Development along Austin’s East 12th Street has been a long time coming, with anticipation fueled for months — years, really — by hush-hush land acquisitions and speculation, not to mention quite a few projects in various stages of approval, though not much actually moving on the ground. It’s safe to say that’s changed recently, with one major commercial project nearing completion and a couple of others turning dirt.
(The downtown stretch of East 12th Street west of I-35, near the forthcoming Waterloo Park project and the Waller Creek Conservancy’s new digs at Symphony Square, is making some moves of its own — but that’s a roundup for another day.)
With its site cleared, groundbreaking should be imminent at the tract directly east of I-35 between East 11th and 12th Streets for the Huston, East Austin’s monument to the kind of ass-backwards neighborhood engagement that is unique to our city. This site has had a lot to say about it, I personally have a lot to say about it, and we will likely further explore this massive lost opportunity to provide the community with much-needed housing and amenities in the future. Stay tuned, it’s going to be great!
In the meantime, the site’s CVS Pharmacy and bingo hall are no more, leaving a serious gap for those hoping to use a pharmacy anywhere between the downtown CVS on Congress Avenue, the Walgreen’s on Airport Boulevard, Fiesta Mart in Cherrywood and the HEB at Seventh Street and Pleasant Valley Road. The adjacent communities have pushed for a grocery store of some kind for a while, but seemingly just couldn’t stomach a little more height — barely-visible height at that scale, for what it’s worth — in exchange for retail and affordable senior housing in this part of East Austin.
The blame for this inequality rests squarely on the Robertson Hill and Swede Hill neighborhood associations, and it would be interesting to hear from them how they feel about this lesser iteration of the project. The Travis County Credit Union building, by the way, is still hanging on near the southern edge of the block — not sure what’s happening there yet.
Next Door Creative Studios
The first major development to be finished recently on 12th Street is the Next Door Creative Studios at 1224 East 12th Street. Besides having a name that is easily confused with another NextDoor, this project’s got a lot to love. For the past ten or so years, this site was home to the thoughtful and restrained (if pedestrian un-friendly) offices of Pollen Architecture, which is also the developer for this building. Apparently, the plan all along was for the former studios to be temporary, until construction could begin on the 15-unit, two-story, full commercial development — this is a great example of making active use of a site before the market and financing line up to build something bigger.
The new building itself checks all the relevant boxes: clean lines, operable windows, energy-efficiency, and high quality materials. Rainwater will be handled on-site and it will also have a rooftop terrace. It’s interesting that while the site has CS-MU zoning, allowing a mix of uses, the developers have chosen to go fully commercial with no residential component.
As if it hasn’t already needed one, we hope that Austin’s Transportation Department will seriously consider installing a traffic signal at this location. Traffic backs up in all directions at rush hour in the area, and as one of the most heavily used pedestrian, transit, and bike routes in this region, a safety intervention is desperately needed. The savings in replacing that poor fire hydrant that gets hit every few months should be worth it alone!
Angelina + 12th
Moving a block east, the Angelina + 12th development by New York real estate firm Butler Equities under construction at 1322 East 12th Street is similar in form, but adds residential units and a third story into the mix. Retail and office space fronts 12th Street, with a mix of 24 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units on the upper levels. Two-bedroom units start at $500,000, with market-rate studios going for $228,00. There is no word yet on commercial tenants.
The project includes two efficiency units that are deemed affordable. While we appreciate these units, we hope that regulatory changes based on the recommendations of the recently-released draft of the city’s Strategic Housing Blueprint Implementation Plan will prioritize a mix of unit types, including larger and more family-friendly units, especially in areas experiencing intense gentrification like this one. We will need a lot more than two efficiency units per project to come close to reaching the plan’s goal of 135,000 units citywide (with 60,000 of them affordable to people making around $60,000 or less) in ten years’ time.
As expected, the project has drawn the ire of the Swede Hill Neighborhood Association for everything from parking requirements to uses. As a plot twist, this time the association’s using a totally legitimate concern for the affordable housing development across the street as a guise to complain about parking lighting after the project has already broken ground. Classic.
KUT covered it, we’ve covered it, the Statesman covered it, and so on. Eureka Holdings, a North Texas-based real estate group that typically invests in and manages affordable housing complexes, owns at least 36 commercial, residential, and vacant parcels on the stretch of 12th Street between I-35 and Airport Boulevard, including the Mt. Carmel Village affordable housing community. For now, the firm has been pretty quiet on its plans for the area, and unfortunately we have no news to report — but send tips!
Lofts at 12th Street
This project consists of 27 condos in a 5-story building from Texas investment firm NAPA Ventures, at the intersection of 12th Street and the rail tracks used for the MetroRail Red Line. Since our last update on this project back in 2016, the site has been placed up for sale, and no new renderings are available. Because of all of the press regarding rail noise near Seaholm, we did dig into the city’s agreement with CapMetro on quiet zones — and it looks like thanks to the Cherrywood Quiet Zone, this development should be safe from any noise-related issues.
Penn Place Cottages
Further east near the end of 12th Street is the future location of Penn Place Cottages, with 29 single-family units planned for the 3.21 acre site. The address for the development itself is 3412 Pennsylvania Avenue, a block south of 12th Street, but from the preliminary site plan it looks like the project will cover the entire space between the two streets, with a new right-of-way connecting them. This development will bring a significant increase in density to that area, thought it is unclear at what price point.
The project site, owned by attorney Scott Way, has previously been reported on in depth by the Austin Monitor, and sits near the historically black community of Ebony Acres which is also facing development pressure and preservation questions of its own. Seven existing homes, in various states of repair and long owned by Way, are slated to be demolished as part of the project.