It all started with the Mueller Airport redevelopment. East Austin was, for so long, seen as a no-go zone for redevelopment. People didn't believe that, in the middle of the city's poorest district, it would be possible to build a brand new neighborhood, where people actually wanted to live and work. But 10 years on Mueller is a triumph. The site, just 3 miles from downtown, successfully brings together the different components of the city—working, living and playing—into one community. The project is now beginning the third phase of the Town Center, which will include shopping and dining options and, rumor has it, movie theater. Construction is also expected to begin on several hundred more homes.
East Austin Real Estate Development
Now the effects of this success are being felt beyond the original airport site itself. East Austin real estate is booming. The opening of the Red Line has been a significant factor. The city established Transit Oriented Development districts (TODs) around the two East Austin stations—MLK and Plaza Saltillo. Development in these districts has had to follow guidelines that want to ensure projects close to the stations create compact, mixed-use, walkable communities. Now many of those projects are beginning to come on line.
All Change Around Plaza Saltillo
One example is the Corazon building on 6th Street near the Plaza Saltillo station. It's a mid-rise mixed-use development including multi-family units and ground floor retail. Project proposals have also been submitted to Capital Metro for an undeveloped 10-acre parcel of land it owns near the station. And, just this month Arnold Oil announced it will be vacating the Comal Street site, also adjacent to Plaza Saltillo, that it has occupied since the 70's. Transwestern has indicated it has plans for the site, specifically complex mixing office space and multi-family units.
Preserving East Austin's Character
But what does this mean for East Austin's distinctive character? Well, the city is not keen to let gentrification occur totally unchecked in the district. The price of East Austin homes for sale has doubled in some areas over the last ten years and that makes things difficult for many low-income, long-term residents. The City is looking at establishing several "Homestead Preservation Districts" in East Austin. These special assessment districts would seek to maintain the single-family home character of some neighborhoods and ensure housing remains affordable, especially for people who have strong roots in these communities. The focus of these districts would be the neighborhoods of Central East Austin, Chestnut, Rosewood, East Cesar Chavez and Holly.
Striking A Balance
So, the city is trying to strike a balance between ensuring East Austin's low-income communities are not pushed out, while at the same time promoting economic growth eastwards. That's no easy task. Really, this development seems inevitable. Austin is booming and with East Austin real estate being so close to downtown, there was no way it would avoid development forever.