Third downtown?

New Domain-style development on East Riverside could be Austin's next downtown

Domain-style project on East Riverside could be Austin's next downtown

Project catalyst east riverside
The development would be built over 25 years.  Project Catalyst/Vimeo

A Domain-style development encompassing well over 5 million square feet is germinating in Southeast Austin, with plans for thousands of apartments, hundreds of hotel rooms, dozens of shops and restaurants, and scores of offices.

The developer, Los Angeles-based investment firm Nimes Capital, is seeking to rezone a 97-acre site at East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road to make room for the proposed mixed-use development. The goal of the project, the developer says, is to build an “urban village.”

“East Riverside represents a natural expansion of downtown. It’s the next logical area for downtown to expand to,” Nitin Chexal, the Austin-based director of real estate at Nimes Capital, tells CultureMap.

Given the current congestion in downtown Austin, an independent hub for workplaces, housing, and retail establishments “is becoming a necessity,” adds Michael Whellan, a real estate attorney at Austin law firm Armbrust & Brown, which represents Nimes Capital.

Nimes Capital doesn’t envision construction starting before 2020, with the rezoning process likely wrapping up this year or next year. Whellan says the project, which eventually must be approved by the Austin City Council, will be built in five phases over a 25-year period.

Preliminary renderings of the project show buildings that likely would be the tallest in that portion of Southeast Austin. The site is already approved for buildings up to 60 feet tall (roughly six stories), but Nimes Capital hopes to secure permission to go as high as 160 feet (roughly 16 stories), according to Whellan.

The “urban village” in Southeast Austin wouldn’t be as large as the Domain and Domain Northside duo in North Austin — an area quickly emerging as Austin’s “second downtown.” Still, the East Riverside project essentially could serve as the foundation for Austin’s “third downtown.”

A March 9 letter from Whellan to the City of Austin Planning and Zoning Department outlines the ultimate scope of the mixed-use project:

  • 4,709 apartments
  • 600 hotel rooms
  • About 4 million square feet for offices
  • About 435,000 square feet for shops and restaurants

The total square footage and price tag for the development aren’t yet available.

Standing on the site now is The Ballpark East apartment complex, which comprises 1,308 units for college students and other residents. Those apartments would be torn down to make way for the mixed-use development, including market-rate apartments.

Nimes Capital bought the apartment complex and adjacent land over the course of a few years.

If the development — which has been nicknamed “Project Catalyst” — proceeds as planned, it would complement Oracle’s new 40-acre corporate campus in the same neighborhood, as well as a growing number of nearby apartment complexes and retail establishments. Thousands of employees of the Silicon Valley software company will work at the 560,000-square-foot, five-story campus, whose grand opening is set for March 22.