Rock climbing

Climbing room to be moved, awaiting rezoning

Friday October 21st, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

A locally owned climbing gym could have a new home. Crux Climbing Center plans to open a new location near SouthPark Meadows and move from its current location on South Congress, if a rezoning application proves successful.

“We don’t know if our current location is sustainable,” Grace Nicholas, climbing gym operations manager, told the Zoning and Platting Commission on Tuesday. She explained that the landlord of Crux’s South Austin location unexpectedly raised the rent, forcing Crux to look for another property.

Crux plans to relocate to a 4-acre property at 220 Ralph Ablanedo Dr. if City Council agrees to rezone the site from Limited Industrial Services (LI) to General Commercial Services (CS). On Tuesday, ZAP recommended approval, paving the way for a November 3 Council vote.

The new location would have approximately 27,000 square feet of indoor climbing space — roughly the same size as the current South Austin location — as well as 4,000 square feet of retail space set aside for a business local. Crux also has a gym in downtown Austin near the old Highland Mall.

Several people, including two neighbours, spoke out in favor of the rezoning.

“The reason I’m in favor of developing Crux is because it’s a local company with roots in the community,” said Susan Harkey. Another neighbor, Jonathan Schmid, said “having a community-focused center like Crux is the best-case scenario for this property.”

But other neighbors were not on board. Many spoke out against the rezoning largely out of fear of increased traffic on Ralph Ablanedo Drive, a substandard road without sidewalks.

“(Crux) seems like a great place,” Susan Hambright said, “but it seems more like a place that needs to be in a hallway like Congress Avenue.” Hambright said she doesn’t want to see any more development along Ralph Ablanedo until the city improves traffic flow.

Amanda Brown, a consultant representing Crux, argued that a climbing gym would entail significantly less travel compared to other types of development. “A 4-acre multi-family development would generate thousands of trips from a site of this size,” Brown said. Crux and the retail space would generate a total of 658 trips per day, according to Brown.

According to a 2005 rezoning, the site is currently limited to 300 trips per day. Brown said the removal of the travel limit is the main reason for the rezoning. She added that there will be on-site parking so drivers do not park in nearby streets.

While the city has no immediate plans to upgrade Ralph Ablanedo, commissioners noted that it would at least require Crux to upgrade infrastructure along its street frontage and pay a street impact fee to future improvements.

Another neighbor, John Stokes, said the project did not provide a good transition to nearby single-family neighborhoods. “It goes from zero to 100 miles per hour nonstop,” he said, referring to the proposed intensity of land use versus single-family homes.

In response to neighbors’ concerns, Brown said the project will be designed so neighbors won’t be looking at a “tall, towering building.” The rezoning would also limit building height to 35ft along Peaceful Hill Lane and 50ft elsewhere – 10ft below the typical height limit in CS zoning.

Commissioners voted 8-1-1, with Commissioner Jolene Kiolbassa against and Commissioner David King abstaining, to recommend that City Council approve the rezoning.

Photo caption: View of the site from Ralph Ablanedo Drive. Picture by Google Maps.

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