The Mansion at Judges Hill is going to starting to look like the Broken Spoke: flanked by development on both sides.
Dirt has started turning on a 141-unit development, dubbed 21 Pearl, will rise up west of the Mansion at Judges Hill, across from the Park West Residences condo development.
Meanwhile, another 118 units (plus about 3,500 square feet of retail) are planned east at 1901 Rio Grande in a project called Skyline Rio, in place of a budding food trailer park in a parking lot, and a two-story apartment building. (The project actually is on the 1901, 1903, 1905, and 1907 Rio Grande lots.)
The 21 Pearl project represents the entry of Lennar Corp., the third-largest U.S. home builder by sales, into rental housing, in a bid to capitalize on rising rents and growing demand for apartments. Skyline Rio is developed by the Austin-based Rolling Cash Equity Group, which bought the block in 2008 and originally planned a five-story building made up of 100 to 150 residential units and about 12,500 square feet of ground level retail space, along with two levels of underground parking.
The 21 Pearl project bring 141 units and affordable housing
The property is located in the special zoning district covered by the University Neighborhood Overlay (“UNO”) guidelines which allow for both greater buildable height and density than would otherwise be permitted.
It is interesting that the developers are using an affordable housing discount on fees for these projects, since both should have access to credit and capital should be a no brainer.
Never the less, both projects seek to qualify for Austin’s S.M.A.R.T. (Safe, Mixed-income, Accessible, Reasonably-priced, Transit-oriented) housing deal.
The city exempts qualifying units from some development fees. To receive the exemptions, builders agree to build housing that is sold or rented to families with incomes below 80 percent of the area median income (under $39,900 for a family of four). The city also expedites approval of building permits for qualifying projects.
This could have been a tactic for the developments to be move-in ready in time for the 2014-2015 UT school year, versus any altruistic endeavor to maintain affordability in the core.
This in hindsight might have been a flawed strategy. Just down the street, developers are pursuing a fast-track permit at 17th & Guadalupe that they think they can have ready by the August move-in period for students.
Here’s the thing: demand for housing near the core is such that either of these developers could easily fill up their units with any amount of the young, well-off workforce migrating into Austin. It begs the question really, if housing near UT should even be considered “student housing” anymore, such as this project just north of the Mansion at Judges Hill was labeled. Back in the day, you could count on an apartment near UT to be filled with kiddos. But now, the area is catering to a demographic of young people craving urban living, sans the rising cost of being “downtown”.