Updates set for West Gate Blvd.

At the intersection of West Gate Boulevard and West William Cannon Drive, the long-empty 57,830-square-foot structure that once housed Community Renaissance Market has been renovated and is now home to two new tenants.

Community Renaissance Market, which closed in 2011, was an incubator for small businesses. Altitude Trampoline Park Austin is filling in most of that space at 6800 West Gate Blvd., Ste. 100, and will open in June, said Patty Manning, marketing manager at Altitude.

“Without a doubt, the shopping center that we’ll be located in will definitely feel the impact of us being there,” Manning said. “Our occupancy is around 800 and we expect to reach that on weekends, so it’s definitely a draw.”

Updates set for West Gate Blvd. Updates set for West Gate Blvd.[/caption]

Gateway Church South Austin moved in to 6800 West Gate Blvd. in late March, said lead pastor Eric Bryant, who has noticed a variety of changes along the corridor over the past several years. 

“My hope is that we continue to keep some of what makes South Austin so great while also adding the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Austinites [with new businesses],” he said.

Overall, the West Gate Boulevard area blends the classic and eclectic elements people like about Austin, Bryant said.

“There are a bunch of new homes, new developments,” he said. “[West Gate Boulevard] is a microcosm of Austin. … Here, you’ve got La Posada [Mexican Restaurant] and Westgate Lanes, which have been here forever, and then you’ve got TreeHouse next to Central Market and Amy’s Ice Creams.”

A number of projects along West Gate have been in the works for years. Resources have come online recently to allow developers to resume work that stalled because of the economy, said Wayne Gerami, vice president of client services with Austin Habitat for Humanity and its subsidiary HomeBase, which is working on a residential development on West Gate called Westgate Grove.

“They were looking at [building Westgate Grove] back in 2009 … and there was no money, there was no way to make it happen and there was no one that would lend to build, so it just got shelved,” he said. 

Austin’s job market and more affordable housing options are making the corridor attractive, he said.

“There’s a really strong demand, even stronger than there would have been seven years ago [or] eight years ago,” Gerami said. [polldaddy poll=9427413]

What’s new?

West Gate Boulevard’s proximity to downtown, schools and residences drew Altitude to the area, Manning said. The 40,000-square-foot space will feature a foam pit, a trapeze and dodgeball courts as well as trampolines for both entertainment and fitness, Manning said.

Bryant said Gateway, a nondenominational Christian church, has been in Austin for 18 years and looked throughout Southwest Austin for a place to meet before securing the 18,000-square-foot space. A room for church services has capacity of about 450.

In the same shopping center, Skinny’s Barber Shop and pet store Just Reef opened in October. In late September, Loco-Motion Inflatable Play closed its location in the shopping center and announced plans to move to Vikki Terrace off Hwy. 290 in 2016.

Farther north on the road, Texas Physical Therapy Specialists has outgrown its physical space at 4534 West Gate Blvd., Ste. 104, and plans to move into a new space being built behind Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine at 4532 West Gate Blvd. in late summer, said Ashley Whitfield, TPTS clinic liaison.

Whitfield said the business, which has 11 locations, wants to maintain its presence in the West Gate area because of the road’s convenience for patients in Southwest Austin and Sunset Valley.

“That’s one of our busiest clinics,” she said.

Residential growth

The area is dominated mainly by homes, with a few new residential real estate projects in progress.

Construction is underway at Parker Ranch, a 6.11-acre duplex development at 3015 Davis Lane that will consist of 18 residential buildings and 36 units when it is completed by the end of 2016. Its developer, Symcox Development, broke ground in June 2015.

Symcox focuses on establishing infill communities—meaning it looks for pockets of undeveloped land in developed areas, said Drew Tate, a real estate broker with Tate Property, which is marketing the property.

The affordability of housing in the area has influenced growth, he said.

“The demand keeps going up, and we haven’t caught up, and the demand is increasing further. … I think it starts at the home level; people see, ‘Hey, this is a great place to live,’ [and] when that happens the shopping centers quickly catch up,” he said.

