Ever since Capital Metro reached agreement in March with Endeavor Real Estate Group and Columbus Realty Partners Ltd. on developing the six-block Plaza Saltillo properties, the development team has been working out the details with city officials on what promises to be the most significant change to East Austin in a generation.
The Planning Commission had its chance to review the project Nov. 8, but postponed discussion to Dec. 13. However, city staffers have reviewed the plans and are recommending approval of Endeavor’s request to change the zoning from Transit Oriented Development-Neighborhood Plan to Transit Oriented Development-Central Urban Redevelopment.
The change allows for a range of Median Family Income (MFI) on rental properties, including 30, 50 and 60 percent of MFI. It also allows Endeavor to increase building heights.
It has been generally known for some time that this will be a high-density, mixed use project. What is new is that Endeavor has refined its numbers on how much of what will go where.
The proposed land uses are broadly divided within the 11-acre site into three sections: Tracts 1 to 3, Tracts 4 and 5, and Tract 6. Building heights would increase under the land use change from 60 to 70 feet on Tracts 1-3, from 60 to 125 feet for office use on a portion of Tracts 1-3, and an increase of 60 to 68 feet on portions of all three sections.
The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, which checked off on the project’s affordable housing proposal, describes this in an Oct. 19 letter:
“The mixed-use project will include residential components with market and affordable housing units, office, retail and open space. The proposal request is to provide a fee-in-lieu for the non-residential square footage and to allow for a range of MFI from 30 to 60 percent, with an average of 50 percent MFI for the on-site affordable units planned in Tract 6.”
The term fee-in-lieu refers to the option of a developer to make a one-time payment, rather than provide affordable housing, provided there is a compelling reason. Endeavor proposes a $600,000 payment to reduce the number of affordable units, but this is because of Capital Metro’s insistence on a higher proportion of commercial space, “in accordance with the Plaza Saltillo Transit Oriented Development State Area Plan vision.”
The fee-in-lieu goes to the Housing Assistance Fund to provide alternative affordable housing elsewhere. There will, however, still be affordable housing. Endeavor will provide 141 on-site affordable units. Most of them, 100 units, would be concentrated on Tract 6 in a four-story building with ground-floor parking. The other 41 units will be scattered among the market-rate multifamily developments, and lease for 50 percent MFI on Tracts 1-4.
Going section by section, a seven-story office building with ground floor commercial and a parking garage is proposed in Tract 1. Four-story residential above ground floor commercial is planned for Tracts 2 and 3.
Another four-story residential building with ground-floor commercial is being located on Tract 4. The more prominent feature here is a 1.8-mile public open space and bicycle-pedestrian paseo that will also occupy all of Tract 5.
The general project description has not changed much. Endeavor wants 700 multifamily apartments and 100 senior affordable apartments, 37,500 square feet of restaurant, 32,000 square feet of general retail, 120,000 square feet of office space, a supermarket (about 36,000 square feet), and 9,000 square feet of specialty retail.
The project has two phases. Phase 1 includes everything but the senior housing (Tract 6).
Redevelopment includes realignment of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway from Interstate 35 to Navasota. It will be taken off street through the paseos. Vehicular access to the development will be by way of privately built extensions of Medina and San Marcos streets.
Earlier this year, Cap Metro completed a realignment of its rail line west of the Plaza Saltillo station at 412 Comal Street. That line that ran down the middle of the blocks between I-35 and Attayac Street is now parallel to the curb along 4th Street.
Endeavor hopes to begin construction the first quarter of 2017 and begin leasing the first commercial space by the third quarter.