The Austin City Council gave final approval late Thursday to building rule changes that pave the way for the redevelopment of five apartment complexes into a major mixed-use development.
The controversial development, pejoratively known as the “Domain on Riverside,” will move forward along with its developers Presidium’s and Nimes Real Estate’s promise to house 100 homeless people immediately.
The vote came late Thursday amid a din of protest chants from outside of City Hall and public testimony from dozens who spoke against the development 4700 Riverside. The project will eventually raze the Ballpark Apartments and neighboring apartment complexes on the northeast corner of Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road.
The development is planned to bring housing, retail, restaurants, offices and a hotel to 97 acres, ultimately replacing five older student housing apartment complexes. The new development, to be built in phases over 10 to 20 years, could have up to 4,700 housing units, several million square feet of office space and hundreds of hotel rooms.
But it will come at the cost of bulldozing hundreds of relatively affordable apartments on Riverside Drive.
“I don’t feel like Austin is a place for regular people anymore,” Austin resident Sophia Donnelly told the council. “It is just for the rich.”
The vote was 6-3-1-1 with Council Members Greg Casar, Delia Garza and Leslie Pool against. Council Member Alison Alter abstained and Council Member Kathie Tovo was off the dais.
For months, the development has faced opposition from the group Defend Our Hoodz. The group returned to City Hall Thursday chanting loudly from outside of the building for hours as the council deliberated on the development.
But the carrot dangled by 4700 Riverside’s developers on the eve of the vote — a pledge to turn 100 units immediately into transitional housing for the homeless and a $1.75 million donation to the city’s lead agency addressing homelessness — helped push the development over the finish line.
The council granted new land use rules that go beyond what was previously allowed on the five tracts. While several council members expressed reservations on approving the project, the threat that a lack of approval would lead to redevelopment of the complexes without any guaranteed affordable housing played heavily into its approval.
“This isn’t my favorite project,” Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said. “I’ll be honest about that.”
The developers have promised between 400 and 565 housing units will be affordable for people making 60% of Austin’s median-family income.
By Philip Jankowski