Mercury Hall property cleared for 5-story apartment development

Mercury Hall will close in 2021. (Courtesy Mercury Hall)
Mercury Hall will close in 2021. (Courtesy Mercury Hall)

Mercury Hall will close in 2021. (Courtesy Mercury Hall)

Mercury Hall, the popular South Austin event space that has operated since 2005, will close after December 2021. In its wake, a five-story apartment complex is expected on the nearly 4-acre property after City Council cleared the way for the project with support for a zoning change Sept. 17.

Despite a petition from the neighborhood against the zoning change, City Council approved the request with a supermajority nine votes. Council Members Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool were the lone dissenting votes. Pool said she wanted to support the neighbors and felt the developer, Houston-based Slate Real Estate Partners, and the objecting neighbors had more work to do to reach a consensus.

District 3 Council Member Pio Renteria, whose district hosts the project, said the city and the area desperately needed more housing, especially affordable housing. Renteria said the developer was offering 10% of the units for tenants making 60% of the median family income. No site plans have been submitted, so there is no estimate on how many units the five-story project would yield.

In supporting the project, Renteria said he did not think the project would get the necessary nine votes. Under the current City Council makeup, zoning change requests that propose dense development in proximity to single-family homes—especially cases that carry an objecting petition from neighbors—have typically earned a 7-4 vote, with Pool, Kitchen, and Council Members Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo voting against. This time, Alter and Tovo supported the project.

District 1 City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said the project, which proposed dense housing along the South First Street transit corridor, made “perfect sense” to her.


City Council heard testimony from several neighbors who opposed the project and its alleged incompatibility with the neighborhood. District 6 City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he hoped the community was paying attention to the issue.

“We have a very different conversation when we’re talking about building more housing in East Austin,” Flannigan said. “Here we have a zoning case to build more housing in West Austin. This is the time to say, 'Yeah, we’re not just going to put housing in East Austin. We’re really going to do it in an equitable way.' This is part of the very difficult challenge of building new housing in a city.”

Marshal Davis, the president of the surrounding Galindo Elementary Neighborhood Association, said the proposed project had “topographical” issues. The property up for a rezoning was the 0.84-acre parking lot just south of Mercury Hall along South First Street. The developer sought to have the parking lot rezoned to match the Mercury Hall event property, which allows taller buildings. The parking lot had a restriction that any construction could not eclipse 40 feet. Davis said the restriction exists because the property sits on a hill that is already elevated above the surrounding properties. Any construction on the property would appear doubly tall.

City Council’s approval cleared the way for the project, which includes a nearly 1.5-acre pocket park just north of the property, across Cardinal Lane.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect date of Mercury Hall's official closing.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


MOST RECENT

Photo of a SpaceX sign
Elon Musk's SpaceX is coming to Austin

Job postings on the SpaceX website say the company is breaking ground on a "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Ausin.

Austin ISD and other districts in Central Texas are waiting for further TEA guidance on mask requirements. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin ISD, other Central Texas school districts await TEA guidance on updated mask mandates

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Photo of a woman receiving a vaccine
Travis County vaccine providers receive 46,540 doses week of March 1

Seton Medical Center in Austin received the largest allocation this week, with over 14,000 doses.

Matthew McConaughey, see, here at SXSW 2019, will be one of this year's virtual SXSW speakers. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
SXSW's virtual festival, the PGA Tour returns and more events in Austin this month

From Amplify Austin Day beginning 6 p.m. on March 4 to Bill Gates discussing his new book, "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster," here are eight events happening this month in the Austin area, including both in-person and virtual options.




Ice covered utility lines across Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
SHARE YOUR STORY: How did you survive the Texas freeze?

We want to hear how the winter storms affected you.

Q2 Stadium
Austin FC preseason scrimmages planned for late March start

Preseason matches for Austin FC will be held in South Austin ahead of the team's inaugural MLS season.

Lawmakers began hearings Feb. 25 to hear from energy executives about what led to dayslong power outages following a Feb. 14 winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin weekly roundup: The storm is over, but the questions are just beginning

In hearings last week, a state senator from the Houston area called the power and water outages in Texas "the largest trainwreck in the history of degregulated electricity."

Crawfish season,  from mid-January through June, is the busiest time at Shoal Creek Saloon. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shoal Creek Saloon brings a piece of New Orleans to Austin

COVID-19 has dealt the Shoal Creek Saloon a blow, but owner Ray Canfield is hanging in there and said he was prepared for a disaster. He just thought it would be another flood, not a virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine for emergency authorization use Feb. 26. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recommended for emergency authorization use by FDA

This is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for emergency authorization use after those produced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company Moderna.

Josh Frank, owner of Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in for more than a decade, holds up a Blue Starlite-branded mask. (Photo by Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
Long-time Austin theater Blue-Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In takes on new life in pandemic

Drive-in theater Blue Starlite found itself in a unique position in 2020: After more than 10 years as a small business “just getting by,” demand for drive-in movies exploded, owner Josh Frank said.

The University of Texas Radio-Television-Film department will be offering virtual camps this summer. (Courtesy The University of Texas)
2021 Central Austin summer camp guide: 44 options including virtual and in-person offerings

Our list of camps happening in Austin this summer includes options focusing on academics, arts, sports and language.