Move Over South Lamar, East Riverside Is The Next Big Thing In Austin Multifamily

The RiverView Austin Apartments, clad with a mix of local brick, stucco, and metal panels, are starting to take shape, and provide a bit of a premonition of what we might see along the much of the E. Riverside strip someday.

The 280,000-square-foot, 302-unit RiverView sits on four acres at I-35 and E. Riverside, on the south shore of the water near downtown. The development has four buildings ranging from five to 11 stories. The initial announcement for the project said it will come online this spring.

When completed, the development will have taken the equivalent of almost 80 acres in a typical single family 'tract style' model of development, but accomplished the same density on a four-acre site.

This is a good thing, and City Hall has actually had gears turning for a long time to reshape East Riverside.

The city is preparing to rezone approximately 1,000 acres near East Riverside Drive, as part of implementing the East Riverside Corridor (ERC) Master Plan, adopted by Council in 2010.

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The plan calls for four hubs, centered on transit, which could eventually have buildings as tall as 10 to 14 stories in some locations in exchange for the provision of community benefits. The density scales down to three stories as development gets closer to single-family neighborhoods.

One-page overviews of the proposed hubs -- Lakeshore, Pleasant Valley, Montopolis and Gateway -- are available to view.  

Because the East Riverside area is just few minutes from downtown Austin, change is already underway in the area. In addition to the RiverView project, the Lakeshore and South Shore planned unit developments, which will transform about 70 acres along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake east of I-35, are underway. Meanwhile the AMLI South Shore project opened in 2011, and music club Emo’s gave the area a boost when it relocated there last year.

That whole area will also become much more accessible to downtown without a car after Austin’s boardwalk project is completed, since right now the only way to cross I-35 is actually on Riverside, which is not very fun safe attractive on a bike or on foot.

That the city is stepping in to heavily regulate future development on E. Riverside might be irksome for some developers, but I am firmly in the camp that the city really has one shot to make that an incredible place. Without that heavy hand, I fear would happen is a hodgepodge of vanilla development from out-of-town financiers focused on turning a profit and not quality development.

Side note: City voters also approved East Riverside transportation study in 2010 to look at transportation improvements to take place over the coming decade. When those improvements actually happen is anyone’s guess, since they would have to compete with other communities around Austin for funding.