Thursday, November 3, 2022

In Landmark Approval, Council Advances Colony Park Sustainable Community Project

 

The Austin City Council voted today to kickstart the Colony Park Sustainable Community project, a long-awaited public investment that will create new affordable housing, jobs, a health clinic, and other critical amenities in the Eastern Crescent.

Council’s approval of Item 4 to create a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) for Colony Park closes an $81 million funding gap, bringing the project out of a holding pattern and moving it one big step towards construction.

“Since my first day in office, I have been working with my colleagues, city staff, and the community to make the Colony Park Sustainable Community vision a reality,” said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, in whose district Colony Park sits. “I am so excited to see this substantial progress towards an investment that will transform what is currently a food desert, a health care desert, and a transit desert into a compact and connected complete community with abundant housing, jobs, services, and amenities that are currently scarce in this part of the Eastern Crescent.

With a total price tag of $257 million, the Colony Park Sustainable Community investment will transform a neglected corner of East Austin. Annexed by the City of Austin in 1973, the Colony Park neighborhood has gone without equitable access to healthy food, transit, health care, jobs, and other amenities available in higher-opportunity areas of the city. Neighborhood residents have led the push for Colony Park since the city initiated the master planning process in 2012.

Colony Park Neighborhood Association President Barbara Scott said, “After 50 years of disenfranchisement and broken promises, the historic council vote on Thursday's agenda for the Colony Park Sustainable Communities financial plan is hopefully the beginning of transforming the Colony Park/Lakeside community and the catalyst for changing other areas of the Eastern Crescent.”

The plan envisions nearly 2,000 new homes on more than 200 city-owned acres in the Colony Park neighborhood east of U.S. Highway 183. Of those new homes, 381 will be set aside for income-restricted workforce housing for households that make less than the median family income. The mixed-use development is also estimated to create 1,200 permanent jobs and provide 53 acres of parks, open spaces, and trails. It is also estimated to generate an additional $3.5 million in property and sales tax revenue annually.

Earlier this year, Council unanimously approved a resolution reaffirming that the long-delayed CPSC project remains a top priority for the city. That resolution, drafted by Council Member Harper-Madison and cosponsored by Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, and council members Vanessa Fuentes, Chito Vela, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, Paige Ellis, and Kathie Tovo also directed city staff to bring forward the financing plan Council approved on Thursday.

“Finally, we approve the long-sought Colony Park Master Plan,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “This step will transform an historically under invested part of Austin into one that has access to much needed resources, services, affordable housing, and other promises of our city. Congratulations to Mrs. Scott and the surrounding community for their relentless advocacy which has made Austin just a little bit more fair and just.”

In addition to the TIRZ, Colony Park will also be funded through public land sales, departmental capital budgets, and the creation of a public improvement district (PID). The project will be developed by Catellus Development Corporation (Catellus), which the city selected as its private partner in 2020.

“The community has worked long and hard to push Colony Park forward," said Sergio Negrete, Vice President of Development for Catellus. “After over two years of planning, we’re excited to get to the next stage and roll up our sleeves to work with the community and the City to make Colony Park a reality.”

Council’s action on Thursday also initiated a rezoning of the Colony Park Planned Unit Development (PUD) to allow more density. Once built out, Colony Park will be linked to Downtown via the upcoming MetroRapid Expo enhanced bus line as well as the Green Line commuter rail line. Both transit projects are part of the Project Connect initial investment voters overwhelmingly approved in 2020.

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