AFFORDABLE HOUSING ADVOCATES OBJECT TO ENDEAVOR’S NEW PLAN FOR PLAZA SALTILLO
Affordability and compatibility top the list of concerns about proposed changes to Plaza Saltillo
On March 2nd, city leaders will decide the future of Plaza Saltillo. The 10.5-acre, mixed-use development is scheduled to break ground later this year. However, on February 16th, the city council voted down changes that the project’s developer, Endeavor, requested. Councilmember Leslie Poole is now trying to broker a compromise between Endeavor, local residents, and affordable housing advocates.
This project, which will cover eight city blocks, will run through the heart of East Austin, bisecting the largely residential area between East Sixth Street and Cesar Chavez. It will run from Interstate 35 to Saltillo Plaza, along the railroad tracks, on public lands held by Capital Metro.
In early February, in an unprecedented move, Endeavor went before city council and asked for sweeping changes to plans that had already been approved by Capital Metro in 2014, with input from the public and local civic leaders. The proposed changes include:
- Affordable housing rollbacks. Endeavor is now offering 141 affordable housing units instead of the 200 that were originally promised, in exchange for developing prime public lands.
- Height Increases. During the bidding process, Endeavor representatives publicly declared that the company would not request any zoning variances. Endeavor and Capital Metro now want to add a 125-foot office tower and have requested other increased heights throughout the project. Heights in the neighborhood plan are limited to 40 feet, but the Transit Oriented Development designation allows a 60-foot height limit. Seeking to find common ground, the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan Contact Team voted on February 16th to offer a compromise with Endeavor, which would allow an 80-foot limit for the proposed office tower.
- Twice the density. The density of the proposed project has increased from 112,500 square feet to 259,000 square feet. With some local roads already well over capacity, neighbors question the wisdom of the additional 18,000+ vehicular trips per day that are projected.
- Lack of family units. In the new plan proposed by Endeavor and Capital Metro, most living spaces are one-bedroom units rather than larger family units. Affordable housing advocates are asking the developers to provide more family-friendly housing to retain the family-oriented character of the neighborhood and to help keep neighborhood school enrollment viable.
Jim Duncan, an Austin-based city planning consultant and former Austin Land Development Services director, voiced concerns about how the plan has morphed since it was selected. Speaking before the city council, he said the project had become “revenue-driven versus neighborhood-driven.”
Affordable housing advocates, community members, and the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan Contact Team all say that Endeavor’s original promise of 200 affordable units is vital to helping offset local residents’ displacement due to rapid, unprecedented growth. They are also deeply concerned that the 125-foot office tower and the resultant traffic are not compatible with the neighborhood.
CONTACT: Jose Valera, Chair,
East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team