The City of Austin or other quasi-public entities control several parcels in different locations throughout the Study Area (scroll to Figure 2 on page 10). Some of this land has been in public control for over a decade, and has been cleared of previous “slum and blight” conditions but not yet developed. Some of these sites were acquired or improved using Federal funding, and are subject to requirements regarding development for specific purposes or repayment of those funds. Infill development on these sites will enhance the physical environment, add services desired by the community and/or create additional support for existing businesses – all signaling to the development industry that the Study Area is receiving attention from the City. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) should be prepared and distributed for several sites, with minimum standards and desirable “value-added” elements specified. Specific recommendations for various sites include the following:
a. Block 16 – An RFP was issued for this URA-controlled block in 2008, but received little developer interest, primarily because the real estate market and financing industry were in turmoil at that time. Most of the requirements of the RFP were reasonable – seeking mixed-use development and requiring modest affordable housing goals (if building rental housing), green building standards, etc. – and need not be substantially altered in a re-issued RFP. In an updated RFP, synergies with the adjacent African American Cultural and Heritage Facility should be strongly encouraged, as should the inclusion of space for local businesses. To the extent allowed by law, it would be helpful to provide some flexibility in the financing of the land acquisition, including potential for ground leasing, modestly deferred payments, etc., that may help to enhance opportunities for desirable community benefits.
b. Block 17– This land, sitting immediately north of the Street-Jones and Snell Buildings and facing Juniper Street, is planned to be developed for townhomes or live/work lofts. The City should expedite development of this land, either through direct construction carried out by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation or near-term transfer of the property to a motivated developer. See Vacant Public Parcels (scroll to Figure 1 on page 6).
c. Block 18 – This URA land just east of the Snell Building on East 11th Street is home to the Victory Grill and East Room. The community should consider modifying the Urban Renewal Plan to provide site plan flexibility similar to that already provided for Block 16, or confirm that the specific Project Controls for Block 18 should be maintained. Following that discussion, an RFP should be issued. Developers should be encouraged to propose various ways to support the historic properties and the African American Cultural Heritage District on this block, in addition to the provision of community parking and space for local businesses.
d. Tract 12 – This City owned land on East 12th Street has already been planned and platted for single-family attached housing (e.g., townhomes). To contribute more substantially to the commercial activity on East 12th Street, the community should consider modification of the URP to allow uses such as live/work units offering ground floor commercial space within side-by-side townhomes. The land should be sold as quickly as possible to a motivated developer.
e. Tract 13 – This City owned land is more problematic to develop for housing than most sites, because it is oriented north-south and has limited width between Curve and Waller Street. The community should consider modifying the URP to encourage retail development on the East 12th Street frontage, plus community parking spaces. If such modification is approved, the City can issue an RFP for this site that allows for ground leasing, and seek to dedicate the revenues achievable through the leasing opportunity to the modest improvement of the site for community parking and potentially open space. If consensus cannot be reached to modify the URP for such use, the land should be sold as quickly as possible to a motivated developer.
f. 1120 East 12th Street – This small site should be sold to the highest bidder as quickly as possible, as it offers little opportunity for desired development as a stand-alone site.
g. Tract 5 – This URA site on the north side of East 12th Street between San Bernard and Angelina, is designated in the URP for mixed-use and/or commercial development. The 0.6-acre site may also be large enough to accommodate senior housing as part of a mixed-use project, and could also be a potential site for a neighborhood grocery. The resolution of desirable uses for this site may require some community discussion, so the issuance of an RFP may be delayed beyond the next year or two.
h. Community Parking – The existing community parking lots on East 11th and East 12th Street should only be considered for more intensive development if and when adequate replacement spaces can be provided elsewhere in their vicinity.