Austin: 175-Unit Apartment Complex Bound for West 12th Street
Feature Illustration (above): The city of Austin is reviewing a developer’s plan to raze four commercial structures at 827 W. 12th St. and build in their place a 175-unit apartment complex with ground-floor retail and above-grade parking. Image: Google Streets
By Edmond Ortiz
Austin (Travis County)–A noted Houston developer is looking to replace a small cluster of retail/office buildings with a 175-unit apartment complex and new retail space on the western edge of downtown Austin.
Documents on file with the city show that Transwestern Development Co. wants to build a mixed-use structure with ground-story retail and upper multistory residential on neighboring lots between 827 and 817 W. 12th St. The lots collectively make up little more than half an acre.
City Council earlier this summer approved rezoning the lots from Commercial Services to Downtown Mixed Use with a conditional overlay, which limits the height of any building on the property to 60 feet.
The property is within an area that is eligible for the city’s downtown density bonus, which means the building height could go up to 90 feet. According to the city’s project case file, Transwestern intends to apply for a bonus when it submits a site plan.
The developer has not furnished conceptual drawings, a cost or construction schedule. No other details about the proposed apartments are available.
Currently, the property in question has four single-story buildings totaling 7,167 occupied square feet, all utilizing a surface parking lot.
Two buildings belong to Dynamic Reprographics, a design and print shop. A third building houses 12th Street Books, a seller of rare books. The fourth structure, a single-family-style building, is used for office space. There’s no word on what would happen to the existing businesses that occupy any of these buildings.
The west end of downtown is not experiencing as much redevelopment as other parts of the central business district. The neighborhood immediately surrounding 827 West 12th has a gently rolling topography and a wealth of small retail centers and office spaces, as well as an art gallery, cafe, skate shop, and an Austin Community College branch with an adjacent multi-level parking garage.
The property for the new mixed-use project would also be located just east of Shoal Creek.
Transwestern Development Co.’s proposed mixed-use multi-level building would take up slightly more than a half-acre at 827/817 W. 12th St. and replace four existing commercial structures. Image: Google Streets
The project case file also shows that Transwestern had been in communication with nearby property owners and affected neighborhood associations to form a restrictive covenant. Included in the terms is a pledge to improve 12th Street along the project site using standards laid out in the city’s Great Streets program.
Transwestern also promises to screen and architecturally integrate its structured above-grade parking spaces for residents, retail tenants and visitors into the building.
The case file includes endorsements for the project rezoning from a few neighboring property owners and community groups.
“We are excited about the prospect of having new residential neighbors at this site, and we’re glad the planned parking ratio is relatively low (0.7 spaces/unit),” wrote Dan Keshet, policy committee chairman for the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association.
“While we would prefer that the parking be below-grade, adaptable for other uses, and available from the beginning to other users, we still believe that this project, with the restrictions outlined above, represents a significant step forward for the neighborhood.”
Ted Siff, Old Austin Neighborhood Association (OANA) board president, wrote to the city planning department: “Just a quick note to confirm to you that OANA supports this proposed zoning change from (Commercial Services) to (Downtown Mixed Use-Conditional Overlay) at a height limit of 60 feet subject to the approval of the applicant’s density bonus request.”
Charles Heimsath, president of Capital Market Research, a business less than 200 feet from the project site, commented in writing that new apartments would help to fill some unmet needs for workforce housing in and near the central business district.
“I am strongly in favor of this rezoning request, which will allow for the construction of much needed market rate, but affordable housing in an underserved part of downtown,” he added.
Transwestern is presently developing a similar concept, a five-story, 260-unit apartment building with restaurant space at 710 E. 3rd St. Transwestern plans to open up that development by May 2021.
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.