Fate of downtown Austin Heritage Trees still uncertain
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The battle to save seven Heritage Trees in downtown Austin is heating up.
The Green Water Redevelopment Project is threatening the trees, located along Caesar Chavez and San Antonio streets. The four-phase project will include 600,000 square feet of office space and a 200-room hotel.
The design for the project isn’t complete because it depends on the location of the historic trees.
Michael Fossum, Executive Director of the Heritage Tree Foundation, says they are asking for a reasonable plan.
"We'd like to take an absolutist position and say, ‘Hey you just can't touch these things, but that's not fair to the developer and that's not reasonable. A reasonable development is a reasonable thing to do," he said.
Project director, the Trammel Crow Company, hopes to begin construction in nine months. Crow plans to extend Second and Nueces streets before putting up four towers.
They say the project should take between five and seven years to complete, once they know what to do with the trees.
"Trammell Crow is looking at different design changes and they are looking at what impact it would have on the project and what they promised the city council," City Arborist Michael Besi said.
The predicament puts the city arborist in a tough position. On one hand, the Heritage Trees are protected by an existing city ordinance, on the other, there has to be room for new development already approved by council.
"I realize we have some competing goals in this project, but it's my job and my role to ensure that the trees are addressed properly and incorporated into the project one way or another," Besi said.
Fossum says he is fighting to find a balance for things that are sure to grow together for decades to come. The last resort would be transplanting the trees. Besi says Trammell Crow is looking at every option.
"We can achieve the goals of the city and still have the high quality of life that we are all trying to achieve that the trees participate in," he said.
According to the current designs, it looks like three of the seven trees could be saved in place. The trees are so big that they cut into space needed for the buildings, reducing the number of rooms and retail space.