Two Austin properties sat vacant for years, now there are big plans in the works

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Big changes could soon be coming to two City of Austin-owned properties that have been vacant for years.

The properties were purchased by the city in 2008 and in 2013, the first at a former Home Depot site at 7211 N. Interstate 35, the other at a former Chrysler dealership next door at 7309 N. Interstate 35.

This is known as the St. John Project, and Thursday the Austin City Council is looking at finally making something happen on the property.

When the city first purchased the land, they were looking to add a courthouse and police substation. The city planned to use voter-approved money from 2006, but those plans never materialized due to lack of funding. Another idea considered was making it housing for the homeless.

The current plan is to add a mixed-use development with affordable housing, retail and plenty of green space. The properties are 19 acres all together and design elements show it would include 560 units, half of them set aside for families making below the city’s median income.

On Thursday, Austin City Council will vote on executing an exclusive negotiation agreement with Greystar, the developer who has been recommended by the city. This would allow the two to negotiate details under a master development contract. Councilmember Greg Casar tells says he hopes to hear more from community members on what can be added to the existing plan.

“There are things that need to improve in this proposal,” Casar said. “The design needs to improve. I think we need more affordable units. I think included in this proposal we should have some housing for people that can pay for a market-rate unit, a below-market rate unit and folks that are very low income, people who are coming off the streets. We should have a whole mix of that kind of housing.”

The first units could be ready by 2024 and the entire project could be finished by 2025.

The city council meeting will start at 10 a.m. Thursday, and there will be an option to watch it live online.

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