AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ten acres just east of downtown Austin will be transformed into 800 apartments, retail and an eight story office tower beginning Wednesday. The tract of land owned by Capital Metro and being developed by Endeavor Real Estate Group, encompasses six city blocks between Plaza Saltillo and Interstate 35. The project took years to get off the ground after much debate by city council concerning the number of affordable housing units available.
Out of the 800 units being constructed, 141 will be considered affordable. Forty one of the rental units will be available for those making less than 50 percent of the median income. For an individual, that’s less than $28,500 per year. Rent is expected to start for those at that income bracket at $713 per month. One hundred units will be reserved for senior citizens.
Originally, city council only approved a four-story office tower but said if both the developer and Cap Metro were willing to contribute $1 million to the affordable housing fund they could add additional stories. The city’s housing authority said those funds help low income Austinites.
“That money is then re-purposed back into affordable housing either in that area that it was generated or in a close proximity of the area,” said Sandra Harkins Austin’s Project Coordinator for the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Program.
In 2014 a comprehensive study done by the city found there was a shortage of 48,000 affordable housing units. This year, city council approved a Strategic Housing Plan that calls for 60,000 new affordable homes to be built in the city within ten years. One way they hope to accomplish this is by rewriting the land development code through the CodeNext plan – with one goal being to make the permitting process easier for developers.
In addition to affordable units, this new development also aims to keep cars off the road.
“It’s combining light rail, metro bus service, Lance Armstrong Bikeway and ease of access into our largest employment centers which eases one of the highest costs of transportation for those in our city,” said Jason Thumlert of the Endeavor Real Estate Group.
Thumlert said his group plans to extend the Lance Armstrong Bikeway to get from just west of the interstate and cross over to the east side of town.
KXAN spoke to several businesses in the area near the development that are relatively new, trying to build a customer base, who said they are concerned about two plus years of construction work in this area hurting their business because of construction vehicles taking over parking spots and noise. Thumlert said they have designated parking for construction workers and plan to meet with each business owner to keep them posted on any street closures due to construction work.
Construction is expected to take 30 months. Rental prices will be set closer to the completion and based on market value.