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Project Catalyst, Recently Renamed "4700 East," Still Moving Forward

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In its August meeting, the Austin City Council approved the re-zoning measures required for Project Catalyst, recently renamed 4700 East, to keep moving forward. If the mixed-use development project proceeds as planned, it will sit on a a 97-acre site in Southeast Austin and will neighbor Oracle’s new 40-acre corporate campus.

Often referred to as Austin’s future “Third Downtown" (with the Domain North being Austin’s “Second Downtown”), Nimes Capital has proposed building 4,700 residential units, 600 hotel rooms, 4 million square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of medical and dental office space, and 435,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space at 4700 East. In short, an “urban village” would be created in this area near the corner of East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road that would basically offer, well, everything!

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The city could require developers to offer hundreds of income-restricted affordable housing units, but it would only do so if the developers build structures above the restricted height of 60 feet. To maintain the promise of affordable housing in the area, the developer is currently promising that 8-12% (400-550) of the units will be income-restricted as a trade off for greater building heights. Additionally, the developer formally committed to reserve 10 units for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. These housing units will be paid for with vouchers supplied by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.

In order for 4700 East to be built, there are some other buildings that will need to be removed for this project to move forward. For this reason, developers have been slowly purchasing apartments in the area over the course of the past several years. The buildings that would be removed, which are roughly 60% student-occupied, are The Ballpark North and Town Lake, as well as the Quad East, West and South. The properties account for a total of 3,702 bedrooms and 1,308 units, according to city documents. Developers will also ensure gradual displacement of current residents in the area—250 of the existing units on site will not be redeveloped or demolished for five years in an effort to defray displacement.

Construction is not envisioned to begin on 4700 East before 2020. However, once the project is officially approved by the Austin City Council, the development will be built slowly over a 25 year period in five different phases along the way. The developer will return to the city council for a third and final hearing in September, at which it will need to receive at least six votes in favor to pass.

Austin's Homeless Dilemma

In June 2019, the Austin City Council repealed an ordinance that prohibited homeless camping. The city cited their decision based on how ineffective the ordinance has been to date. In other words, “criminalizing” homelessness only adds additional barriers (court dates, fines, misdemeanors, etc) for someone trying to escape the cycle of homelessness and poverty.  Mayor Adler pointed out that between 2014-2016, the city issued 18,000 tickets to homeless individuals, but the city saw very little positive change from issuing these tickets.

 In addition to the freedom given to the homeless to sleep out in the open unrestricted, the city also unanimously lifted the ban on sitting on sidewalks/panhandling and unanimously approved buying property for a new homeless shelter near Ben White Boulevard & Bannister Lane. 

However, one barrier that the city perhaps did not consider fully were the residents of Austin. Repealing the ordinance has met with severe backlash, particularly from downtown business owners who are now seeing decreased business and increased security concerns due to tent cities popping up downtown.  In addition, some residents of South Austin near the Ben White and Bannister Lane new homeless shelter location are not happy about the impact that the city’s decision might have on their home property values.

Another person is not happy with the city’s decision: the Governor of Texas. Just days after the Council’s decision, the Texas state governor, Greg Abbott, got involved , threatening a state intervention to undo the council’s 9-2 decision.  Abbott said, “If Austin—or any other Texas city—permits camping on city streets it will be yet another local ordinance the State of Texas will override.”

On August 21, 2019 the city council met again and gave opportunity for residents to express concern and voice questions. Mayor Adler stated that he still believes the city is heading in the right direction by lifting the ordinance and trying to address the homeless problem a different way. The city announced at the August meeting that they would not create “safe spaces” for tent cities to be constructed, since over time this would be a drain on the tax payer dollar.  However, one “safety” proposition that was suggested was that the city issue new restrictions on homeless camping in areas adjacent to roadways, medians and transit facilities, as well as sidewalks, trails, schools, child care facilities, areas with high pedestrian activity, shelters and the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. These new restrictions will likely would be up for a council vote in September.

The next opportunity for people to attend a forum on homelessness is on August 29 at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. Register here.

