Sensitive developer wanted for East Austin’s Black Cultural District

Economic development corporation to issue request for proposal

AEDC CEO Theresa A and an illustration of the two parcels
AEDC CEO Theresa A and an illustration of the two parcels (AEDC)

Two largely vacant lots in East Austin’s Black Cultural District are poised for transformation, but city staffers want to make sure the area’s cultural significance is preserved.

Austin’s Urban Renewal Board has tasked the Austin Economic Development Corporation to find a developer for the two parcels, roughly two blocks east of Interstate 35, the Austin Business Journal reported

The economic development corporation, created in 2020 to support the city’s cultural arts scene and community development, is expected to issue a request for proposals by August, with developer selection taking place from August to December.

Rather than aiming for the biggest possible economic impact, the organization is looking for a project that will preserve the culture of the district by promoting neighborhood retention and preventing market-rate rent increases. Ideally, a future development will comprise affordable multifamily housing, retail, office, cultural spaces and a small grocery store.

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“We are making sure that the Urban Renewal Board, who owns the land, makes a selection based on best practices in terms of both balancing community benefit with the sort of market forces that developers are driven by,” Anne Gatling Haynes, the economic development corporation’s chief transactions officer, told the outlet. 

The request for proposal serves as a guideline, but if followed exactly, the site could include 120 affordable units, priced between $1,546-$2,560 per month for people making $61,000-$88,000 per year. Plans also call for 48,000 square feet of cultural space, 4,500 square feet of green space and a 347-spot parking lot. Other potential features include artist studios, outdoor performance venues, restaurants, creative offices and nonprofit offices.

—Quinn Donoghue

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