The future of Austin's Plaza Saltillo: Here's four developers' visions

Apr 17, 2014
Austin Business Journal

Four developers offered competing visions this week for the future of one of East Austin's most desirable development locations, Cap Metro's Plaza Saltillo station, at the transit authority's board meeting. The about 11-acre site sits mostly vacant today, in contrast with the increasingly lively East Austin entertainment and residential area. In renderings presented to the Capital Metro board at the April 15 meeting, the now-underused site has been brought to life by projects that appear to embody all of the development buzzwords the city and its builders have grown to use in past years

The four finalists that presented rank among Austin's most prominent developers, architects and nonprofits: Argyle Residential/Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Endeavor Real Estate Group, Riverside Resources and Saltillo Collaborative

Each of the teams stuck to a number of broad goals for the project outlined by Capital Metro, which owns the property. All of the proposals include affordable-rate housing, would be built with a bottom-floor retail component and have taken steps to mesh well with the city and the surrounding neighborhood. The proposals varied in the number of residences that would be built on the site and about how the non-residential space would be used. Exactly how affordable the affordable residences would be varied from proposal to proposal as well

• Argyle Residential/Cypress Real Estate Advisors have partnered with local Austin firms such as engineering group Big Red Dog and architects DWG. The team envisions the site as part of a larger community investment and appears to have one taller building closest to I-35. Argyle did not return calls requesting clarification on its project

• Endeavor Real Estate Group, another Austin development heavyweight, has partnered with Dallas' Columbus Realty Partners, local architect Michael Hsu and engineers Bury Inc. The team has proposed a Plaza Saltillo with 800 total residences, including 100 set aside at an affordable rate and another 100 set aside at an affordable rate specifically for seniors. The project would be built on 112,500 square feet of retail space – including a supermarket

• Riverside Resources, part of a team that recently developed and sold the Whitley Apartments downtown, has teamed up with architect and consultant Gensler. Its proposal includes roughly 760 total residences with 160 affordable housing units set aside. The team's vision includes amenities such as an event lawn and a spot for food trailers

• Saltillo Collaborative, a team that includes Trammell Crow Co., Perry Lorenz and the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp., has proposed 470 residences, 170 of which would be affordable. The team has also included a 132,000-square-foot creative office space – and is in early negotiations with SXSW Inc. for the space – as well as a hotel and retail space. The team's vision was endorsed by the local neighborhood group, the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team

While developers included specific numbers in the presentations, the details of the selected team's plan are likely to change to some degree. Capital Metro's board will choose finalists and is expected to select a development team after a public hearing process in the coming weeks

After a development team is selected, many of the proposed visions could be changed to incorporate suggested features or to better suit the economics of the project – what the board will really be selecting is a development team and a broad vision, not a specific project outlined. For example, the presentations that included larger buildings closer to I-35 would require variances to build higher – which would require the city of Austin cooperation to be built

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