AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two years ago, the stretch of city blocks between East 5th Street and East 4th Street just east of I-35 was filled with only the beginnings of a construction project.

Today, that same stretch is full of multi-story buildings with windows looking out at downtown, east Austin, and the adjacent MetroRail train tracks.

Many residents have already moved in and three out of the four retail blocks are complete.

Some businesses, like Chipotle and JuiceLand, are already open. Others, like Target and Whole Foods Market, are still under construction.

An image of retail plans for the Saltillo development. From the Endeavor Real Estate Group website.

The developers call this project “Saltillo,” a six-block, 10-acre, transit-oriented, mixed-use development. The development is bordered by the I-35 frontage road to the west, Fifth Street to the north, Fourth Street to the south, and Comal Street to the east.

The land is owned by Capital Metro and includes the Plaza Saltillo MetroRail Station. The developers explained that “Saltillo” was designed to encourage people to walk, bike, and use transit.

Capital Metro has said the revenue they make from this redevelopment will go torwards Capital Metro’s general operating funds to support transit improvements for the next 99 years.

The project is being developed by Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group and Dallas-based Columbus Realty partners. The developers have told KXAN they want to build a community there that will flourish for at least a century.

They are aiming to make Saltillo a transit hub, in addition to the rail station they have pedestrian paseos, extra-wide sidewalks, below-and-above ground parking garages, electric vehicle stations, and an extension of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The developers have extended San Marcos Street to create a rail crossing for cars there as well as built rail crossings over the CapMetro tracks at Attayac Street and Medina Street.

A map of the Saltillo development in Austin. From the Endeavor Real Estate Group website.

By next month, the developers plan to have all of these rail crossings open and have their streetscaping finished.

“So come back in February and you will see what looks like a completely finished project,” said Jason Thumlert, Principal for Endeavor Real Estate Group.

The businesses at Saltillo should be finishing up their construction by the end of the summer, Thumlert said.

Retail at Saltillo

Businesses already up-and-running

  • Club Pilates
  • Chipotle
  • Spectrum Communications
  • JuiceLand
  • Snooze
  • Orange Theory Fitness

Businesses scheduled to open this month

  • Dolce Neve Gelato
  • 18/8 Fine Men’s Salon
  • Nails on 5th
  • The Joint Chiropractor

Businesses preparing to open

  • Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
  • Poke Austin
  • Enamel Dentistry
  • Cherry Blow Dry Bar
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Target
  • Hopdoddy Burger Bar.
  • The Kebab Shop

Endeavor said the Target store should open in the early part of 2020. It is on the bottom floor of a larger office building which will be occupied by Google in the coming months.

The Whole Foods Market on the corner of the I-35 frontage road and East Fifth Street should be open in the first half of 2020, Endeavor said. The block the Whole Foods store sits on should be finished construction by the end of February.

A block of the Saltillo development on 5th Street and the I-35 Frontage road has residences on the top levels and a Whole Foods Market under construction on the bottom level. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

Thumlert explained that this Whole Foods store will be 36,000 square feet, even larger than originally planned.

The developers said it was important to add a grocery store to this project. When they polled neighbors in the area beforehand, the top feature community members said they wanted to see was a grocery store with access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Originally a Whole Foods 365 store was slated to go there, but the grocery chain is phasing out their 365 stores, so a regular Whole Foods Market will go there instead.

Endeavor said they signed a lease with Target in 2019. The Target at Saltillo will be an “urban target” which offers the same products you’d see at a full-service target, just at a reduced scale.

This Target will also have a CVS pharmacy, which Thumlert believes will be an asset to the community, providing a place to purchase essential items and get prescriptions.

Molly Lidner of Club Pilates’ Saltillo location, explained that she’s eagerly waiting for the neighboring businesses to finish moving in next to her exercise studio.

“It’s a booming neighborhood,”Lidner said. “It’s gone through a lot of changes over the last few years, there’s a lot of injection of young professionals — very health and fitness-minded individuals in the neighborhood.”

Lidner said she already feels a strong sense of community around Saltillo.

“We’ve been warmly welcomed by all of our neighbors and the residents that live upstairs come and take classes with us, and it’s just a great vibe,” she said.

People living at Saltillo

Thumlert said people began living at Saltillo in the middle of 2019.

Currently, he estimates around 1,000 people have moved in there and that the residences are over 70% occupied.

One of the “pedestrian paseos” in the Saltillo development just east of downtown Austin. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

There will be a total of 141 affordable units in this development.

Currently, 41 already exist and “float” within the development, meaning that the interior of the affordable units will always be the same as the market-rate units. This year, construction will start on an additional 100 affordable units that will be right next to the Plaza Saltillo stop.

Starting in February, Endeavor expects to have people living in all four of the retail blocks.

Years in the making

Saltillo is in Council Member Pio Renteria’s district. He explained to KXAN in a statement, “Our neighborhood worked with city staff to clean up and remove the empty warehouses and illegally dumped waste on that Saltillo site, and then for over two decades the site sat empty.”

“Years ago when we earnestly began the public discussion on what our community desired to see at Saltillo, affordable housing and access to a neighborhood grocery store were the main requests,” Renteria continued. “So I cannot express how excited our community is to see this transformative project, a project that includes no less than 15% affordable housing, finally completed.”

Thumlert explained that the waste Renteria was referring to was found throughout the site, they byproduct of old trash that had been burned, dumped, and buried. Because the site hadn’t been developed in a long time, that contaminated soil was left to sit there, Thumlert said.

Endeavor was able to remove the contaminated soil and take it to a landfill in San Antonio.

“We were excited to take what was a brownfield contaminated site and turn it into what you see here today,” he said.

The rail line just to the south of the Saltillo development. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

“We are enacting a community plan that was put in place in a vision 20 years ago,” Thumlert added. “I think its really exciting to see it come together, and in a way that creates, you know improved connectivity, service offerings for the neighborhood and offices here and residential in addition to all the retail, so it’s really exciting to see it come together.”

Aerial photos of the Saltillo development taken in April 2018 (Left) and then in September 2019 (Right). Photos Courtesy Endeavor Real Estate Group.