Red Cross makes plans to expand

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Though few details have been determined to date, the Mower County Chapter of the American Red Cross is moving forward with an expansion to its building and parking lot.

Director Elaine Hansen said the east parking lot, off Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue Northwest, will come first, though couldn’t offer a hard timeline for the facility work to follow.

“We want to get this parking lot in, and at a later date start a capital campaign,” she said following an Austin Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night.

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With the help of Paul Johnson, of Austin-based Paul R. Johnson Architects Inc., Hansen took her first local steps Tuesday, gaining approval to rezone the area from a residential to business district.

“It’s just going to provide some flexibility,” Johnson said. “We will be in excess of the request for green space. The Red Cross wants to be a good neighbor.”

Only planning commissioner Kathy Stutzman expressed concern about the zoning change before it was unanimously authorized.

Stutzman said that while she had every confidence that the Red Cross would be accommodating to the several homes nearby, she worried that businesses or organizations that may one acquire the property would not be as considerate.

“This stays with the property, so there would not be a need for green space,” she said. “It would just have to be a concrete surface.”

Johnson was reassuring, saying that ordinance requires a buffer between neighborhoods and a parking lot.

“Any time we put a parking lot in an area, there needs to be a shield of green space for residential property. So that’s going to stay with the property,” he said.

Preliminary design plans submitted to The American National Red Cross show additions to both the west and east sides of the building, including a new garage, training space, office rooms, storage, restrooms and a new entryway. Total proposed expansion would bring the building from 2,420 square feet to 5,190 square feet.

Hansen said, however, so far the model is a draft, adding that she was required to submit a plan to the national organization to clear the purchase of property to the east last September.

“You must show them an intended plan … to make sure we are doing things and doing this appropriately,” she said.

She didn’t know exactly how much money the organization would seek in its capital campaign or when they would launch that effort.

The first priority is the parking lot, which is too small for their needs and poses hazards to in and outgoing motorists because of a utility pole near an already awkward entrance, she said.

The Red Cross purchased its Fourth Avenue location in 1973.