Saltillo, East Austin’s most recent master-planned transit-oriented development by Endeavor Real Estate Group, transformed a 10-acre former rail yard into a mixed-use community of residential, office, and retail space a stone’s throw from the Plaza Saltillo MetroRail station — and the project is now rapidly approaching the one-year anniversary of its grand opening, despite the outbreak of the pandemic throwing a wrench into many of its expected retail operations.
But one of the final components of the Saltillo Area Plan remains under construction, a five-story mixed-income housing development just east of the main Saltillo complex at the southeast corner of East Fifth and Navasota Streets known as Talavera Lofts.
Financed in part by a $1.4 million tax credit from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and containing a reported 93 units of rental housing targeted for affordability to Austinites making between 30 and 60 percent of the metro’s Median Family Income — which as of last year penciled out to a yearly income between $20,550 to $41,040 for an individual, $23,450 to $46,860 for a family of two, and so on — the project is a concept of DMA Development Co., an Austin-based developer specializing in affordable and mixed-income housing including the Mueller neighborhood’s 240-unit workforce-oriented apartment community Aldrich 51.
Many of the firm’s projects showcase the architectural potential of affordable developments as attractive and desirable spaces in their own right, and Talavera’s design from local studio Nelsen Partners is in our opinion a new benchmark for this sort of community — like other nearby projects, the structure accommodates the unique curved shape of its lot due to the adjacent rail line by taking a “flatiron” form, with design elements including the Mexican style of pottery and tile named for the Spanish city of Talavera de la Reina integrated into its ground-floor facade.
The structure’s metal-clad exterior reflects the long industrial character of the district’s warehouses and utility sheds, a character that now risks relative obscurity due to the region’s rapid development — though the MetroRail train running directly north of the building will likely provide a helpful reminder. Nelsen Partners’ own description of the project’s design claims the community will bring a “much-needed bit of panache to the streetscape,” and we’re inclined to agree — though looks aren’t the only key to success in these projects, we feel normalizing these communities and realizing them in development-resistant neighborhoods is best accomplished by making them look nothing like what many imagine “affordable housing” to be.
Though perhaps less amenitized or containing fewer high-end fixtures as the nearby market-rate apartments at Saltillo, what this development brings to the neighborhood is a building that truly looks different than any other midrise apartment on this side of town, affordable or otherwise — and allows renters of all incomes to attain housing of enviable design. Talavera Lofts is reportedly scheduled for completion this summer.