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AUSTIN-They call it The Triangle, but for the past five years it’s been more of a Bermuda triangle of Austin development.

Now, with the approval of a special state board, dirt may actually be moved by next year on the 22 central Austin acres bounded by Guadalupe Street on the east, 45th Street on the south and Lamar Boulevard on the west. The Special Board of Review has approved the development plan. The state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation owns the property.

Cencor Urban Properties, part of the Weitzman Group, based in Dallas, is handling the commercial development and Atlanta-based Post Properties is handling the residential side. The board’s action gives the developers the sign-off that’s needed to take the project through the city of Austin’s development process, says Bob Hewgley, an asset manager for the Texas General Land Office, who has worked on the project.

“The entitlement work is over,” Hewgley tells GlobeSt.com. “The developer now has a document in his hands he can go to the city with as his zoning and submit permits under that. As long as he conforms close to that document, he ought to get his permits.”

The project is to have a maximum of 150,000 sf of retail space, a maximum of 69,000 sf of office space and up to 800,000 sf or 859 units of multifamily residential space. The retail-office component should be ready by 2003 and residential by 2008. There will be 6.3 acres of open space, including 5.2 acres bought by the city of Austin for a park.

The project OK’d this week is much smaller and more diverse than the straight commercial project that Cencor had planned back in July 1996 when it won the right to lease the property from the state. It was to include a multi-screen cinema, Barnes & Noble bookstore and spacious parking areas.

Neighborhood groups had protested that the proposal was out of character for the area and would bring too much traffic. Through negotiations, the developers and the groups gradually had agreed on downsized version, with a residential component added to the mix.

Last summer, the City of Austin had approved $7.6 million in incentives. That includes the money to buy parkland, waived fees and installation of water lines, roads and landscaping. Besides the leasing payment, which MHMR will receive by 2005, the agency will share a percentage of the annual retail rent starting in the project’s 11th year, Hewgley says.

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