Austin: Zoning Recommended for 2,100-Acre Mixed-Use Project
Featured Illustration (above): Preliminary concepts of some of the housing types that MG Realty Investments/GroundWork plans for the sprawling Austin Green mixed-use, master-planned development. Image: GroundWork
By Edmond Ortiz
Austin (Travis County)–Zoning was approved for a 2,126-acre tract where a developer envisions over 12,000 residences, and 2.25 million square feet of new office, commercial, industrial and civic space and park land.
The city’s Planning Commission on Feb. 25 upheld city staff’s recommendation to designate the proposed Austin Green project a Planned Unit Development (PUD).
MG Realty Investments, dba GroundWork, a subsidiary of Austin company Momark Development, is leading the Austin Green project located in east Travis County. This would involve:
4,377 single-family detached housing units
4,374 units of low-rise multifamily housing
3,249 units of mid-rise multifamily housing
300,000 square feet of general light industrial space
600,000 square feet of general office space
150,000 square feet of medical/dental office space
650,000 square feet of retail shopping space
Numerous tracts are reserved for institutional uses and emergency services. These include: a future new city fire/EMS station (two acres); a future public library (one acre); and three Del Valle Independent School District campuses (two elementary schools each with a capacity for 1,500 students, and an 1,100-student-middle school).
Additionally, the developer is pitching a town square and other open/civic spaces, a total of 858 acres of park and open space, including land along the Colorado River, six miles of new trails, eco-friendly stormwater infrastructure, tree preservation, critical water quality measures and wetland reclamation and restoration.
Preliminary land use plan for the Austin Green mixed-use development. Image: GroundWork
The roadways needed for MG Realty/GroundWork’s PUD include the widening Harold Green Road and extending it east to the Austin’s Colony neighborhood, and building nearly one dozen new streets. Most of these new roads will have bicycle lanes or shared-use paths.
Much of the land is occupied today by a Martin Marietta sand and gravel mining operation; the property straddles Texas Highway 130 and is roughly bound by the river and Farm Roads 969 and 973.
Because the property is presently inside Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the developer plans to seek voluntary limited purpose annexation.
MG Realty/GroundWork drafted a pedestrian- and bike-friendly community where every house is within a five-minute walk of a park or open/civic space. But representatives for the developer pledge to consult with Capital Metro about the feasibility of providing a transit stop inside Austin Green.
Annexation would permit the new development to receive CapMetro service. Creation of a municipal utility district to fund new infrastructure for the development, also, is in the works.
Affordable housing is another major aspect of the new development. Fifteen percent of all rental units will be allocated for individuals earning 60% of median family income. Five percent of for-sale units will be marketed for 80% median family income.
MG Realty/GroundWork has considered various low, medium and high density residential scenario. The current concept proposes 10 units per acre.
“Every (city department) rallied around this idea to make sure this project is transit-ready, that market-rate units are as affordable and attainable as possible, and that the diversity of housing also responds to the idea of this being a multi-generational development,” GroundWork Principal Steven Spears said.
The design team includes Austin firm Lionheart on planning, urban design and landscape architecture; Kimley-Horn & Associates as civil engineer; Omaha, Nebraska-based HDR on road infrastructure and transportation design; and Kansas-based Terracon on geotechnical engineering.
Spears said the project would have a range of employment centers and commercial uses, from office, retail, food and beverage to medical, flex space, industrial and corporate.
“There’s hardly any medical services out in far East Austin,” he added.
Maximum building heights will range from 60 feet for mixed residential to 180 feet, in town center, commercial and mixed-use zones.
No total construction cost or value has yet been provided, but MG Realty/GroundWork estimates it will take until 2040 to build out Austin Green. City Council is scheduled to consider the zoning recommendation on March 12. VBX members may track this project using ID number: 2020-1AC9.
No audience members addressed the project at the commission meeting, but city staff did receive letters of opposition from a few property owners near the project site. Clarisa Carroll expressed concern about the level of traffic that could result from the new development.
“I am for development, but the congested farm roads take a beating with heavy commercial transportation vehicles, and heavy traffic flow during the daytime hours usually from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” she wrote.
“Traffic is unbearable now,” Sue Fischer wrote.
Discussion among commission members was limited to some minor amendments to city staff’s base recommendation.
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.