Despite the explosive variety of multifamily housing development along East Riverside Drive in Southeast Austin, one thing is almost always the same — the buildings are six floors tall at most, the ubiquitous wood-framed apartment configuration known in cities all over the country as a one-plus-five. (You’ll notice the first image on the Wikipedia entry for this building style literally depicts apartments in East Riverside.)
This style is useful for complying with height limits of 60 feet, the default for a lot of property zoned in what’s known as the East Riverside Corridor — but the corridor plan also contains a density bonus program similar to the version we see for downtown towers, allowing buildings that comply with certain design requirements to exceed that height. At the moment, very few developers in the area have taken advantage of this program, though we’ll eventually see its potential realized if the River Park project nearby (formerly known as Project Catalyst) moves forward.
But we don’t have to wait for that massive project to see the benefits of the extra height and square footage afforded by the ERC’s density bonus program. It’s potentially taking place on a smaller scale down the road at 1806 Clubview Avenue, where the 65-unit Cambrian East Riverside affordable housing project hopes to utilize the bonus unlocked by a combination of income-restricted units and publicly-accessible open space to build a second phase of market-rate housing at the same site, directly behind the first building that’s currently under construction.
This second phase, due to the bonus, could rise to a maximum height of 120 feet, about 10 or 11 floors — and as you can see from the concept renderings above and below, that extra height is pretty striking for the area, something we’d prefer to see more often along East Riverside Drive in lieu of the six-floors-or-less stuff.
The first phase of the project, developed by a partnership including Cambrian Development, Prospera Housing Community Services and local architecture firm Bercy Chen Studio, should be finished in a few months according to Bercy Chen principal Thomas Bercy — after that, the developers are hoping to locate a partner or buyer interested in developing the second phase, with its increased allowance of density as a major selling point. Bercy points out that the design for the 120-foot phase 2 building is still preliminary, but what we see here is already more compelling than our own green boxes for illustrating height potential.
If built to these standards, the second phase of the Cambrian project would be the tallest new residential building on the corridor since the Riverview apartments opened near I-35 in 2013, and that’s only the case because the projects set to take advantage of the ERC’s even denser 160-foot zoning areas haven’t emerged just yet. In a rapidly growing, rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the trade of affordable units and community benefits for extra height and square footage seems like a smart one — especially when it gives us buildings that look way more interesting than the norm.
For more information about leasing and eligibility requirements for affordable housing at the Cambrian East Riverside community, click here.