That means, the total value that we have invested in Lost Creek is about $625M. This is larger than any of the other types of development of the Marshall Tract and must be protected as a minimum and enhanced if possible.

Unfortunately, we have no way to economically value quality of life and changes to the character of the neighborhood. That's up to you to judge and express.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Development Assessment Application

To read the Development Assessment Application from Cousins, the first step in the formal process seeking approval for the proposed development, click here.

You will note that they are seeking GO (General Office) zoning for the PUD base, but they are seeking numerous modifications of this code.

Zoning Change Process

The chart below shows Austin's zoning change process. The request will be to change the current zoning of the Marshall Tract from single family (SF2) to a Planned Unit Development (PUD). Following it is Cousins timeline for approvals.

Cousins missed their initial date of August 7th, and just recently completed the first step.

Below are the City's requirements for  SF-2 and a PUD.

Austin's Zoning Principles

  • Zoning should be consistent with the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) or adopted neighborhood plan.
  • Zoning should satisfy a public need and not constitute a grant of special privilege to an individual owner; the request should not result in spot zoning.
  • Granting a request for zoning should result in an equal treatment of similarly situated properties.
  • Granting the zoning should not in any way set an undesirable precedent for other properties in the neighborhood or within other areas of the city.
  • Zoning should allow for a reasonable use of the property.
  • Zoning should promote a transition between adjacent and nearby zoning districts, land uses, and development intensities.
  • Zoning should promote the policy of locating retail and more intensive zoning near the intersections of arterial roadways or at the intersections of arterials and major collectors.
  • The request should serve to protect and preserve places and areas of historical and cultural significance.
  • Zoning should promote clearly identified community goals such as creating employment opportunities or providing for affordable housing.
  • A change in conditions has occurred within the area indicating that there is a basis for changing the originally established zoning and/or development restrictions for the property.
  • The rezoning should be consistent with the policies adopted by the City Council or Planning Commission/Zoning and Platting Commission.
  • Zoning changes should promote compatibility with adjacent and nearby uses and should not result in detrimental impacts to the neighborhood character.
These are extracted from City of Austin, Neighborhood Planning, Guide to Zoning

Constraints to Development of the Marshall Tract

There are numerous constraints to the development of the Marshall Tract. These are shown graphically below.

Impacts on Crime

Click here to read about the impacts of dense development on crime rates.

Impacts on the Environment

Click here to read an analysis of the potential impacts on the environment of proposed land development.

Water Usage

Click here to read an analysis of our need to conserve water in Lost Creek and the impacts of the proposed development on water usage.

Traffic Impact Analysis

Click here to read a traffic analysis of various scenarios of the Marshall Tract. Later I will provide specific traffic estimates for the proposed development.

Marshall-Eanes Historical Cemetery and Historical Markers

Click here to learn more.

Marshall Family and Land History

This a short history of the Marshall Tract being considered for development by Cousins Properties. It was developed by extracting sections of the book Eanes: Portrait of a Community by Linda Vance and Dorothy Depwe, 1986. It also includes new material on the Marshall historical cemetery on the property and the Marshall and Eanes family trees.

"The Marshall Tract is a remnant of one of many ranches and farms in the Eanes community. Almost all have been developed in one fashion or another.

Part of the Marshall Ranch is now on the other side of Loop 360 where the ranch house was placed after the development of Lost Creek. It's original location was on the land now known as The Point, at the intersection of Lost Creek Blvd and Loop 360. It had a spring on it, now on the East side of Loop 360. This spring fed what was known at the time as Smith Creek and is often called Dry Creek now. People occasionally mistake Smith Creek for Eanes Creek which is farther West. The creek runs East past The Hills and Eanes Elementary School and eventually enters Lake Austin. It has two hills on it, one at 1,003 feet, is the highest point in Lost Creek and one of the highest points in Travis County. The other hill is only slightly lower and is to the east of the higher hill. At its peak is a historical cemetery. It is rocky with little soil (hardscrabble) and is populated with a majority of cedar trees, oaks with other deciduous trees. The outcroppings and rocks are limestone."

To read more, click here.

Who Is Cousins?

"Cousins Properties Incorporated is a fully integrated, self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust (REIT).   The Company, based in Atlanta, GA primarily invests in Class-A office towers located in high growth Sunbelt markets, with a focus on Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

Founded in 1958, Cousins creates shareholder value through its extensive expertise in the development, acquisition, leasing and management of high-quality real estate assets.  The Company has a comprehensive strategy in place based on a simple platform, trophy assets and opportunistic investments."

To read more, click here and here.

Cousins' Palisades West at the corner of loop 360 and Bee Caves Rd. was designed by Duda Paine. Click here for more information. The buildings on the Marshall tract will look something like this.

