We’ve recently covered the long and oft-controversial history of the Huston, an apartment development planned at a 2.84-acre site located along the frontage road on the east side of I-35 between East 11th and 12th Streets. Still, last time we took a look at what was headed for this property from developers Lennar Multifamily Communities and JH West 12th Street Partners, all we had to look at were a couple of drawings — now, thanks to the building’s designers GDA Architects, we’ve got our hands on the first renderings of what’s described as a 15-story, 372-unit project:
I’ve already said my piece about the Huston’s design compared with the previous mixed-use concept for the site’s development, which was fiercely opposed by residents of the surrounding neighborhood. Needless to say, it’s hard to see this iteration of the project as anything but a step down from what we could have had before, though that’s not the fault of the folks at GDA who designed it — they’re just doing their jobs.
Still, perhaps the most interesting detail of these renderings is just how similar the Huston looks to the Alexan apartment tower planned right across the highway at 700 East 11th Street by Trammell Crow Residential Company. And whattaya know, GDA is the firm behind that building’s design as well! It’s unclear if this is a nature or nurture-type situation — did they make both buildings look similar on purpose because they’re just across the highway from each other, or do they look similar because they’re designed by the same architects? The mind reels. Anyway, nice bricks:
With fences already up at the site, it looks like it’s only a matter of time until the Huston’s groundbreaking, but there might be one last delay. The demolition of the buildings currently on this property — which includes the mildly iconic former Safeway grocery store most recently used as a bingo hall, along with a shuttered CVS Pharmacy — is up for discussion at tonight’s meeting of Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission, which starts in about an hour.
Before its current strip-mall status, from about 1898 to 1952 this land was home to the first campus of Samuel Huston College, which eventually merged with Tillotson College to create East Austin’s historically-black Huston-Tillotson University. In its staff recommendation, the commission states that while the existing buildings on the site aren’t historic, Huston College’s former presence there certainly is:
“Although neither of these buildings qualify as historic landmarks, the site is very significant as the original site of Samuel Huston College, and should have an archeological assessment to determine the existence of artifacts from the Samuel Huston College era or before.”
— Historic Landmark Commission Staff Report, October 22
The report recommends the commission approve the demolition to clear the site, on the condition that the applicant conducts an archaeological investigation “to ensure that any artifacts or other buried materials are excavated and preserved.”
UPDATE: The Historic Landmark Commission’s staff recommendation for the demolition item passed with a unanimous 6-0 vote, including the condition of an archaeological survey at the site. I don’t know how long that sort of investigation takes, but it’ll be interesting to see if they dig anything up!