The $1 billion plan to redevelop South Austin’s Brodie Oaks shopping center into a 36.7-acre mixed-use district with more than 1,600 residential units, 1.1 million square feet of office space, restaurants, retail, a hotel, and 13.7 acres of open space reclaimed from the aging 1981 retail center’s massive parking lots is one of the most popular projects of its scale in recent memory.
Since its announcement late last year by the center’s owners, real estate development firm Barshop & Oles, we’ve had a hard time finding any significant opposition to the concept so far — it would significantly reduce the site’s impervious cover compared to the massively paved auto-centric environment of the current center, which is great news for the environmental health of the adjacent Barton Creek Greenbelt, and the project also plans to improve access to the greenbelt with a new public trailhead, adding significant pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to the area.
Amusingly enough, its representatives are emphasizing straight out of the gate that this development intends to create a very different sort of urban environment than the Domain, which has found itself unflatteringly compared with other large planned developments announced here in the last few years — uh, sorry about that. However, one underrated element of the Domain is its generous height allowances, which max out at 360 feet in some spots, and have enabled recent projects pushing the limits of non-downtown density and development scale.
The proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement for the Brodie Oaks project, which will eventually seek city approval as part of the pre-development process, doesn’t quite reach Domain heights — but for South Austin it still represents a huge milestone for density. The maximum height the developers say they’ll seek in the plan is 275 feet, allowing something like 20 floors for an office building and even more for the lower ceiling heights of a residential structure.
But how’s that going to look? It’s kinda hard to fully visualize the height and density possible here from the early conceptual renderings seen above, released by the Brodie plan’s developers last year — so we’re happy to see an additional aerial rendering of the full Brodie Oaks concept from its developers, found in a recent briefing to the city’s Environmental Commission, that better shows off this project’s potential new additions to the South Austin “skyline:”
Like the rest of the imagery provided for the project, cosmetically speaking this view is strictly conceptual, and will likely look different when it’s built — but what’s important are the heights, which appear to be fairly accurate to that upper limit of 275 feet. It’s helpful to see the scale of this site’s potential, and if anything we hope during the PUD negotiation process the city advocates for additional buildings maxing out that height limit to provide as much housing as possible at this location, preferably including a significant quantity of income-restricted units. We likely won’t see a full build-out of the site for more than a decade, and construction might not start until late 2022 or 2023 — plenty of time to figure this kind of thing out.
The restoration of over 25 percent of the site to open space adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt is made possible through heights of up to 275’ along the Loop 360 and S. Lamar Boulevard frontage. Affordable housing set asides equal to 10 percent of the bonus height will be included and dispersed throughout the site. The project is meeting the Imagine Austin vision of an Activity Center for Redevelopment in Sensitive Environmental Areas. Finally, repositioning the retail environment from single-use, auto-oriented to mixed-use and walkable will align the physical environment with the social and environmental trends.
— Brodie Oaks Redevelopment Briefing, Barshop & Oles
That’s what building up, not out, can do for Austin. You love to see it.