There is no shortage lately of real estate investors willing to bet on West Campus, and the demand for upscale student housing is about to bring another high-density project to Rio Grande Street.
Scannell Development Company, operating as Scannell Properties, is an Indianapolis company proposing a seven-story building at 2100 Rio Grande Street, which is directly across from the 21 Rio tower. It is also located cater-corner from the Aspen West Campus, a 17-story tower at 1909 Rio Grande Street that broke ground in December; that is a $60 million project by Aspen Heights Partners with financial backing from Beijing-based Grand China Fund.
Austin Towers recently took a tally of new construction projects in this neighborhood, including Aspen West Campus. The district may not be a draw for non-student home shoppers, but such growth in a downtown-adjacent zone can only benefit downtown retailers and the urban hospitality sector, along with an unlikely area hotel market.
Renderings are not available for the Scannell project, but it’s been described in city records as one floor of cast-in-place concrete and five floors of wood frame above, with mezzanine bedrooms on the top floor. There will be one level of underground parking and a ground-level podium parking garage for a total of eight levels. Access to the garage will be through an alley that runs along the property’s northern boundary.
That makes it taller by one story in scale than Pointe on Rio at the corner of Rio Grande Street and MLK Jr. Boulevard, but smaller in overall mass. Scannell proposes a 108-unit building that breaks down to 57 four-bedrooms, 20 efficiencies, 16 three-bedrooms, 8 five-bedrooms, and 7 two-bedrooms.
There are three large old homes within the project site that will have to be demolished.
According to the Travis County Appraisal District, these include 702 West 21st Street, a 2,092-square-foot fourplex built in 1911; 2102 Rio Grande Street, a Beta Kappa Gamma sorority residence with 3,407 square feet of living space that was built in 1917; and 2100 Rio Grande Street, a 4,754-square-foot two-story built in 1910.
If this were some other part of town, there would probably be more concern about their historic significance, but providing housing for the 50,000-plus students at the University of Texas-Austin takes precedence in West Campus. The existing impervious cover is 61.8 percent of 0.67 acres, and Scannell wants to expand the impervious cover to between 86 and 90 percent. The building area would total about 26,118 square feet.
When registering the project with the state, Mark Hart Architecture gave an estimated the project at $25 million and gave a construction start date of June 2017, but getting through the city’s review process has taken longer than expected. A May report from Development Services was still citing deficiencies with the application and gave the developer until Oct. 14 to resolve them.
Scannell submitted a S.M.A.R.T. Housing application to earn fee waivers, which the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department reviewed favorably. The NHCD certified that the project meets its standards “at the pre-submittal stage,” because 10 percent of the units — 11 units in total — will serve tenants earning at or below 60 percent of the median family income. The building will also have to meet a Green Building Rating.
Whenever it does break ground, 2100 Rio Grande is estimated to take two years to complete.