What’s interesting about the 27 Eleven project by California-based development outfit Paydar Properties isn’t so much the building, but rather its location — now rising at 2711 West Anderson Lane, this 320-unit apartment community will soon become the only multifamily residential building directly facing the stretch of West Anderson Lane between Mopac and Burnet Road, as far as we can tell. Its surroundings are a predominantly commercial district characterized by strip mall-style retail and oceans of surface parking lots, a corridor that could someday host transformational vertical mixed-use growth along the lines of similar increased density on Burnet Road or South Lamar Boulevard — for now, we’ve just got this one project, but it’s a start.
Rising five floors at the site of a former Chase Bank office building, the apartment structure sits atop two levels of underground parking, rather than wrapping its units around a surface garage in the standard “Texas Donut” style. That’s certainly a win for aesthetics, since its design from local architecture firm Davies Collaborative doesn’t have to waste time or space trying to hide a parking structure. The building also contains two ground-level office spaces facing the street.
Besides its location, perhaps the most curious feature of the 27 Eleven project is its $69.5 million in financing secured from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year, under HUD’s 221(D)4 loan program the department describes as “often used to create housing for moderate-income families, the elderly, and handicapped residents who have been priced out of the rental apartment market.” However, the program doesn’t require any income limits for projects constructed under its financing, making it unclear exactly whether all the apartments here will be offered at market-rate — further muddying the waters, the online portfolio of architects Davies Collaborative lists its project type as “affordable housing.”
Longtime Austinites might recall the extended mid-2000s NIMBY squabble between nearby neighborhood residents, the City of Austin, and developers Lincoln Property Company over Lincoln’s plan to construct a Walmart Supercenter at the dying Northcross Mall near the present-day 27 Eleven site, a proposal that sparked controversy over its two-story design, garage parking, and 24-hour operations supposedly bringing untenable traffic and choking out the region’s smaller retail stores. A frivolous lawsuit against the city failed to stop the project, since it was fully allowed to be built under the property’s zoning whether or not anyone loves Walmart, but the 2008 recession soon put the brakes on Lincoln’s grand plans anyway, resulting in the smaller store with plain-ol’ surface parking we see here today.
Far be it from us to defend the honor of a fairly anti-urban operation like Walmart, but one talking point we recall from the neighborhood residents opposed to the plan 15 years ago still rings true for West Anderson Lane, whether or not those folks know it — the people protesting the store often claimed they wanted a more mixed-use project built here, with residential, retail, and office uses thoughtfully assembled into something more like the Triangle or another large planned development. Of course, what they ended up getting was a parking lot, but the 27 Eleven project points towards this possible future for the corridor, with plenty of overparked shopping centers and big-box stores primed for assembly and redevelopment when the time is right. Speaking of which, does anyone want to buy this three-story furniture store?