The senior living center will probably be developed by someone else. A part of the Marshall tract will be sold for that use. It may look something like Belmont Village on Bee Caves Rd. Click here for more information.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Cousins Properties Eyes Marshall Tract

World News Network, April 21, 2014

Read article in by clicking here.

Developer Proposes Lost Creek Multi-use Project

Community Impact, August 13, 2014
Lesslee Bassman

Marshall Tract could include fire station, senior living center or day care facility

Development assessment plans for the Marshall Tract, a roughly 37-acre parcel located within the city of Austin at the edge of the Lost Creek neighborhood, will be filed by mid-August by the tract’s developer, real estate company Cousins Properties, Senior Vice President Tim Hendricks said.

The parcel is bordered by Lost Creek Boulevard, Quaker Ridge Drive and Capital of Texas Hwy.
Cousins intends to construct a 150,000-square-foot, five-story office building; a 225,000-square-foot, seven-story office building; a 20-foot to 25-foot tall parking garage; and either a fire station, senior living facility or day care, Hendricks said at a July 29 presentation to the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association.

To read more, click here.

Cousins Properties Eyes Marshall Tract

Austin Business Journal, April 21, 2014
Michael Theiss

Cousins Properties Inc. has discussed purchasing 38 acres of the Marshall tract on Lost Creek Boulevard in West Austin,  according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

The disclosure of the Atlanta-based development company's interest in the tract came during statements made at a recent meeting of the Lost Creek Municipal Utility District, but the report notes that the developer has yet to file for any building permits on the tract.

Utility district officials said Cousins developers hope to transform the tract into an office park. There is also the possibility that a portion of the land could be sold again to make way for an assisted-living center.

To read more, click here.

Cousins Initial Plans for Development

Cousins shared their development plans for the Marshall Tract on July 29, 2014. They are asking to change the zoning from residential to a PUD and want to put two office buildings (5 and 6 story) and either a fire station or senior care center on the property.

To view  the document they presented, click here.

Developer Eyes Lost Creek for Build

Community Impact, June 11, 2014
Leslee Bassman

"Developer Cousins Properties is planning to request the rezoning of a 37-acre tract at the top of Lost Creek Boulevard from single-family residential to a commercial planned unit development in the next 60 to 90 days, Cousins Properties’ attorney Steve Drenner said.

Jennifer Lamm, president of the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association which represents the homeowner near the proposed development, said Tim Hendricks, vice president of development for Cousins Properties, notified the LCNA board members in March that the tract was under contract.

Hendricks told LCNA board members the proposed project may include two multistory office buildings, one or two parking garages and an assisted-living center, Lamm said. Access to the site is planned through an easement on the adjacent Las Cimas commercial property, she said.

Lamm said she told Hendricks the association was concerned about the building height and setbacks for the development. A cemetery on the tract would also need to be protected during and after development, she said.

Some Lost Creek residents voiced concerns about the plan to develop the 37-acre site—known as the Marshall Tract—during a special meeting with Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez on May 24.
Residents said they were concerned about what impact the added traffic to the complex would have on the area as well as the aesthetics of an office building in the neighborhood and maintaining open space in the community.

“It will be a big development in our little neighborhood that we’ve taken such good care of,” said Cindy Edwards, who moved to Lost Creek in 1988. “People who back up to it will be staring at an office building instead of [a] greenbelt.”

Lamm asked Martinez what rights the neighborhood may have to determine the type of project built on the property. She said although the Marshall Tract is inside the city of Austin, the Lost Creek neighborhood is in Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, until it is fully annexed by the city Dec. 15, 2015.

Martinez said property owners may request the decision on the project be postponed until after annexation.
Residents may also petition against rezoning the tract, requiring Austin City Council pass the rezoning by a supermajority vote, which would be six out of seven council members, said Jerry Rusthoven, city of Austin planning and development manager.

“A development of the size and height of Palisades West, as the developer suggested, is not compatible with our adjacent, single-family residential neighborhood,” Lamm said. “A development at this location needs to be smaller-scaled and set back so that it transitions into the neighborhood.”"

Read more by clicking here.

What Is the Marshall Tract?

The Marshall Tract is 37.4 acres of land originally settled by John Marshall in 1857. the land has historical significance and has a family cemetery on it. It also has within its boundaries, the highest point in Lost Creek (1,003 feet). Relatives of the original founder still own the land.

To find out more about the land, click here.

Developer Eyeing Marshall Tract

Austin American Statesman, April 16, 2014

A potential developer is looking into purchasing the Marshall tract in Lost Creek.

The developer, Cousins Property, approached the Lost Creek Neighborhood Association about the 38 acres of land, according to statements at a recent meeting at the Lost Creek Municipal Utility District. No permits or building designs have been filed yet.

To read more, click here.