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East Austin's newest apartment project comes with prickly past

East Austin's newest apartment project comes with prickly past

Oden Hughes apartments
Oden Hughes proposed a project similar to this one in Montopolis. Photo courtesy of Oden Hughes

As Austin housing costs continue to rise, real estate developers are looking for unique solutions to combat affordability issues. Greenwich, Connecticut-based investment firm Starwood Capital Group said June 24 that one of its affiliates had purchased a 342-unit, garden-style apartment project currently under construction at 500 U.S. Highway 183 South, a largely overlooked area in Far East Austin.

Austin-based development firm Oden Hughes began construction on the Cactus Rose project in 2018. It’s scheduled to be finished in spring 2020. Amenities will include a clubhouse, a fitness center, a pool with cabanas, quartz countertops, and stainless steel appliances.

Starwood Capital Group says it now will finish developing the project.

“Austin has experienced significant population growth and positive demographic trends, and we believe East Austin presents an attractive opportunity to meet the growing demand for high-quality housing with Class A amenities and finishes,” Anthony Murphy, an acquisitions associate at Starwood Capital Group, says in a release. “With convenient access to Austin’s expanding job centers and entertainment district, this project will appeal to a wide pool of renters."

In the release, Starwood Capital Group says the Cactus Rose property is one of the few sites in the Montopolis area that can accommodate garden-style apartments. Company representatives couldn’t be reached for additional comment.

The Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park once stood on the 23-acre site largely occupied by low-income mobile home owners and renters who were relocated with financial assistance from Oden Hughes. In 2016, the Austin City Council granted Oden Hughes’ rezoning request for the property. At the time, neighborhood advocates argued that the apartment project would eliminate yet another option for affordable housing and spur more gentrification.

According to apartment website RentCafé, rents for garden-style apartments — which usually are no taller than four stories — tend to be lower than for mid-rise and high-rise apartments. However, rents are rising faster for garden-style apartments than for the two other categories, according to RealPage, a provider of data and analytics for the real estate industry.

Aside from Cactus Rose, garden-style apartment projects underway locally include Flats on Shady Lane in Southeast Austin and Nexus at Goodnight Ranch in South Austin.