Posts Tagged ‘Real Estate’

"It wasn’t supposed to be like this."

That’s a quote from an article that appeared first on line yesterday and now today in the WSJ real-estate section. The hard-copy title is kinder (“Bigger in Texas? Capital’s Real-Estate Glut Counts,” byline Maura Webber Sadovi) than the one appearing in some searches (“Austin’s Real-Estate Glut”). The print version has numbers comparing office, retail, and warehouse vacancy rates and rent per square foot for the 2008 third quarter and for the same quarter a year ago, as well as the median prices for single-family houses. I may have overlooked this information before seeing it today in this feature, but it’s reported here that the Austin Museum of Art building project has been postponed yet again. There are lots of negative descriptions in this piece, including “binge,” “bloated,” “deteriorating demand,” and more. Just how much of a lag will there be between the facts and the subsequent adjustment of appraised values for tax purposes that will accurately reflect the downward course?

Will Congress Avenue Survive?

On my way to try out the new Conjunctured co-working space (which is a whole other story) today on my bike, I stopped to get a few breakfast tacos at the doomed Las Manitas Cafe.  Across the street, the abomination known as The Austonian (please don’t start calling Austin residents “Austonians” – we are Austinites!) is going up. In addition to losing Las Manitas as a business, a letter posted on the counter at Las Manitas made it sound like Congress Avenue could lose that block of buildings, completely, to the new Marriott property.  The letter on the counter indicated there will be a hearing of the Historical Commission this coming Monday, yet I could not find out any information on the City’s Web site today.

That little section of Congress, which is supposedly a National Historic District, is really a huge part of what I think of as Austin.  My grandparents ran a store on Congress when I was a kid, and I remember when Las Manitas was Avenue Cafe, Woolworth’s supplied all our pharmaceutical needs as well as tasty shakes and burgers, the elegant Scarbrough’s department store gave us a taste of big-city living a la Macy’s or Bergdorf’s, and the Picadilly Cafeteria was upscale dining.  How much of that essence, the feeling, of that past remain? I’m worried.  Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but we have historic districts for good reason in this country, and I hope there is some teeth in this one. 

Oak Hill whiners FLUMmoxed

So if you bother to move to the outskirts of Austin, you must be doing so to get a big house on a big lot on a quiet street, close to “good” schools, for much cheaper than Central Austin. If you do so, you have no right to complain that you can’t walk to the store.

Well, people in Oak Hill and Southwest Austin apparently want their cake and to eat it too. As much as I am an avid proponent of denser development and public transit, I find it disingenuous of the community leaders in that area to now start blaming the Save Our Springs ordinance for the fact that their neighborhoods aren’t (and may never be) more pedestrian friendly and dense.

Tomorrow night, the city’s planning staff will present the tentative Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and plan documents to stakeholders for one last discussion before the planning commission and city council vote on it. David Richardson, who lead the effort at the neighborhood level, complains to Community Impact that the SOS ordinance blocks any and every kind of good development because

landowners cannot develop or put impervious cover, which is anything from rooftops to parking lots, over more than 25 percent of an individual landowner’s property, in the area called the contributing zone.

Mr. Richardson complains that you can’t put in denser muliple-use development that would make walking and biking more appealing because of the “roadblocks” like this.

The SOS ordinance *should* be a roadblock. Its intent is to discourage development, which causes water pollution in the sensitive contributing zone and the more sensitive recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. If you want to live in a densely developed area, move to Central Austin!

Local daily looks again: proposed POS required energy upgrades

Only listeners to KVET seemed to be following this issue up until a day or so ago. Up until about that time, it was not under discussion on neighborhood listservs around town, which leads me to conclude that more people should be reading the local daily and the Chron from cover to cover, not to mention listening to KVET. There’s a resolution forming the “Energy Efficient Retrofit Task Force” with an unwieldy number of members. The task force is due to report to the city council on or before June 1 (see agenda item 64 from December 13). Its next meeting is set for tomorrow. Today’s newspaper feature has given the gift of greater visibility to the Keep Austin Affordable site (“Austin Realtors question plan to require efficiency upgrades for older homes: City says complaints are premature, alarmist,” byline Katie Humphrey).

Why should those of us who seldom or never consume over 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity pay for the ever-growing consumption caused by those evidently compelled to build in a cornfield, tear down a perfectly good structure and construct a monster in its place, or “remodel” by expanding an existing house by four or five times? Only this morning, we learned that additional tree limbs will be sacrificed in our vicinity to add a transformer “required” because voltage is now “insufficient.” Somebody’s recently installed multi-kitchens and other upgrades and proliferations of electricity-operated conveniences in a bloated edifice demand this service upgrade; not only that, another outfit of the same sort will soon be completed and is likely to “require” the same sort of service upgrade, with accompanying destruction.

So much for affordable housing. So much for preserving Austin’s shade canopy.

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