So what is your position on this? Do you agree with the governor or the mayor? Have you noticed an increase in homeless activity in your neighborhood or area since the ordinance was lifted? What should the city do moving forward to address both the needs of the homeless population and the needs of small business owners and residents as well? Sound off in the comments below!

RECAP OF TIMELINE:

June 21, 2019: City council repeals ordinances restricting homeless camping, panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks. 

June 23, 2019:  Gov Abbott threatens to overturn Austin’s easing of homelessness rules

Aug 21, 2019: Two months of backlash from the city and Texas Governor: Town Hall meeting in which the Mayor and City council heard concerns and answered questions.  However, the city upheld the repeal and will only consider a few new restrictions on tent cities.   

Aug 29, 2019: Forum on homelessness at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs.

September council meeting:  the City will vote on proposed new restrictions to limit some areas of town where tent cities would not be allowed. 

 

East Riverside Development

If you haven’t driven through East Riverside Drive in a while, you might be surprised by the rapidly changing development in the area.  Some support the expansion of business, art, and residential communities in the area, while others are opposed to gentrification and its impact on long-time homeowners. The City of Austin has partnered with UT to study the development of this area and its impact on current residents and have pledged to offer tax credits to affordable housing opportunities in the area.  However, at the same time, private land is being to sold to developers and the area is rapidly evolving.

Oracle’s forsight to build a South Shore Campus really kicked off a chain reaction of East Riverside development. Oracle opened a “South Shore” campus in 2018 and will double its size by the end of 2019. The Austin Business Journal quoted an Oracle executive saying, “The Lady Bird Lake campus will soon employ 3,000 people onsite and that the headcount could grow to 10,000 people as the company expands.”  Oracle landing here has since driven much of the development in the area.

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Here are just a few of the projects that have recently been completed or are currently in development in the area:

www.berkadia.com

www.berkadia.com

UNDER CONSTRUCTION (BLUE):

#54 Foremost-new apartment development

#55 The Elizabeth at Presidio-apartment development; rental units ranging from 504-1938 sq ft.

#57 IO at Tech Ridge- apartment complex

#58 Lenox Oaks- Mixed-use (residential and commercial) property

ALSO UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The Montopolis Recreation and Community Center (1200 Montopolis Drive) is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2020.  This building will be co-operated by Austin Parks &  Rec and the Austin Public Health Department.  It will provide over 33,000 sq feet of new space, including a commercial kitchen, gym, fitness room, computer lab, conference rooms, and classroom areas. 

Montopolis Recreation & Community Center

Montopolis Recreation & Community Center

berkadia.com

berkadia.com

PLANNED DEVELOPMENT (DARK BLUE):

#113 6507 Riverside—apartment complex

#114 Aspen Heights Riverside- 325-unit apartment complex

#115 The Mont-apartment complex

#116 The Riverside-apartment complex

#117 South Shore District Phase IV-322-unit apartment complex

#144-Cambrian East Riverside-65-unit multifamily mid-rise to be located at 1806 Clubview Avenue with a planned 55 units rated as affordable, or available to tenants earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median family income. Only 15 units are one-bedrooms, with the rest a mix of two, three, and four-bedrooms. The living spaces have a total area of 57,268 square feet, and the indoor common areas total 2,444 square feet.

#145 Tierra Skyline-apartment complex; affordable housing development

#146 Vi Collina-apartment complex; affordable housing development

 

berkadia.com

berkadia.com

PROSPECTIVE CONSTRUCTION (BROWN):
#198 Broadstone Riverside-apartment complex

#199 Project Catalyst-97-acre “urban village” along the East Riverside corridor, a mixed-use project including 4,709 multifamily units, 600 hotel rooms, 4 million square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of medical and dental office space, and 435,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

#200 Wickersham-apartment complex

#244 1600 Pleasant Valley-retail center property

#245 5700 East Riverside-retail center property

#246 The Point at Ben White-apartment complex with units ranging from 850-1185 sq ft

#247 Urban East-a mixed-used development with 100,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space.

