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Austin: Local Real Estate Developer Seeking to Construct 375-Foot-Tall Student Housing Tower in West End

Feature Illustration: An artist rendering of the proposed student housing tower by Stratus Properties Inc.

Posted: 5-11-2021

by Art Benavidez

Austin (Travis County) — City Council held a first reading on a local real estate firm’s rezoning request for a proposed 375-foot-tall student housing tower, during last week’s City Council meeting.

The move will allow council to have conditional conversations regarding the development.

There had been opposition to Stratus Properties Inc.’s request to rezone the 0.3382-acre site from general office (GO) district to downtown mixed-use (DMU) district zoning. However, a valid petition opposing the request was dropped before the meeting began.

Clara Weinberg with the Chicago office of SCB architects presented a site plan that showed the residential portion of the development along San Antonio Street in the West End, with the retail portion of the development on the corner of San Antonio Street and West 12th Street, along with a commemorative garden.

The proposed development is located on two tracts. The proposed L-shaped GO zoned area and a 0.238-acre rectangular shaped tract that is already zoned DMU. The entire development would comprise 0.6733 acres (29,330 SF).

Stratus Properties Inc. desires rezoning of the GO zoned tract to DMU to enable a mixed-use development on the combined lots, within the regulations of a single DMU zone district. 

They are proposing a development for commercial and residential uses with a 6,000 square-foot ground-floor restaurant and 270-units.

The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International headquarters is onsite and has been designated a historic structure. Built in 1955, the one story building is 7,284 square feet and also has a 5,834 square foot basement.

The women’s sorority supports a zoning application to demolish the building. However, efforts have been made to incorporate elements of the historic building into the new tower to honor the site’s history.

Staff is recommending DMU zoning, but with a conditional overlay that would limit the building height to 60-feet in accordance with the Downtown Austin Plan.

DMU district zoning allows for a 120-foot maximum building height. However, if the development is granted a downtown density bonus the developer could obtain the requested height.

The Planning Commission had approved DMU zoning, without a height limitation, at their Jan. 26 meeting.  

A conceptual building elevation of the tower showing a 31 story, 357-foot-tall building. Image: Stratus Properties Inc.

Michael Whalen of the law firm Armbrust & Brown, PLLC represented the project to the council and said that they are requesting the zoning, with full height, in order to develop the project.

He argued that the project will help Austin meet its goals for housing and mobility.

“Delta Kappa Gamma has requested DMU zoning on a site that is located in the downtown density bonus area and near a future project connect rail station,” he said. “A portion of the site already has this zoning and this will allow for a transit supportive project.”

Whalen said the developer is pursuing the 375-foot height due to the narrowness of the site.

“If you cap the height, it is ineligible for the density bonus, which means no funding for permanent supportive housing and no great streets requirement with a quality pedestrian and biking environment,” he said.

 “Staff recommended capping our height at 60-feet based on the Downtown Austin Plan, which the city initiated in 2005 and adopted in 2011,” he said. “Since that time we have had many subsequent city-adopted policies that all support allowing a transit supportive downtown project with full height at this location.”

Austin-based 4Ward Land Surveying is on board the project.

VBX Project ID: 2021-33C3