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Plaza Saltillo development deal approved in close vote

Council passes modified version of proposed plan changes

After a long and often agonizing debate that went late into the night, the Austin City Council last Thursday approved a slightly amended version of changes to the Plaza Saltillo project proposed by developer Endeavor Real Estate. Endeavor and its partner, Columbus Realty, were chosen in a bidding process almost two years ago to develop the property, which is owned by public transportation provider Capital Metro.

The project will cover eight city blocks—almost 11 acres—of the East César Chavez neighborhood, on both sides of the the rail tracks from Interstate 35 to Saltillo Plaza between East Sixth and East Cesar Chavez streets. The plan calls for a mixed-use development that includes apartments, retail, and office space (and, originally, a grocery store, which disappeared along the way).

Endeavor recently put forth proposals for a zoning change to allow a 125-foot-tall office building not previously included in the plan, as well as taller residential buildings and the scaling back of affordable housing units. As the proposed changes moved forward to a City Council vote, neighborhood opposition to the revisions grew; the East César Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team voted to oppose the changes, and Community group East Cesar Chavez Neighbors went on record supporting the planning team’s position.

The planning team opposed the proposed allowable height increase, doubling of density (from from 112,500 square feet to 259,000 square feet), a decrease in affordable housing, and an insufficient number of apartments that have more than one bedroom, which could unduly limit the number of families able to live there.

By the third and final reading before council, it had approved the provision that 141 of the proposed 800 units—17.6 percent—would be designated as affordable, including 41 “floating units,” which could be any open unit in the development (rather than confined to a specific area or specific units).

According to a Monday Community Impact story, Thursday’s council hearing almost killed and then revived the deal a number of times. After much debate over the proposed office tower height (125 feet, which at one point Council Member Sabino Renteria got down to 70 feet), number of affordable units, and—relatively late in the game, a clash over the number of affordable units that would be viable for families (i.e., two-bedroom apartments), Endeavor agreed to make 25 percent of the initial 41 affordable units two-bedrooms, contingent on whether or not it chooses to build the 125-foot office building.

That proposal passed 7-4, which, barring unforeseen developments, will allow the project to go forward.

Plaza Saltillo passes 7-4 after hours of late-night debate by Austin City Council [CI]