Background

In November 2006, City of Austin voters approved a $58.1 million bond package to support the improvement of public safety facilities (Proposition 7). Part of the improvement plan included the purchase of additional real estate for new facilities. In 2008, the City purchased a former Home Depot located on 13.8 acres at 906 E St. Johns Ave/7309 North IH-35. Five years later, the City purchased the adjacent 5.2-acre site, a former Chrysler dealership, to consolidate ownership of the entire property between St. Johns and Blackson Avenues. 

Though initially purchased to support public safety needs of the city, Austin City Council directed staff to reconsider future uses of this  approximately 19-acre property and evaluate how the property might serve the needs of the neighborhood. In December 2017, Austin City Council passed Resolution No. 20171207-058 directing the Austin City Manager to work with the community on a new vision for the St. John property to better serve the neighborhood.  On July 29th, 2020, this vision was affirmed through by the Austin City Council through Resolution No. 20200729-083

A full summary of the public engagement process, the new vision for the property, and funding options for redevelopment are provided in a June 24, 2020 Report to Council.  This report includes vetted recommendations for re-envisioning both the 906 E St. Johns Ave/7309 North IH-35 and former Chrysler dealership properties through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. 

Community Visioning Timeline

After the Austin City Council adopted Resolution No. 20171201-058, Council Member Gregorio Casar’s Office led community input and visioning sessions to ask the community how the property might serve the neighborhood. Participants suggested an array of potential uses that included open/recreation space, affordable housing, cultural space, youth development services, a pool/water features, local retail/food, and walking trails. This outreach is outlined below and laid the foundation for redevelopment recommendations for the site. 

May 1, 2018: Community Survey 

An online and paper survey was conducted with 644 respondents who provided input on desired uses such as green space, recreational uses, housing, a grocer, youth development, community services, and retail.  

May 30, 2018: Charrette and Visioning Meeting  

A community meeting was held to 1) share the results of the online and paper survey with the community, 2) to define the overall vision through a charrette, and 3) to discern any needs for future Council advocacy.  

June 20, 2019: City Council Approval 

The Austin City Council approved an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) with the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development.  

September 4, 2019: Team Site Tour 

The consultant team visited the St, John neighborhood to get oriented with the sites and to meet with community leadership and Council Member Casar’s office.  

September 25, 2019: Public “Kick off” Meeting 

A public meeting was held with the goals of sharing 1) the University of Texas research process with the community and 2) to inform the community of how this process will inform the future “Request for Proposal” (RFP) from developers for the two properties. 

September – November 2019: University of Texas Survey 

A survey was conducted to gain input on development features important to the neighborhood and key resources for the University of Texas to address in their study. 

October 15, 2019:  Market Study 

Economic & Planning Systems (EPS), the economic consultant secured by the City of Austin, delivered a market study showing the strong market demand for affordable housing, market rate housing, lodging, and light industrial. The market study also revealed low market demand for office or retail uses.   

November 4, 2019: Preliminary Scenarios Public Meeting 

A public meeting was held to engage the community on the University of Texas final report.  Community members expressed strong support for affordable housing, recreational space, and community services.  There was some support for uses along the interstate that could generate revenue for the sites. 

February 14, 2020:

Focus Group previews University of Texas Study recommendations 

February 24, 2020:  

Focus Group previews University of Texas Study recommendations 

February – March, 2020: “Coffee with the Principal” AISD Meetings 

The project team presented the University of Texas study recommendations to and took feedback from school principals in the 78752 zip code.   

March 9, 2020: Final Community Meetings 

The project team hosted a public meeting to present the final recommendations from the UT Study.  The team reviewed how the recommendations would be used in the review process for a future RFP its evaluation criteria.  

 

University of Texas Study (2019-2020)

On June 6, 2019, the City Council approved Resolution No. 20190606-098 directing the City Manager to negotiate an agreement with the University of Texas for planning assistance at the St. John property. Two weeks later, the City entered into an interlocal agreement with the University of Texas at Austin and its Center for Sustainable Development to conduct an analysis and scenario development study that could provide the groundwork for redevelopment. In February 2020, the University of Texas  delivered its study to the City.  Click here to view the final study.  

 

Next Steps

Building upon the University of Texas Study and the last two years of community input, Economic Development Department staff issued a final report and presented the findings of the report  to the City Council in a presentation at the July 28, 2020 Work Session.  Using this new vision for the site, the City of Austin has issued an Request for Proposal seeking a development partner to transform the site into a mixed-income, mixed-use district with quality, active open space, and services for residents.