New workforce housing is coming to downtown Austin, Mayor Kirk Watson and Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham announced Aug. 15.

The William P. Hobby, Jr. State Office Building, located at 333 Guadalupe St., will be redeveloped to include housing for working-class Austinites “who simply cannot afford to live near where they work,” Buckingham said.

The big picture

The mixed-use development will ideally include workforce housing, child care, parking and a retail space, Buckingham said.

Watson said the centralized location of the redevelopment site will increase mobility for state employees and people who work throughout the city. The complex will be located along the planned route for the Project Connect light rail.

“[This] is way bigger than just a downtown high-rise,” Watson said.

How we got here

In 2019, Watson, then a state senator, authored Senate Bill 1349, which authorized the state to sell the Hobby Building for redevelopment.

“When I filed that as a senator, I certainly didn't expect that I would be standing here as mayor while we take this big step for downtown Austin,” Watson said.

The legislation was meant to improve working conditions for state employees “who were serving the people of Texas every day in a dilapidated, rat-infested building” and benefit the city of Austin by making the property available, he added.

“I hope [this] will be the single most transformational workforce housing project in the country,” Buckingham said.

Prospective investors have 90 days to submit proposals for the redevelopment, officials said. Proposals will be due Nov. 13.

“Some developers may not hear me or think that I am not serious,” Buckingham said. “If we do not get a response matching our rules the first time around, we will put out [a] solicitation again.”

The Texas General Land Office will then go through the proposals and recommend the best ones to the Texas School Land Board, which will make the final decision.