Developer Aspen Heights Partners plans to break ground this summer on Aspen Heights Riverside, a $42 million, 325-unit market-rate apartment complex off East Riverside Drive, on what is mostly vacant land.
Located in the 1700 block of Willow Creek Drive, the project’s been making its way through the city’s review process since last June. The site is comprised of 11 assembled lots, and the only structure currently in the way of development is a self-serve car wash. Urban Design Group, (UDG) the engineering firm handling most of Aspen Heights’ paperwork, describes the project as a four-story multifamily building wrapped around a pre-cast concrete parking garage.
This apartment project joins a slew of multifamily development in various stages of planning in the East Riverside Corridor and Lakeshore district, including the South Shore Highline mixed-use proposal only a few blocks east, along with the thousands of new units planned at the 97-acre development nicknamed Project Catalyst just across the intersection of East Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road to the northeast of the Willow Creek Drive site.
An unusual feature of the project involves its storm drainage system. UDG proposes handling rainwater with a series of underground ponds beneath the parking garage. “Runoff from the roof will be collected in a series of roof drains and downspouts and piped to the underground water quality pond and detention ponds. The ponds will discharge through a 36-inch storm drain to the creek,” the engineer’s report said.
Austin Heights proposes 77 percent impervious cover on a site that is just over 3.3 acres in size. The maximum impervious cover allowed by city code is 80 percent. The apartment building’s proposed size is about 286,211 square feet. The land is under contract with several different owners, including Robert Russel Moore, owner of the Cloudburst Car Wash on the site.
The project saw a bumpy ride going through the Development Services Department — the maximum building height by code is 50 feet, and Aspen Heights proposed a 59-foot building. Access was proposed on both of the streets that the property touches, Willow Creek Drive and Woodland Avenue, but city staff commented that no vehicular entrance would be permitted on a principal street.
Other design issues that were initially questioned by city staff included the project’s drainage engineering, and its urban design.
“The height and FAR (Floor Area Ratio) requested in the site plan exceed the base entitlement of the site. Please show certification from NHCD (Neighborhood Housing and Community Development) that you are complying with the East Riverside Corridor Density Bonus program.”
— City of Austin Development Services Department
Despite these hurdles, Brad Walters, vice president of development on the project for Aspen Heights, said the company still hopes for a construction start date of July 1, which is also the estimated date the building’s design firm GFF Architects submitted in state records.
However, Aspen Heights has already secured more time, if needed. The most recent extension given by Development Services to “clear all comments” is Oct. 3. GFF estimated the construction phase of the project will take 26 months. If the developers break ground in July, Aspen Heights Riverside could be completed by Sept. 1, 2020.