The Austin American-Statesman has announced that it will close down its on-site printing facility, located just south of Lady Bird Lake on South Congress Avenue. The paper will shift its printing out of town, to be printed by Hearst Newspapers in San Antonio and Houston.
While neither the Statesman nor its owner, Cox Media Group, have said that there are plans for the printing facility or for the property as a whole, Austin’s development community has been talking about what could take shape on the 18.9 acres the Statesman currently calls home.
It’s not a new conversation; speculation ramped up in 2012 when Cox said it was considering offers to buy the property. Around that time, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) studied the South Shore Central area, which includes the Statesman property.
The project looked at the City’s waterfront ordinance with the goal of helping the Waterfront Advisory Board report to the City on possible amendments to that ordinance. It found that while the area has strengths like access to downtown and a waterfront, it also has unfriendly streetscapes and limited river access.
Three potential “provocations” that came out of that meeting featured an environment and sustainability-based design, a people-based design, and a development and transit-based design. Combining those elements, the AIA project concluded, could transform the area into a vibrant district that includes ample public and green space, dense development, and better lake access.
BIG RED DOG, a civil and MEP engineering firm, was among those participating in the AIA meeting on its project findings.
“Our office has been working with various developers who were interested in the property since 2009 and more recently our phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Brad Lingvai, Austin President of BIG RED DOG. “What a gem of a property. There are some entitlement issues that need to be addressed, but the land use leverage and political climate is clearly there for a substantial project to transform the south central waterfront.”
That company has been the engineer for a number of urban infill projects in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio that have helped reshape vacant buildings and abandoned lots into dense developments. It is also providing services for the Waller Creek project, which will transform the small, urban creek into a waterway that’s tied into open public spaces, parks, and bridges in the heart of downtown Austin.
The Statesman property currently has planned unit development (PUD) zoning, which limits uses without a conditional use property and also limits how much additional space could be built. But with a zoning change, the site and the area around it could transform dramatically.
If the Statesman decides to sell its property, what do you think should be built on the waterfront site? Leave your comments below or tweet us at @BuildingATX!