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.


Photo of boarded-up Sixth Street bars
With COVID-19 projections 'bleak' through Thanksgiving, Travis County keeps bars closed

Statistical models from the University of Texas show a 92% chance the pandemic is worsening, but the increase in cases and hospitalizations have leveled off in the last few days.

Movemint Bike Cab owner David Knipp said the loss of the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals during the spring festival season led to a 50% decline in revenue.  (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
'I just need to pay the rent:' Austin small businesses in survival mode are doing everything in their power to outlast the pandemic

From selling inventory to flipping their business models to changing a yoga studio into a coworking space, small business owners are trying to avoid adding their names to the growing list of locally owned Austin institutions that have shut down.

Burnet Road at West Braker Lane
Corridor projects along South Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road will break ground by early 2021

Two corridor roadway projects approved in the city of Austin’s 2016 Mobility Bond are moving forward after recently receiving environmental clearances.

An "I Voted" sticker is left outside the Northwest Recreation Center in Austin, one of 37 early voting polling places open in Travis County. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than half of all Travis County voters have cast their ballots, exceeding early voting turnout percentage in 2016

More than 448,000 votes have been cast in Travis County. Early voting closes on Oct. 30.

Austin ISD trustees met Oct. 26, discussing in-person learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Twice as many Austin elementary students have returned to campus compared to first day of in-person instruction, district says

Austin ISD will open its campuses to accommodate all students who request in-person instruction beginning Nov. 2.

Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
In final week of early voting, here is what Austin residents should know about Project Connect

The proposition appears as a 237-word block of text near the end of the ballot but boils down to a simple question: Are voters for or against a significant expansion of local public transportation, paid for in part with property tax funds?

East West Manufacturing will retain 30 jobs and create an additional 30 new jobs for a total of 60 full-time jobs in Round Rock over five years, according to an economic incentive agreement signed Oct. 22. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Round Rock to add 60 jobs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Gati, a new coconut milk ice cream shop run by Thai Fresh owner Jam Santichat, is now open in East Austin. (Courtesy Jam Santichat)
New Hopdoddy location, coconut milk ice cream and more East Austin business news

Several new businesses have opened in or are on their way to Central-East Austin.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC partners with Special Olympics Texas to field MLS Unified team

As Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC starts play in its upcoming season, the team will help to field a squad made up of Special Olympics Texas athletes for a series of matches.

A screen shot of Elon Musk speaking into a microphone
Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirms 2021 opening for Travis County gigafactory

Musk said construction is moving apace at the new electric auto factory east of Austin.

The bakery is known for its Texas Sized Donut weighing 2 pounds and can trace its history back to 1926 when Reinhold R. Moehring opened the shop in downtown Round Rock. (Community Impact file photo courtesy Round Rock Donuts)
Round Rock Donuts coming to Cedar Park and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Austin area.