AUSTIN (KXAN) — Construction work is set to begin on three acres of Travis County-owned land in north central Austin for the first mixed-use, mixed-income development of its kind in the region. The development will include 146 apartment units and 80,000+ square feet of office space.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place Monday. 

The development will be built at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and 53 ½ Street.

Of the 146 units at Travis Flats, as it will be known, 122 apartments will have rent made affordable to those people at or below 60% of the area’s median income. To date, that median income is $56,760 for a family of four. The remainder will be at market rents.

“There is a deeply affordable aspect to this project. We want to make sure that our families who are somewhere in the range of $40-45,000 can still afford to live here,” explained Precinct 1 Travis County Commissioner, Jeffrey Travillion. “We want to make sure that folks who drive buses, folks who work for the school district, folks who work for government entities can also afford it. We don’t want to see Austin become a place where only rich people live, but where the whole community can live.” 

The development will be located within Travillion’s county precinct and Austin City Council Member Greg Casar’s District 4. 

“Traditionally, this has been a really mixed income area where people of all different backgrounds and professions can afford to live. But increasingly, we’re losing that in parts of the city that are close to downtown like this,” council member Casar said. “We don’t want to be a city where just the wealthiest are able to live. We don’t want to have a central city that’s essentially a gated community. That’s not what Austin is about.” 

Casar says the city needs 60,000 affordable units over the next ten years if Austin wishes to maintain diversity.

“This is just one of many affordable communities that need to be created,” he continued. “Affordable housing has to be our top priority for working class folks and moderate-income folks, alike.”

Travis County Housing Finance Corporation is partnering with DMA Development Company for the multi-family component of the project. 

“DMA is honored to have been selected by the County as its partner for this challenging endeavor. This groundbreaking is the culmination of three years of collaboration by the all the parties involved and proves that a product developed through teamwork is infinitely better than what any one of us could have produced in isolation,” Diana McIver, President, DMA Development Company stated in a press release. “Not only are we bringing affordable housing and jobs to a central location, this mixed-use development will be a game changer for redevelopment along Airport Boulevard.”

The county is partnering with the Southwest Strategies Group to develop the office component, which will house Travis County’s flagship Health and Human Services offices, Veterans Services, and Passport and Jury Services, as well as a small community retail space. 

“Mixed-use has occurred all over the country. However, when you use governmental entities and you put private sector facilities with them, that’s fairly new for this region, and we think that it’s an exciting opportunity,” added Commissioner Travillion. “When we’re in the middle of community, providing services for the community, we become more connected to that community.”

Judge Sarah Eckhardt spoke highly about the public-private partnership that made the project possible. 

“There’s not a lot of public funding that we can put into these projects, but we can put public dirt — public property — into these projects and that’s how we are drawing private firms in to bring these really high-quality, affordable housing projects,” she said. 

Eckhardt also praised the federal government for its Housing Tax Credit Program the county is utilizing.

“Because we own this property, right here in a fast-gentrifying area of high opportunity, this is like magic. We’re able to turn lead into gold and I’m really, really excited about the gold that we’re going to have right here on this dirt,” added Eckhardt. 

When the development is complete, the new Travis Flats units will make up about a third of the total affordable housing units in the county.