Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

Planning Commission recommends 400-unit VMU project at Airport and Springdale 

A 400-unit apartment project at 3707 Goodwin Ave. took another step toward approval last Tuesday after receiving Planning Commission support for vertical-mixed use (VMU) zoning. 

“This is a simple, straightforward VMU zoning case,” said David Hartman, representing the applicant, “but it is exciting in the sense that it’s transforming three acres of a trucking terminal at the intersection of Airport and Springdale into affordable housing.”

A conceptual plan for the building

Heather Chaffin, case manager for the Housing and Planning Department, said that staff supports the rezoning “because although this is not an area where we traditionally have recommended vertical mixed-use, it is proximate to multiple properties that had been granted VMU in the past three years.” 

The project is yet another development in the rapidly changing Springdale-Airport neighborhood. Springdale Green, a neighboring 800,000-square-foot mixed-use project, received Planning Commission support for PUD zoning at the same meeting. Another project next door is set to bring approximately 370 units to 3706 Goodwin Ave., replacing a 50-year-old apartment complex. The property received VMU zoning in 2019. 

Chaffin said granting requests for VMU reflects the priorities of City Council and its commissions, such as incentivizing affordable housing and building housing near transit.

Though VMU zoning does not grant more height above the 60 feet allowed under current zoning, it does relax site development standards such as floor area ratio and parking requirements.

The project will set aside 10 percent of its units for those earning 80 percent of the median family income – the minimum required by VMU zoning. Hartman noted that the development would help the area catch up on its affordable housing goals as outlined in the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint. The project is also close to a future Project Connect Green Line station.

The developer plans to voluntarily earmark $350,000 in required park dedication fees for Govalle Neighborhood Park in addition to a $10,000 donation to the park, which SANA, the area’s neighborhood association, requested. SANA supports the project. 

The commission, with little discussion, voted 10-0-1 to recommend VMU zoning. Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido voted neutral.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Vertical Mixed Use (VMU): According to the city's website, "A vertical mixed use building contains a mix of residential and commercial uses. Typically, commercial uses (i.e. retail shops, restaurants, offices) are located on the ground floor, while residential units (condominiums or apartments) are located on upper levels."

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