The Bouldin Creek neighborhood of South Austin has arguably secured a special place in the hearts of the principals at PSW Real Estate LLC.
The company, known for its innovative infill single-family housing projects around the edges of the Central Business District, is like most parents — reluctant to name a favorite child. Ross Wilson, PSW’s president, speaks in diplomatic terms about Bouldin Creek even as he quickly points to his passion for company projects to the east, west and north of downtown.
However, Wilson also noted in an interview with TOWERS that he lives in Bouldin Creek, as do a couple of the other company executives. Given that PSW’s offices are in Bouldin Creek, at 2003 South First Street, they naturally devote a disproportionate amount of time to scouting the neighborhood.
This year, PSW started two high-density mixed-use projects in the neighborhood. The first is in the 900 block of South First Street, and the second and lesser-known development is in the 1600 block.
An application for a vertical mixed-use development named “1606 S. 1st Street” was submitted to the Development Services Department on March 16. The 1.44-acre site was formerly the Angel Funeral Home.
This developer is known mainly for its small, single-family infill projects in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, making the decision to go for high-density mixed-use development unusual, but not unexpected.
“We are passionate about being infill urban developers. Those infill sites are getting more and more expensive. In order for us to be as competitive as we can, we have to use different product types,” Wilson said.
Since PSW has just started the process at 1606 S. First St., city staff has done little more than get the project assigned to a case manager. PSW claims the site has a build-out capacity of almost 63,000 square feet, and is proposing to become a multi-story rental apartment community with ground-level commercial and restaurant space, along with an underground parking structure.
This appears to follow the usual trend of high-density housing rippling outward from downtown, but PSW hopes to develop a more family-friendly formula in the 1600 block.
Further details and schematics are weeks away, but Wilson said the project will have about 60 residential units, varying from studio apartments up to three-bedroom units. He estimates 40 to 50 percent of the apartments will be two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. That ratio is a significant departure from other nearby high-density apartment communities, which are frequently marketed as studios or one-bedrooms — oriented for singles and couples without children.
“One of the differences on South First Street versus South Lamar Boulevard, or some of the other main corridors, is that portion of South First truly has a neighborhood feel to it,” Wilson said.
PSW also found through recent market studies that potential customers in the area are looking for larger units. However, the firm has not settled on price points for its new development in the 1600 block. Wilson cautiously estimated, given the unpredictability of city approval for building permits, that the project would reach the construction phase on the outside of 12 months.
Addressing the retail component, Wilson said there will be between 20,000 and 22,000 square feet. A portion of the ground-floor commercial space will be capable of accommodating a restaurant tenant, he said.
“We would also like a mix of neighborhood retail. Our preference is to have retail that is active from a pedestrian standpoint, as much as we can,” Wilson said.
The retail will surround an interior courtyard that does not face South First Street. As with other PSW developments, a goal of this site is to create a commercial zone that benefits not only residents, but also the neighborhood as a whole, by encouraging them to walk and not use their cars for access.
The 1600 block site and the 70-unit development at 900 South First Street are similar in size, with the latter project featuring about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
Heritage trees and steeper topography at the 900 South First Street site will affect the building’s design, requiring a more recessed placement away from the street. Wilson also said that area is more in need of a neighborhood retail component.
At this time PSW has no specific plans for a third project on South First Street, but he added, “We believe this is a great neighborhood that has a lot of potential.”
Wilson also said it is likely the company will do more high-density projects.
“Holistically, across the board, I think all neighborhoods in central Austin need to increase density. Increasingly, density is the best chance that we have at fighting urban sprawl.”