Gonzales Street is quiet, for now. It’s a sleepy path of single-family homes in far East Austin just north of the East Seventh Street bridge’s span over Tillery Street, and the elevation of Seventh Street in this area insulates nearby homes from most major traffic. The abundant trees on the un-and-underdeveloped lots at the intersection of Gonzales and Tillery Streets lend the block an oddly rural stillness, which helps to circumvent its actual geography barely more than two miles from downtown.
Since this is Austin, the Govalle neighborhood that claims Gonzales Street at its center might be described as “the next big thing,” or “the crest of the wave” — the watershed point on a vertical swath of high-density real estate development slowly chewing its way eastward through aging single-family homes and light industrial warehouses, leaving behind apartment complexes and mixed-use midrises as it goes.
It’s here in Govalle, at the site of a former Gonzales Street lumberyard, that we find a new benchmark for the eastern spread of density: The Guthrie, a four-story multifamily development planned by Oden Hughes and Argyle Residential at 3300 Gonzales Street.
The project — which gets its name from the lumberyard previously at the address a la The Arnold, The Chicon, The Leslie, and so on — will contain 310 apartment units, with 12 units at a secondary Guthrie II development at 3215 Gonzales Street, just across the road from the main site.
It’s not really the design of the building that grabs me. Judging by the available plans and elevations, it just sort of looks like the Triangle — in fact, it’s designed by the same architects. But two things are particularly noteworthy here:
• The units at the Guthrie II are designed as live/work space, with a commercial ground floor and two floors of living space up top. This is a feature for these types of buildings you just don’t see very often — it’s usually ground floor retail with apartments up above, and never the twain shall meet. Super interesting, even if the lack of current pedestrian traffic in the neighborhood means these spaces will inevitably end up as law offices or something.
• If I’m keeping score correctly, the Guthrie is the first multifamily development of its size to arrive in this section of Austin’s far east side by something like half a mile, at least on the East Seventh Street corridor and surrounding areas.
Further east on Gonzales Street, MX3 Homes has several projects in play, which makes me wonder if parts of East Austin closer to the highway are finally getting too expensive even for developers. Putting up 300-plus residential units is certainly a bold way to anchor future development in a slightly more remote section of the zip code.
Between this Guthrie project, the East 5th Condos, and the Rail Spur Building located a bit further down Tillery Street, we’re seeing some genuine action in this bit of Govalle. The neighborhood remains one of my favorite parts of the city, but I’m not necessarily crossing my fingers for the area to receive the East Sixth treatment.
More density is inevitable, but awareness of your surroundings and neighborhood context is often overlooked by multifamily developers. Govalle has a quieter vibe that lends itself to industrial adaptive reuse projects like the Rail Spur Building or Austin Bouldering Project’s repurposed produce factory over brand new midrise development — which often seems to deliver buildings with no sense of time, place, or anything else, for that matter.