Drive northbound on I-35 into downtown, look to the right while crossing Ladybird Lake, and you cannot miss the lone tower on the east side of Austin.
This is the Rebekah Baines Johnson Center (aka. Austin Geriatric Center). This is also one of the most desirable parcels of land in Austin.
RBJ Center was built in 1972 to provide affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. Currently, the 112 efficiency units (~400sf) and 138 one bedrooms (~600sf) at the RBJ Center will rent for $430 to $514, and $460 to $545, respectively. There is a 6 month wait list for efficiencies, and a year long wait list for one-bedrooms.
A team of three local developers has been selected by the private non-profit Austin Geriatric Center to redevelop 18 acres of the property. Two notable members of the team are Momark Development, developers of Edgewick, the Austonian, and also Chestnut Commons; and Southwest Strategies Group, who is responsible for Seaholm.
The team’s proposal includes:
• 250 new units of affordable senior housing
• 250 units of renovated senior housing
• Approximately 340 units of mixed-income apartments and condos
• 25,000 square feet of commercial space
The involvement of Momark Development bodes well for the redevelopment as Terry Mitchell is one of the more progressive developers in town with a track record of successful projects.
This property has always been mysterious from afar (have you seen the abandoned cul-de-sac along Haskell?) Walk or drive past the property border along Comal and the grassy field looks like an overgrown no-mans land juxtaposed with a tower that is a little worse for wear. It has always raised an eyebrow.
The evolution of this site is long overdue, so it’s exciting to see some action.