This brief glimpse should tell investors and home owners alike that East Riverside and Montopolis are emerging areas to keep an eye on in the coming years. Let’s hope the city can continue to work with real estate developers and homeowners to create an East Austin anyone can live in and enjoy.

44 East

Artist’s rendering: 44eastaveaustin.com

Artist’s rendering: 44eastaveaustin.com

More development is on its way to downtown Austin’s bustling Rainey Street District.

44 East is a new residential development located on East Avenue on the corner of Cummings Street, overlooking Lady Bird Lake. It is slated to be 51 stories and will rise approximately 545 feet tall. 322 residences will be for sale. Some smaller 1-2 bedroom residences will be available, all the way up to 4 bedroom residences with impressive penthouse views. The building will be constructed to take maximum advantage of the spectacular views up and down Lady Bird Lake and northwest toward downtown.

Approximately 3,000 square feet on the ground floor will also be available for retail/dining space. An on-location parking structure will include over 500 spaces for both tenants as well as some for the public.

44 East Avenue’s groundbreaking is planned for the spring of 2020 with delivery scheduled for fall of 2022.

Start planning your move to the Rainey district! Keep up to date on the latest 44 East News by clicking the link below.

Republic Square

When you stand in the middle of Republic Square (422 Guadalupe), you are standing on a rich piece of Austin’s history. Edwin Waller’s original design of Austin consisted of a grid with a central square (Capitol Square) and four smaller, secondary “public squares.” Republic square, previously called Hamilton square, was one of these four smaller secondary public squares, and the home of Austin’s “Auction Oaks.” In 1839, Austin’s original 306 lots were sold at auction under these historic trees. Afterwards, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the park had strong associations with the Mexican-American community due to the concentration of Hispanic citizens that lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the square.

Later in the city’s history, Austin’s leaders saw very little use for maintaining these public squares as green spaces, and the city quickly found other ways to use these spaces for storage, garbage dumps, or other city services. Between 1950 and the early 1970s, Republic Square functioned as a parking lot.

In 1976, as a part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration, Austin’s leaders began to focus on returning Republic Square back to its original purpose as a public green space. It was then given the name Republic Square in tribute to the Republic of Texas.

In more recent years, Republic Square has served as the first site of the city’s summer “Movies in the Park” series, and every Saturday is home to the Sustainable Food Center’s Downtown Farmers’ Market. The newly renovated square is a green space unlike any in Austin. Daily programming and featured events, modern amenities, beautiful art and a café make it a uniquely Austin experience.

Other development has begun in and around Republic Square as well. One of Austin’s best combination butcher shops & restaurants, Salt & Time, is opening a new cafe within downtown’s revamped Republic Square Park at 422 Guadalupe Street, opening sometime between late summer to early fall. The downtown outpost will serve sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, and more. There will be dedicated breakfast dishes, like bowls, sandwiches, and pastries. Drinks will include alcoholic options (a first for the park), like canned and kegged beer and wine, as well as coffee, juice, kombucha, and soda. The cafe will also feature future collaborations with vendors from the SFC Farmers Market Downtown, which takes place at the park every Saturday.

The Hotel ZaZa/Gables Republic Square tower at 401 Guadalupe Street is supposed to deliver sometime in 2019. This tower will be a mix of both a chic boutique apartment community and a renowned boutique hotel, allowing residents to experience the amenities of both, plus have easy accessibility to the entertainment and events at Republic Square. In addition to the Gables building, there is an assembly of vacant properties at the corner of Fifth and Lavaca Streets that will soon be coming down to make way for a 44-story Hanover Republic Square apartment tower, which would mean 310 more apartments, hundreds of parking spaces and possibly another new restaurant near Republic Square.

Although the square has seen many different seasons and years of history, the current revitalization and development of Republic Square means that the most promising years under Austin’s “Auction Oaks” are yet to come! Visit Republic Square for a Saturday Farmer’s Market or a Movie in the Park and take advantage of all this public square has to offer Austin residents.