EXCLUSIVE: As long-awaited Plaza Saltillo breaks ground in East Austin, developer sheds light on project details

Source: Community Impact Newspaper

City and regional transit leaders are convening at the Plaza Saltillo development today to celebrate the start of a project that took decades to plan.

Endeavor Real Estate Group, which is developing the project, won the contract three years ago, and the master development agreement was approved last year. But the project had been in the planning stages since 1997.

The project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2019, said Jason Thumlert, principal at Endeavor. The developer has a 99-year lease agreement with regional transit agency Capital Metro, which owns the 11-acre plat mostly comprising an abandoned train depot.

“We are excited to be moving forward with Capital Metro to address two pressing needs: affordability and mobility. We look forward to delivering a project the community’s proud to have,” Thumlert said.

The development spans six continuous city blocks from I-35 to Onion Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets. It will comprise the following:

  • Approximately 800 residential units
  • 141 units (17.6 percent) reserved for residents who earn up to 50 percent of Austin’s median family income
  • 110,000 square feet of retail, including restaurants
  • 140,000 square feet of office space, primarily in an 8-story office tower at I-35 that includes retail on the first floor
  • 1.4 acres of public open space (parks, a paseo and bikeways)
  • Works created by local artists, including tiles created in the style of Austin’s sister city of Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

In addition, the Lance Armstrong Bikeway will be extended from I-35 at Fourth Street to Plaza Saltillo, the B-Cycle Bike Share Program will be expanded, parking spaces will be reserved for Car2Go, parking will be available in below- and above-ground facilities, and San Marcos Street will be extended through the project.

For Capital Metro’s part, the Plaza Saltillo development will be “significant” to the agency’s operations, particularly when it comes to providing a boost in transit ridership. Capital Metro’s Plaza Saltillo MetroRail station sits on the one developed acre on the project site.

“The higher your ridership, the more transit you can provide,” spokesperson Francine Pares said. “The goal is to help provide more riders. It’s a good thing for transit and real estate to work together.”

The project area will see truck traffic and temporary traffic control measures over the next two years, Capital Metro spokesperson Mariette Hummel said in an email.

The changing landscape and community in East Austin contributed to the longer planning time, Hummel said.

“There have been several iterations of what the community sought for this area, and several market cycles in those twenty years,” she said. “The area has also changed over time, as well as the needs of the community.”

Pares said the project is the culmination of 20 years of work by 100s of people.

“It’s just a barren patch of land right now, and it’s just going to bloom into something beautiful,” she said.