BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 5, 2019)



Austin City Council takes first look at ‘Domain on Riverside’ mixed-use project (Austin American-Statesman)

Dozens of mattresses and trash bags line the apartment buildings at the East Riverside apartment complex Ballpark North.

Staff call this time of year “the turn.” It’s when the fully furnished apartments marketed to college students are cleaned out and prepped for a flood of new tenants to arrive just before the beginning of the school year.

This type of housing is uncommon outside of the UT campus area. Leases are offered by room, often matching up strangers with one another for a year of study. For Austin, it is one of the cheaper options for student housing.

But on Thursday, Austin’s City Council might pave the way for the redevelopment of Ballpark North and four adjacent student apartment complexes at the northeast corner of Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road.

A pair of developers want to raze the 1,300 housing units there and transform the 97 acres into a massive mixed-use development: 4,700 new housing units, 4 million square feet of office space and 600 hotel rooms in buildings that could be as tall as 15 stories.

Developers Presidium Group and Nimes Real Estate are calling the project 4700 Riverside, a rebrand of its previous iteration as Project Catalyst. But to many of the vociferous detractors of the project, it is known pejoratively as the Domain on Riverside.

The large development will come before the City Council on Thursday as a zoning case seeking to remove housing capacity caps on the property. The Planning Commission recommended allowing the project to move forward in June… (LINK TO STORY)

Parents push back against possible boundary changes as Austin ISD works out school closure plan (Austin Monitor)

The cafeteria of Bedichek Middle School in Southwest Austin was chaotic as almost 100 parents fought for the attention of AISD administrative staff. Some were still in work clothes, some in T-shirts. Almost all of them were asking questions – and sometimes things got heated.

A district staffer had to pull a father into the hallway at one point when his language became combative.

This was the Austin Independent School District’s first community meeting to explain its plans to close and consolidate schools. Maps of different sections of the city were set up along the edge of the room and large signs displayed school data. But one concern brought passionate discussions from many parents here: whether their children would be sent to new schools.

That’s one possible outcome of this process, which nobody working for the district or living in its boundaries is thrilled about. The superintendent and school board said they are being forced to consolidate schools because of budget issues and declining enrollment. AISD hasn’t announced which schools it’s considering closing – that announcement will come in September. The district has said, however, that it won’t close schools in just one part of the city; it wants the changes to affect the entire district… (LINK TO STORY)

See related:

BG Episode 38: Nicole Conley, Austin ISD CFO, on AISD’s current fiscal position

Fixing the ARCH: Downtown Austin shelter to refocus homeless efforts (Austin American-Statesman)

City officials say the downtown Austin Resource Center for the Homeless will soon look very similar to the “housing-focused” shelter the city plans to open in South Austin next year. The city plans to almost completely repurpose the ARCH and have it focus more on moving people into permanent housing rather than on providing temporary shelter and basic needs. Some of the changes, such as redesigning parts of the building, are already underway, city officials said.

The ARCH’s reorganization will result in reducing the number of beds at the facility from 190 to 130, and anyone staying there will be assigned a case manager whose primary purpose will be to keep people at the ARCH on track to move into a long-term residence. City officials said some stays could be as short as a few days while others could be a few months… (LINK TO STORY)

Despite Affordability Concerns, Austin's Housing Market Keeps Up With Demand From Job Growth (KUT)

It’s expensive to live in the Austin area, but it could be worse.

According to a new report from Apartment List, Austin is one of the better markets at keeping up with housing demand. The report compares the number of jobs created with the number of homes built between 2008 and 2018. Austin sits at 1.3 jobs per new housing unit – right in the sweet spot for that ratio, according to Chris Salviati, the housing economist who wrote the report.

Salviati says although people who live here are feeling the crunch, the city is relatively affordable compared to its peers.

"Austin remains relatively affordable compared to a lot of these places that are also booming economically, but not building enough housing,” he said, referring to cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Washington, D.C… (LINK TO STORY)


Gunman in El Paso shooting faces death penalty, federal domestic terrorism charges (Texas Tribune)

County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the suspected gunman in the deadly attack that took the lives of 20 people in this border city, and federal authorities are separately pursuing a domestic terrorism case, law enforcement officials said Sunday.

The alleged gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, north of Dallas, is in custody after police said he opened fire at a Walmart in East-Central El Paso. He was arrested without incident and is said to be cooperating with authorities… (LINK TO STORY)

After El Paso shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says video games teach young people "to kill" (Texas Tribune)

Texas officials made the rounds on Sunday morning news programs in the hours after police say a 21-year-old North Texas man killed 20 people and wounded more than two dozen others at an El Paso Walmart on Saturday. Police are investigating whether the suspected shooter may have written a manifesto that indicates the crime was racially motivated.

Appearing on Fox & Friends Sunday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that while authorities have yet to classify it as such, he saw Saturday's shooting as a "hate crime against immigrants."

Patrick cited a list of possible contributing factors, starting with video games.

"We've always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill," he said… (LINK TO STORY)

U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant will not seek reelection, marking the fourth recent GOP retirement in Texas (Texas Tribune)

U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant will not seek reelection in 2020, two sources confirmed to The Texas Tribune late Sunday.

He is the fourth member of the Texas delegation to announce his retirement in recent days. Marchant's decision was first reported by The New York Times.

Marchant, who was elected to Congress in 2004, is a founding member of the House Tea Party Caucus. He represents Texas’ 24th Congressional District, which spans the northern suburbs of Fort Worth and Dallas. The district has historically been reliably red, but Marchant’s margins of victory have grown thinner in recent elections. In 2016, he won by a comfortable two-digit margin. Last year, Marchant squeaked by with a 3 point win over Democrat Jan McDowell… (LINK TO STORY)


2 mass shootings in less than 24 hours shock US (Associated Press)

Two mass shootings at crowded public places in Texas and Ohio in less than 24 hours claimed at least 29 lives and left scores injured, a shocking carnage even in a country accustomed to gun violence.

In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season, killing 20 and injuring more than two dozen, many of them critically. The shooting was being investigated as a possible hate crime as authorities worked to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand was written by the man arrested in the attack on the 680,000-resident border city… (LINK TO STORY)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 13: Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President/CEO at Huston-Tillotson University, on Community Engagement in East Austin

Today's podcast was originally recorded on August 27, 2018 and features a discussion Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT), a private historically black university located in Austin’s East Side.

The East Side is one of the most active areas for commercial and residential development in Austin. Our conversation covers Dr. Burnette’s vision for how HT (which owns several blocks) will navigate the wave, as well as connections to the Austin community overall.(LINK TO SHOW)

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