By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Karlin Real Estate is planning on building its first 315 apartments at Highpoint at 2222, the former 3M site. These first apartments – at 6800 River Place Boulevard at the RM 2222 corner – would be a small portion of the total 1,400 apartment units Karlin is planning at the former 156-acre site.
This information was shared at a Karlin presentation that longtime Glenlake resident Linda Bailey attended on September 16.
Bailey said that Karlin is expected to file its application soon to build the 315 apartments on nearly 10 acres off River Place Boulevard.
Bailey, who worked at IBM and then the University of Texas before retiring, has lived in the Four Points area for some 40 years. She is president of the Lake Austin Collective but for this article is not speaking on behalf of the group, but rather as a concerned resident.
After much research, Bailey compiled a presentation of her own over the last several days to help raise awareness about Karlin’s plans for the former 3M site, which she says is still under the Planned Development Agreement from the mid 1980s.
Bailey wants to see fair rezoning of the site using current, modern codes.
She invites residents to visit www.Hillcountrydevelopment.org and sign a petition requesting the site to be rezoned “to an accurate multi use category and current code, which will require a traffic impact study and traffic mitigation, current code on environment laws, and current code on land development with some protections for neighbors.”
Mike McGlashan, Karlin’s Austin-based vice president of acquisitions and development, presented Karlin’s plans last month. He shared Karlin is planning to have “up to 1.5 million square-feet of office space, 77,000 square-feet of retail, and up to 1,400 apartments” over multiple phases, Bailey said.
The Karlin website also shares that the development potential of the Highpoint site is 2.6 million square-feet.
Once complete, plans call for the site to be bigger than Lakeline Mall with future offices to be five stories tall, Bailey said.
McGlashan shared that Karlin plans to start applying to build the first 315 apartments as soon as refurbishing the existing buildings are complete, she said.
Extensive renovations of the existing nine buildings totalling some 1.1 million square-feet of space has been going on since August, and plans are to be done by summer of 2023, according to an earlier statement from Karlin.
Additionally Karlin wants to add another entrance and traffic light off of RM 2222 at Sitio Del Rio Blvd.
Bailey is concerned about the volume of traffic and would like to see a full traffic impact study. She also questions how access to the Leander ISD schools would be timely and safe with this expected large increase in traffic.
Environmental & intensity
Bailey was surprised at the number of apartments going in because as she recalls, the city of Austin originally never intended this Four Points area – surrounded by Balcones Canyonland Preserve, Lake Travis and Lake Austin – to have this much density in the sensitive environmental area.
The site is in an area where Bull Creek originates and is in the Austin Comprehensive Plan.
“Our area is defined as an Environmentally Sensitive Area. The 3M site area was low intensity compared to Lakeline Mall, which is high intensity,” Bailey said.
Planned Development Agreement
Bailey’s interest was piqued to dig further into research when it appeared Karlin is trying to be “grandfathered” under 3M’s ordinance for the site (#841115-GG), which was signed in August 1984. This ordinance is an agreement between 3M and the city called a Planned Development Agreement and industrial district agreement.
Richard Suttle, Armbrust & Brown PLLC attorney, is working for Karlin and shared with Bailey that they are currently using the Planned Development Agreement for the site, which includes guidelines specific to a 3M research and development site.
“That’s really the governing document for the property in their mind,” said Bailey, who has researched and did not find any other Planned Development Agreement than the 1984 PDA governing the site.
For three decades, 3M housed their office and laboratory employees on the Four Points campus that developed industrial electronics, fiber optics and other products.
But Karlin is not building and marketing a R&D campus style facility where no apartments are allowed, with only one owner with less traffic, Bailey said. “They are building a multiple-use style facility like the Domain with apartments, many office renters, and retail,” she said.
The PDA agreement is for only 3M R&D, administration and support facilities but Karlin wants to rent not to just one company owner like 3M to, but multiple corporations, apartment dwellers and retailers, Bailey said. The agreement says the property is industrial use only, but Karlin wants retail.
Karlin’s website states: “Phase one contemplates the transformation of the existing buildings into over a million square feet of premium laboratory and office space as well as a tenant amenity hub. Future phases will incorporate multi-family, retail, and office as well as an outdoor activities center and numerous campus amenities.”
Bailey believes Karlin wants “the 3M R&D agreement, so they don’t have to do environmental studies or a traffic study or traffic mitigation. They wouldn’t be brought to current standards on water quality, impervious cover, or Hill Country Roadway ordinances,” she said.
Additionally, as far as Bailey knows, the Highpoint site at this point does not have to have building height limits, requirements to pay into affordable housing, energy conservation mandates such as green energy or dark skies. It has no current code for environmental regulations for trees, drainage, ponds, water quality, and no impervious cover on slopes.
Traffic & stop light
Karlin’s plans include an added stop light and entrance at RM 2222 and Sitio Del Rio Boulevard. Additionally the traffic there is unofficially estimated to be 26,000 trips a day, Bailey said.
“If the grandfathering is granted by the city of Austin, Karlin said they would not do a traffic impact study because they don’t have to,” Bailey shared.
She is concerned about not only the school traffic but also the commuter traffic and local traffic going through the 2222 choke point.
Apartments concept site plan
Backing up Karlin’s plans for the first set of apartments at Highpoint, a city of Austin concept site plan application was submitted in June 2022. It was filed under Project West Austin MF Parcel. It reads that the “applicant is proposing a concept site plan” for two multi-family buildings on nearly 10 acres.
A concept site plan, according to the city of Austin, “gathers sufficient information for City of Austin staff to provide feedback and commitments to applicants before submitting a formal development application for site plan review.”
The concept plan listed Los Angeles-based Karlin River Place LLC as the owner, Page as the architect, GarzaEMC LLC as the engineer, and Design Workshop as the landscape architect. The plans were distributed to Austin Water and Austin Energy for review. But according to the filings for the 2022-086929 SP, these concept site plans were rejected on August 22, 2022.
Bailey would like to see the Highpoint at 2222 site zoned to the current code and accurate category that would require: a traffic impact study, traffic mitigation, current code on environment, and current code on land development with some protections for neighbors.
“It’s reasonable because it’s important that Karlin should be brought to current code and discard the outdated 38 year old minimal standards,” Bailey said.