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Per Austin Monitor; Austin City Council Approves Council approves 90-foot New Apartment & Mixed Use building for South Congress. St. Elmo neighborhood (next to Sagebrush Music Hall)

Per Austin Monitor; Austin City Council Approves Council approves 90-foot New Apartment & Mixed Use building for South Congress. St. Elmo neighborhood (next to Sagebrush Music Hall)

Council approves 90-foot building for South Congress neighborhood


Facing a valid petition from the neighborhood, City Council provided the bare minimum of nine votes to approve zoning changes in the South Congress and Red Bird Lane neighborhood last week that will allow for development of 90-foot, 275-unit apartment complex as well as several thousand feet of retail space.

Council Member Mackenzie Kelly voted no and Council Member Alison Alter was off the dais.

According to the staff report, the developer “is proposing a development that would consist of approximately 250 multifamily units and 9600 square feet of ground floor, pedestrian oriented uses and intends to participate in the DB90 combining district density bonus program.” The project appears to be the first to utilize the new density bonus program.

Amanda Swor of the Drenner Group told Council that although the developer planned a slightly different development under the VMU2 ordinance that was invalidated by a Travis County district court, they waited for Council to pass the new DB90 ordinance before asking for zoning changes. That will allow the developer, Rastegar Property, to build up to 90 feet in exchange for setting aside 10 percent of their units for people making 50 percent of the area median family income. She said the developer plans to provide 275 living units, with 28 of those reserved for low-income renters.

Swor said that number was in line with a request from the neighborhood plan contact team. The program also would allow a developer to provide 12 percent of their units for people at 60 percent MFI. The most recent figures indicate that 50 percent of the MFI for a family of four in Austin is $63,000. For a single person, that amount is $44,000.

Members of the neighborhood who live on streets named after birds, such as Mockingbird and Red Bird Lane, argued strenuously against the zoning changes they believe will upend their lives and cause serious environmental damage to a nearby creek. Brad Massengill said 45 area neighbors had signed the petition urging Council to reject the zoning change. “So it’s pretty much unanimous the way the neighborhood feels about this,” he said. He then went through the history of the Mystery Creek, which he described as flowing into Little Turtle Creek, a tributary of Williamson Creek.

Massengill said the property contains a spring which is a critical environmental feature that is “well within the 150-foot perimeter prescribed by the city’s environmental department. The close proximity of this spring to Mystery Creek means it, as well, is a critical environmental feature, since the only path for this spring’s outflow is via Mystery Creek through the 106 Redbird Lane property on its way to Williamson Creek. It is the only way to Williamson Creek.”

Later, under questioning from Mayor Pro Tem Leslie Pool, the city’s environmental program coordinator, Leslie Lilly, denied that there are any critical environmental features on the property. However, as is the general rule, the city’s Watershed Protection Department does not look at proposed developments until the site plan stage.

Among those addressing Council in opposition to the zoning change was longtime Austin entertainer Bill Oliver. Oliver serenaded Council with an original song urging them to protect Mystery Creek.

Perhaps the most cogent argument on behalf of the developer came from Swor, who said, “This was unanimously recommended at Planning Commission. … This is a ‘If not here, where?’ type of a site. We are located on a core transit corridor, on an Imagine Austin corridor within east-west and north-south rapid transit.”

Rastegar is a huge company based in Austin. It is described on its website as “a private real estate investment firm offering institutional-quality investment opportunities for high-net-worth professionals.”

Ari Rastegar told in 2022, Austin “is one of the leading pillars of the United States. Austin is the new San Francisco. We are aiding and cheering along with the growth of Austin. Austin has its own identity. It’s my hometown that I love very dearly.”

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