The ongoing transformation of the industrial district surrounding St. Elmo Road east of Congress Avenue in South Austin is currently one of the city’s most promising case studies for large-scale urban redevelopment with character.
Like the best examples of growth in East Austin, the St. Elmo region could easily support a large number of new developments on its vacant lots, scrapyards, and other low-density industrial sites while still maintaining the warehouses and other properties suitable for creative adaptation, all without significant residential displacement due to the relative lack of nearby homes — this is doubly the case on Industrial Boulevard, which runs directly north of East St. Elmo Road and avoids even a remote proximity to the small number of residences on the south end of the district.
The suitability of these properties for greatly increased density seems obvious to us, and after a few developments on the periphery of the district we’re finally seeing the first real effort to bring game-changing height to St. Elmo at a 4.26-acre assembly of properties occupied by a large warehouse at 600 Industrial Boulevard, located at the northwest corner of the boulevard’s intersection with Terry-O Lane — one of our favorite street names in the whole city, even though we have no idea who Terry is.
The site’s owners at Leifer Properties submitted an application earlier this month seeking to amend a Planned Development Agreement approved for the property under a different owner back in 2019, looking to raise the tract’s permitted residential density from 400 to 600 units, and increase the maximum height of development from 85 feet to 125 feet. That new maximum height would translate to a residential building rising from 10 to 12 floors, also containing 12,850 square feet of ground-level retail along with a 5,356-square-foot brewery, according to current planning documents. While the application for the amendment is currently pending with the city, it hasn’t yet appeared on the Planning Commission’s upcoming agenda.
This proposed rezoning aligns with the South Congress Combined Neighborhood Plan’s stated goal of focusing mixed-use development and commercial uses along major commercial corridors and in specialized districts.
— 600 Industrial Boulevard Rezoning Application
Despite the currently industrial character of the site’s surroundings, it’s got a few nearby perks — the abandoned rail line running directly north of the tract will soon be converted to an all-access urban trail known as the Bergstrom Spur, providing protected mobility through the area with enough right-of-way to someday potentially accommodate a new light rail line, excellent additions to the St. Elmo region if this sort of dense residential development continues. It’s also a stone’s throw from the Warehouse Billiard Bar, which despite its rough-and-tumble clientele features the best regulation-size pool tables in the city, if you like that sort of thing.