Austin: Sam Mikhail Places Small Bet on St. Elmo Masterplan
Feature Photo (above): Partial view from South Congress of the future sites for St. Elmo Public Market and Saint Elmo Apartments.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis County) — As developments go, Sam Mikhail’s latest project on South Congress Avenue would be modest by his standards.
Mikhail Investments Inc. is known for large-scale, posh downtown projects such as Austonian Condominiums, 1st & Trinity Apartments, and 3rd & San Jacinto Hotel.
However, Mikhail put under contract in the fourth quarter 2018 an undeveloped 1.4-acre used car lot at 4315 S. Congress Ave. Located near the intersection of St. Elmo Road and Congress, the area has been targeted in recent years by other investors. A few years back, the mixed-use retail/apartment complex Public Lofts opened at 4361 S. Congress.
More recently, construction began on St. Elmo Public Market, a mixed-use development that will eventually include a 380-unit apartment building, office building, a hotel and the main attraction–an open-air public market. A project of Prescott Group and GroundFloor Development, St. Elmo Public Market was first announced in 2015. Plans are to have the market portion open by October 2019. The hotel is supposed to open by 2020.
Courtesy: Prescott Group and GroundFloor Development. The Saint Elmo Apartments highlighted on the map is not part of the St. Elmo Public Market masterplan. Note: A revised GroundFloor Development site plan expands office facilities to the north and south of the market, includes a one-story restaurant/music venue building between the hotel and entrance drive, and limits residential to “future” development in the far east (upper right) location.
The used car lot Mikhail had his eye on is adjacent to the main entrance private road to the public market. Other than the name, Saint Elmo Apartments, there are few details about Mikhail’s project, but it will surely complement St. Elmo Public Market better than that eyesore of a car lot.
In December, Mikhail submitted a request to Development Services to change the zoning, “so we can increase the density of my project.”
Staff’s response was in favor: “As South Congress takes on a decidedly more urban feel, it is vital to encourage new development to enhance the sense of place unique to South Austin. The urban design guidelines for South Congress Avenue set out to create a distinctive district with a ‘funky, Austin-centric’ feel.”
The Planning Commission was scheduled to vote on the mixed-use zoning request at its Tuesday, June 25 meeting. However, it was postponed to July 23 at the request of the South Congress Combined Neighborhood Plan Contact Team.
The apartment project is supposed to have 134 units and 3,700 square feet of ground retail. The zoning change does not affect the building height, which remains capped by the base zoning district at 60 feet. There is also an affordability level that requires 10 percent of the units be made available to households earning no more than 80% of the area median income–$65,100 in this case.
Mikhail’s engineer, Michael Rivera of Rivera Engineering, told Development Services in April that the land use mix and intensities were not known. A site plan had not yet been submitted.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.