Two years after the trains began running, and more than seven years after voters approved the 32-mile line, transit-oriented development has been sparse at MetroRail’s nine stations. A stop-by-stop summary:
No transit-oriented development here, or imminent.
The only development near the station on U.S. 183 is the Forum, a suburban-style shopping center anchored by an H-E-B. Signs from CBRE Inc., on the vacant land flanking Capital Metro’s 14.6-acre station and park-and-ride lot, advertise a “159-acre transit-oriented development.” A Capital Metro concept plan includes projects on that site and nearby land, including a parking garage to replace the surface lot.
Austin Community College in 2010 purchased 100.8 acres east of the station for a campus, but development of that land (which also fronts the 183-A tollway) won’t occur until late this decade at the earliest, ACC Vice President Neil Vickers said. The rail, he said, “was definitely a factor” in buying that site as well as the Highland Mall property near another MetroRail station.
The area near the station is zoned for high-density, transit-oriented development, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that will occur, said CBRE’s Eric DeJernett, who represents the landowners.
“Depending on what might come forward, we might have to adjust that,” he said. “Lenders are not very interested in mixed use in one building. They’d really rather not have retail on the ground floor. If they’re going to do residential, they want to do residential.”
DeJernett said that his company met with a potential buyer a few weeks ago and that interest in the land has picked up since the first of the year.
Simmons Vedder Partners, a real estate development company, has a master plan for what would be the 70-acre Crossings at Lakeline, a transit-oriented development just west of the rail station. So far, all that has been built are two three-story office buildings, surrounded by surface parking, about a quarter-mile from the tracks. The buildings’ 235,000 square feet are about 50 percent occupied. The centerpiece would be apartments, but the project is currently in limbo.
Capital Metro, as at Leander, is willing to replace its existing park-and-ride lot at the station with a parking structure and other development on the 20.7 acres it owns there. The agency in 2007 had an agreement with a now-defunct company to develop the land, but that deal died with the recession.
No development of any kind is likely at this location. Capital Metro’s 6.2 acres, home to the station and a park-and-ride lot, is surrounded by a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes to the south and west, pharmaceutical company Hospira’s large facility to the north on the other side of Howard Lane, and the Loop 1 tollway to the east.
Nothing in the works here. All four quadrants of the intersection formed by Kramer Lane and Capital Metro’s tracks are occupied, two of them by Austin Energy facilities and two by commercial buildings.
Midtown Commons, next to the station, is Capital Metro’s best example of transit-oriented development, with a 316-unit apartment complex (97 percent leased last week), about 30,000 square feet of retail space (27 percent leased, according to Trammell Crow principal Adam Nims, including the Black Star Co-op brewpub) and an additional 30,000 square feet of office space (67 percent leased, Nims said). The apartments were completed in April 2009, a few months after the commercial space opened.
Construction of a second apartment phase with 250 units, a five-story building by the tracks west of the current buildings, will begin soon and should have occupants by February of next year, Nims said. The long-term plan for the 73-acre former industrial site includes at least a third apartment phase and single-family homes.
Capital Metro says that this development in its current state is worth $35.5 million.
No transit-oriented development afoot here. Austin Community College over the past two years purchased the 80.8-acre Highland Mall property just across Airport Boulevard and plans to use it as a campus. But the college’s development partner retained a 20-year option to buy back 29.3 acres in the expansive parking lot areas of the mall for potential residential, office and retail development.
A Department of Public Safety facility and other industrial buildings occupy the land just west of the tracks, with a neighborhood of single-family homes farther to the west.
This station area has considerable development that has opened since MetroRail began running in March 2010, although none of the mixed-used, multistory style typical of transit-oriented projects.
Capital Metro estimates that there has been $47 million of investment in these projects. That includes two residential properties: the owner-occupied, 64-unit Chestnut Commons cottages and flats built in 2007 and 2008 on land donated by MFI Capital, owned by the family of former Dell executive and philanthropist Tom Meredith; and the $25 million, 150-unit M Station, built by the nonprofit Foundation Communities, which includes many apartments offered at below-market rates for low-income people. The Chestnut Commons developer, Momark, bought the land from the nonprofit that had received it from MFI.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church, after buying 11 acres north of East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in November 2004, opened in 2010. The church plans to sell about 8 acres for development.
The office building housing the People Fund, a nonprofit that provides loans and business assistance to low-income clients, opened by the station in October 2010, also on land donated by MFI. Will Meredith, a principal with MFI, said that fundraising is under way for two other adjacent office buildings on MFI-donated land for nonprofit groups, the Sustainable Food Center and the Theatre Action Project. MFI, which has donated a total of $6.5 million in land on the site, has sold 1.7 acres for a hospice west of the station and hopes for retail development on an additional 7.3 acres.
The city is reviewing a site plan, filed in January by Big Red Dog Engineering and Consulting, for a 235-unit apartment complex (with possible ground-floor commercial space) next to the MetroRail tracks at Manor Road, about a quarter-mile north of the station.
Capital Metro counts two transit-oriented developments near this station, totaling $11.9 million. That includes the Lance Armstrong Foundation offices four blocks to the east, which opened in 2009. Saltillo Lofts, a 38-unit condominium complex just across Comal Street from the station valued by Capital Metro at $6.9 million, was in planning before the 2004 MetroRail election.
Construction should begin by summer, Big Red Dog President Will Schneir said, on a 260-unit, five-story apartment building, with 20,000 square feet of commercial space, located four blocks from the station at East Fifth and San Marcos streets.
The greater potential here is the 10 acres or so that Capital Metro owns between the station and Interstate 35 to the west, a parcel bounded by East Fourth Street on the south and East Fifth Street on the north. An environmental study of what it will take to clean up the former railroad yard is under way. The agency recently was awarded a $4.3 million federal grant that, along with $1.1 million of Capital Metro or developer money, will allow the agency to move its tracks from the center of that tract to the southern edge and thus facilitate development.
Although agency officials say they’re getting interest, the timing for development here remains unknown.
Surrounded by the Austin Convention Center, a city park and other established and dense development, this station has seen no transit-oriented development to date.