AUSTIN EDITION Austin developer hopes to work with neighbors of OK'd complex

By Roxana Orellana

After eight contentious meetings that ended in official approval, Kevin Schammel is not looking back. He is looking forward to developing an apartment complex in Austin.

"I share lots of the neighbors' intentions -- to improve the neighborhood and the property," Schammel said.

The Austin City Council approved Schammel's plan to redevelop the former Burr Oak Manor nursing home on Fourth Street Northwest into an 18-unit apartment complex.


Kevin and Sara Schammel bought the property about a year ago, and have sought approval for their plan since January.

The process began when they applied for the extension of a nonconforming use clause put in place when the building was a nursing home. The Austin City Council denied approval, because the clause had expired.

The second request, which was approved, called for changing the zoning from a single-family district to a planned development residential district.

A planned development district is designed for developers to find more creative uses to renew residential, commercial and industrial areas, according to city officials.

Schammel contracted with architect Paul Johnson of Austin to design a 24-apartment complex on the site. But then reduced the units to 18 units after meeting with critical neighbors. For some of the neighbors, the plan still too large for its location.

In the plans, the complex will include two one-bedroom apartments, 12 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom apartments. The apartments would be comparable in size to many houses in Austin and would be leased for about $750-$800 a month for a two-bedroom unit and $850-$900 for three bedrooms, Schammel said.

Construction would potentially begin in August 2003 with the 10 units in the south wing of the property. "Ideally the project would be done in less than a year," Schammel said.

The complex will be marketed toward a more upscale clientele that would work at places such as Hormel Foods' corporate headquarters or the Austin Medical Center. Although there is a 10-percent vacancy rate in town, Schammel said, research shows a need for this type of apartments.


Neighbors remain worried about the potential noise, parking and traffic problems, But Schammel stands confident by the findings of a traffic study Community Development Director Craig Hoium presented at meetings.

In the study, the figures indicated a parking and traffic density between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the former nursing home. Congestion was targeted when the facility received deliveries, visiting or during shift changes. With the new complex it will be more spread out. And reducing the complex from 24 to 18 reflected a 21 percent reduction in traffic. There will be two parking spaces per unit. The study on the traffic was done by Chad Schuman of Yaggy Colby Associates of Rochester.

"In the previous facility, all the traffic and parking issues were concentrated at one time. There is going to be less people, no employees and no deliveries. I don't think it is going to be the same way," Schammel said.

Neighbors had questioned the credibility of the study, because they never saw it. Schammel said he has no reason to doubt the study or opinions of the engineering professionals involved. Both Hoium and City Engineer Jon Erichson were not available for comment.

Building an apartment complex was the only option they considered, but it was the one that made the most sense, according to Schammel.

They own an apartment complex in Rochester and a construction business in Austin.

"I am planning to put a lot money into it. It should be an improvement. That's our goal."

The Schammels are planning to name the complex Burr Oak Villas.


"I don't think this is a win-lose situation. It's a win-win situation and I hope that a year from now all the neighbors think is a good development and improvement project. I think I can still convince them of that," Schammel said.

What To Read Next
Get Local