Massive E. Riverside redevelopment one step closer to city approval

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — East Riverside Drive in southeast Austin could transform dramatically over the next decade or so. 

After hours of back and forth, the City of Austin’s Planning Commission voted 7-1 to recommend approving zoning changes for 97 acres of land at the corner of Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road.

The change would allow the developer to build a mixed-use complex at that location. 

According to documents filed with the city, they’re proposing: 

  • Approximately 4,709 multifamily units
  • Approximately 600 hotel rooms
  • Approximately 4,000,000 square feet of office
  • Approximately 60,000 square feet of medical / dental office space
  • Approximately 435,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space

“It’s not so massive when you think about how important this particular intersection is,” said Michael Whellan, Partner at Armbrust and Brown. “It is part of the transit priority network, part of the urban trail priority network, part of the bicycle priority network.”

Whellan said the project would include 400 to 565 income-restricted units.

“The whole area has changed and continues to change at a rapid pace,” he said. “[It’s] something we need to capture now and be sure that we have as many income-restricted affordable units at the property as possible.”

The zoning change also means the developer can build taller buildings. 

Austin’s Planning and Zoning Assistant Director said the buildings there right now range from 40 to 50 feet tall. The developer hopes to go as high as 160 feet tall. 

Those unhappy with the proposal disrupted the Planning Commissions’ meeting. They chanted “Austin’s not just for the rich. We won’t move another inch” as police escorted them out of the room. 

The protestors, members of a group called Defend Our Hoodz, remained outside City Hall as the meeting continued. 

They later sent a statement, which in part read: 

The apartments facing displacement are already affordable, and there are 1400 of them. Many are students who can’t afford West Campus, as well as many working people and families.

The group also said the Planning Commission’s chair has ties to the developer, but Fayez Kazi recused himself from Tuesday’s discussion and vote. 

Susana Almanza with Poder testified in front of the commission, saying she’s concerned redevelopment will make the area unaffordable. 

“Eighty percent were families on East Riverside corridor if you look at the census data. We’re now minus 40 percent, minus 40 percent of families,” she said. “This is a major case of gentrification.”

The final approval of the zoning change will have to come from the City Council. It’s scheduled to be on the council’s agenda in August.

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