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The future of East Austin takes shape with latest development plans

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Plaza Saltillo rendering
The rendering from Riverside Resources, which would feature open-air spaces and an area for food trailers.  Courtesy of Gensler Group

Competition for redevelopment of East Austin’s Plaza Saltillo took a giant leap forward this week when the four finalists made presentations to the general public on Tuesday evening. A Wednesday public hearing is also scheduled for the Capitol Metro board to hear public comment.

Capitol Metro owns the 10.1-acre site bounded by I-35 and East Fifth Street which is adjacent to the existing Plaza Saltillo rail stop. A final decision could come as early as next week, although certain Capitol Metro Board members want the board to pick two finalists instead and openly negotiate with each on financial details before selecting the winner.

Goals include promoting transit use, encouraging biking and walking, and creating lively and safe areas around transit stations.

 The four developers were available Tuesday night to represent and explain the details of their respective projects, to answer questions about their plans, and to obtain public feedback. Public comments were collected by Capitol Metro and are expected to be used in the decision making for a final selection of a developer. Developers had previously presented to the Capitol Metro Board who selected the four finalists, all of whom are Austin-related companies.

Capitol Metro envisions the development of Plaza Saltillo as a Transit Oriented Design (TOD) development which is an important part of the City of Austin’s goals to reduce reliance on the automobile.

The Plaza is already a stop for the Red Line commuter rail and is among the first of such projects to be studied and implemented by Capitol Metro. The goals include promoting transit use, encouraging biking and walking, creating a vibrant mix of residential and office, and creating lively and safe areas around transit stations.

A feasibility study by Capitol Metro had previously indicated that site could accommodate up to 908 residential units and more than 63,000 square feet of commercial development, with three- to five-story buildings. Several finalists proposed taller building along the I-35 portion of the site which would require City of Austin variances. All four developers envision a densely developed series of mid-rise residential, office and/or retail uses and two include hotel uses along I-35.

The finalists are:

Endeavor Real Estate Group
A strong local developer — and developer of The Domain — partnered with Columbus Realty Group who has built most of the current multi-family components of The Domain. Local architect Michael Hsu is part of the project team. They are proposing approximately 800 residential units and just over 100,000 square feet of retail space including a grocery store.

Riverside Resources
Riverside Resources is another local heavy weight and recent developer and seller of the widely acclaimed Whitley high-rise apartment project in downtown Austin. The group is proposing approximately 750 residential units, office components, open-air spaces for an “event lawn,” and an area for food trailers. The project architect is the high-powered Gensler Group.

Cypress Real Estate Advisors/Argyle Residential
This plan envisions the site as part of a larger area investment and has taller office, and perhaps hotel, buildings along the I-35 portion of the project. Specific details have not been provided as of this writing.

Saltillo Collaborative
Saltillo Collaborative is an amalgam of firms including Constructive Venture’s Larry Warshaw and Perry Lorenz (developers of Pedernales Lofts among other condo projects), the Trammel Crow Company and the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp. Included are 470 residential units and 130,000-square-feet of “creative office space.”

Even though each project is specific as to square feet and number of residential units, those details could change in response to citizen feedback and in the final negotiations with Capital Metro. Financial details are not expected to be released until a final agreement is negotiated in coming months.

Meanwhile a number of private projects are springing up around the Plaza Saltillo site in anticipation of the development presence that the TOD project would bring to the area. Among them are the significant Corazon vertical mixed-use project bringing residential and retail in a full block between East Fifth Street and East Sixth Street. Other projects include the residential Chestnut Commons development, the PeopleFund building, Foundation Communities’ affordable M-Station residential project, Open Door Preschool, and others still in the early development stage.

For up-to-date information on the Plaza Satillo TOD project, follow the development with up to the minute updates on Twitter at #vivaSaltillo. 

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