Symcox is working on two other nearby projects, SoMa Village condominiums at 6800 Manchaca Road and an unnamed residential development at the northeast corner of Dittmar and Manchaca roads, Tate said.

Construction began in October on Phase I of Westgate Grove, an affordable housing development. Gerami said HomeBase partnered with a development company to build the 61 single-family detached homes.

Residents who drive along West Gate Boulevard in Southwest Austin are seeing a few changes as new businesses pop up along the corridor and construction gets underway on developments in the area. Residents who drive along West Gate Boulevard in Southwest Austin are seeing a few changes as new businesses pop up along the corridor and construction gets underway on developments in the area.[/caption]

The project is not part of the federal housing choice voucher program, also known as Section 8, which assists low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford housing in the private market. Families who want to live in Westgate Grove must make between 60 percent and 80 percent of the median family income, or between $46,680-$62,250 annually for a family of four, Gerami said.

“You still have to qualify for a mortgage in order to be able to purchase at Westgate [Grove], so that’s why the income has to be a little bit more stable,” HomeBase supervisor Yussef Habib said.

Phase I is slated to be completed by summer 2017. Work on Phase II, which will consist of 88 townhomes, is slated to begin by summer 2017, Gerami said.

In mid-May, the Travis County Commissioners Court approved a memorandum of understanding with Pedcor Investments regarding financing and development of West Gate Ridge apartments. The project will have 146 units for residents with incomes at or below 60 percent of the average median household income. Construction may begin in September and is slated to take about a year, said Andrea Shields, Travis County Corporations manager.

Future growth

New developments in the area are not a problem as long as there is infrastructure, area resident Wayne Shipley said.  

Shipley has lived since 1992 in Southern Oaks, which is part of the city’s Westgate planning area for the South Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, a document outlining land-use options for the South Manchaca, Garrison Park and Westgate neighborhoods.

“South of William Cannon, where Cameron Loop is, there was nothing [10 years ago] and now it’s building out,” he said.

Shipley said he opposes adding accessory dwelling units on homeowners’ properties, but a few ADUs have been added in his neighborhood.

“The city is chipping away at single-family zoning,” he said.

Austin City Council approved the SACNP in late 2014, but implementation of that plan has stalled, he said.

“We’re in limbo,” he said.

The three SACNP planning areas—Westgate, South Manchaca and Garrison Park—are each slated to have a contact team to guide the plan’s implementation. However, Southern Oaks and Western Trails neighborhoods, both part of the Westgate SACNP planning area, both want individual contact teams, Shipley said.

Initiatives such as locating a Lone Star Rail station along the railroad corridor, establishing more crosswalks and adding shelters and benches to transit stops to improve bus riders’ experiences were among the priorities outlined by residents in the plan. None of those initiatives have moved forward, Shipley said.

The area is heavily traveled, with several bus stops located up and down the corridor. Routes 5, 30, 238, 311, 331 and 338 travel along West Gate, and MetroRapid routes 803 and 238 are also nearby, said Amy Peck, communications specialist with Capital Metro.

During the fall of 2014, Capital Metro projected average weekday ridership in the area would be 1,715, Peck said. 

Planning a park and ride

The idea for a new Park & Ride facility was born out of the establishment of the MetroRapid route, combined with a “less than optimal” situation where several Capital Metro bus routes had been using an on-street location for customers to make connections between routes, Peck said. With ridership in the West Gate area growing, Capital Metro approached the Texas Department of Transportation to discuss the feasibility of a park and ride concept.

In November 2015, Capital Metro’s board approved an agreement with TxDOT to have staff work with TxDOT to develop plans for a Westgate Park & Ride below Ben White Boulevard.  

As of May, the $3.7 million project is in the design phase,  and construction could begin in 2017 if the agreement is finalized,. Capital Metro would fund the project  and reach out to area businesses and residents before and during construction of the Park & Ride, which could open in 2018, Peck said.

By Kelli Weldon
Kelli joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter and has been covering Southwest Austin news since July 2012. She was promoted to editor of the Southwest Austin edition in April 2015. In addition to covering local businesses, neighborhood development, events, transportation and education, she is also the beat reporter covering the Travis County Commissioners Court.


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