By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Karlin Real Estate said on Monday it is abruptly pausing its plans to build housing right now at Highpoint at 2222, the former 3M site. The project slowdown is a direct result of a groundswell of community response to its plan to build the first 315 of 1,400 apartment units, which was reported on in depth by Four Points News earlier this month.
“We’ve agreed to reset to work with the community,” said Mike McGlashan, vice president of acquisitions and development for Karlin. “We didn’t do a good enough job explaining what we’re doing on the ‘pork chop’ and we’re pausing all the projects.”
This was the message from Karlin representatives on Monday when they gathered at a meeting with some 15 leaders from local communities surrounding the 156-acre site off RM 2222 between River Place Boulevard and McNeil Drive.
Linda Bailey, a longtime Glenlake resident and Lake Austin Collective president, was instrumental in raising awareness on behalf of the entire Four Points area. The “pause” happened because of her work.
Since the first of October, she created an informative video, was the main source of an in-depth Four Points News article, started a petition for responsible zoning which has over 1,743 signatures as of Wednesday, and helped launch a survey to gauge feedback for the area.
Bailey’s efforts got the attention of Karlin. As a result the developer will continue its rehab of the existing 1.1 million-square-feet of office space but it is “pencils down” for now on the plans to add apartments at River Place Boulevard and RM 2222, McGlashan said. He was at an October 17 meeting at the Four Points Hyatt Place Austin. Bailey helped roundup representatives of surrounding communities to attend. They’re listed at the end of the article.
McGlashan and Matt Schwab, co-founder of Karlin who joined the meeting via Zoom, were apologetic about their missteps of not engaging more with the community before jumping in with comprehensive plans and filings.
McGlashan admitted they rushed into Karlin’s development plans to add apartments before listening and understanding the community more.
The pause could be two months, six month or a year, “we want to understand the area better,” McGlashan told the group.
“Karlin Real Estate agreed to ‘pause’ all work on zoning requests and site plan filings and other interactions with the city of Austin until they had a working relationship with representatives from the surrounding community and a mutual plan forward,” shared Tom Smith, president of 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.
Smith shared a long list of collective concerns with Karlin to help them better understand the area their project is in:
“We included some history on Austin’s annexation of the surrounding neighborhoods, and the resulting inadequate infrastructure in terms of water supply, roads, public transportation, utilities, etc.
We highlighted an overall concern with the impact from the 3M site on the environment – Bull Creek, ground water, greenbelt, etc. – and explained how we helped establish many of the ordinances related to protecting this part of town – Hill Country Roadway, Watershed protection, dedicating land to Balcones Canyonland Preserve, enhancements to the building code.
We talked about the impact the 3M project would have on traffic since FM 2222 was a major commuting artery for going to/from Austin. The proximity of Vandegrift High School and the concentration of young and inexperienced drivers raised safety concerns.
Road congestion and delays from increased trips per day from the 3M site negatively impacts emergency response times for fire departments and EMS and increases commute times to work or shopping.
We also highlighted that this area is in one of the country’s highest wildfire risk areas so traffic and access to water and emergency response was critical to us.”
In addition to Smith, other community leaders also underscored the importance of these concerns.
River Place resident Jennifer Mushtaler shared the history of the annexation with Karlin representatives. She also mentioned the significant need for a road to the Leander ISD schools.
Tim Mattox of River Place Limited District and River Place HOA shared that park space is important to local residents as well as amenities. He also noted the importance of another ingress egress to Vandegrift High and Four Points Middle schools.
“With the schools, we’re trying to try to work with them as best we can,” McGlashan shared. “We’re learning, trying to get up to speed.”
Bailey appreciates that line of thinking and it’s how she wants the local Four Points area to be treated by Karlin.
At this week’s meeting, Bailey encouraged Karlin to work together with the community and local neighborhoods. She is encouraging Karlin to have “open dialogue, trust, and mutual respect which are the basis for success.”
Bailey attended a meeting in September where Karlin presented its multi-phase site redevelopment plans. At that time, Karlin was eagerly working toward quickly filing its application to build the first 315 apartments at 6800 River Place Boulevard at the RM 2222 corner – a 10 acre section called “the pork chop”.
On October 5, Four Points News published an exclusive report recapping Karlin’s plans for the site from Bailey’s perspective. It was her concern about the community which led her to research and raise awareness about the rezoning. Karlin was trying to build with 3M’s 1984 R&D designation.
Bailey shared goals she’d like to see Karlin adopt: “(We’d like) visibility and transparency into city applications, advanced notice and sharing of PDA redlines, re-zoning, permitting, no ‘side deals’, direct communication with decision makers, and to maintain a record of promises and agreements between parties.”
She also asked for a traffic impact study, amended codes and building ordinances, and to continue to see site plans.
The community leaders want to form a working group with both parties to assess and address the community impact.
“What solutions can be mutually beneficial? We want to be a partner,” Bailey told Karlin. “We can be a framework providing neighborhood support.”
At the end of the meeting, McGlashan committed to the group of local leaders that he would write a public position statement on how Karlin Real Estate will work with the surrounding community going forward. He also committed to schedule the next working group session between Karlin and the community before Thanksgiving.
Attended the October 17 meeting with Karlin Real Estate representatives: Ron Herzfeld – Jester, Bonnie Burgett – Painted Bunting, Tony Iglesias – Westminster Glen, Pat Scott – Greenshores, Linda Bailey – Glenlake, Daniel Kulick – Colina Vista, Tom Smith – Long Canyon, Denise Hogan – Courtyard HOA, Lynette Haaland – Steiner Ranch/4 Points News, Tim Maddox – River Place, Marc Duchen – Austin Neighborhood Council, Frank Dennison – The Preserve at Four Points, Randy Lawson – Canyon Creek, Susan Kimbrough – Westcliff, and Jennifer Mushtaler – River Place. Also representatives from Armbrust and Brown, civil practice law firm, attended.