Austin Planning Commission OKs mall tax district, downtown plan

Published 10:28 am Friday, November 14, 2014

The Austin Planning Commission approved plans on Thursday for a special tax district at the Oak Park Mall site to get more taxes for the city of Austin. The commission also approved a proposed downtown master plan that could bring more housing, outdoor elements and even a parking ramp to downtown Austin.

The tax increment financing district would help the city recuperate funds by capturing a larger percentage than normal of increased future property taxes that would come from the project to demolish Oak Park Mall and put in a new 60,000 to 90,000-square-foot Hy-Vee grocery store. Though the city, county and school district share portions of a business’ annual property taxes, a special tax district would increase the city’s share on the property, which would likely increase in value once the project is finished.

The city of Austin is contributing $750,000 toward an estimated $3,075,000 demolition project at the mall. That money is coming from the city’s general fund and building fund and won’t result in increased taxes in 2014, according to city officials.

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The Austin Port Authority will give $500,000, Hy-Vee will contribute $1 million, another $500,000 will come from state grant opportunities, and another $325,000 will be raised through local grants.

A plan for downtown

Consultants CR Planning and SEH presented their recommendations for Austin at a community meeting last month, which included a parking ramp that could go at the location of the Paradise Island building on Second Avenue Northeast, development opportunities near the Austin Post Office and the old Austin Utilities downtown plant, and a renewed emphasis on making the downtown an economic powerhouse with a cultural flair along Fourth Avenue.

Though the parking ramp had an equal amount of support and dissent, many were encouraged by the plan’s emphasis on access to Mill Pond and the Cedar River, as well as other features including a proposed heritage preservation committee.

Residents can review the plan on the city’s website.

Both the special district and downtown master plans will go before the Austin City Council.