Austin, its housing authority and Greystar Development Central have reached an agreement for the construction of a long-anticipated residential and community hub off I-35.

The breakdown

For years, residents in Central Austin's St. Johns neighborhood and their elected city leaders have sought to bring housing, new businesses and community spaces to the "St. John Site"—19 acres of unused land that the city bought up in the 2000s and 2010s.

The former Home Depot and car dealership properties at 800 E. St. Johns Ave. have sat empty through years of community discussions about their future.

After calling for redevelopment proposals in 2020, city staff eventually recommended moving forward with a project outline from Greystar and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, or HACA, in summer 2021.

Negotiations and additional community dialogue have taken place since then, most recently with a neighborhood celebration of the impending demolition of the site's vacant buildings in August.

Following negotiations with Greystar and HACA, the city reached a final outline for the St. John Site's redevelopment in October. That master development agreement cements elements of a term sheet for the project approved by City Council last year that calls for:
  • Building 526 studio to three-bedroom apartments, half of which will be reserved for households earning less than 50% to 70% of Austin's median family income
  • Making a portion of housing available to Austinites at risk of gentrification, who've been displaced, who hold housing vouchers, or who are disabled
  • Creating a public art installation or memorial highlighting the St. John community's history
  • Leasing some of the 15,000 square feet of new commercial spaces to local businesses and nonprofits, with a focus on community services
  • Creating new parkland with trails, a splash pad and water detention pond next to the existing St. John's Pocket Park
The redeveloped St. John Site will include hundreds of housing units, new retail and community space, and an expanded park. (Courtesy city of Austin)
The redeveloped St. John Site will include hundreds of housing units, new retail and community space, and an expanded park. (Courtesy city of Austin)
The project and its highlights were finalized in line with community-driven goals for the redevelopment.

"This agreement represents a pivotal step toward realizing our vision for a more inclusive and vibrant St. John community,” Economic Development Department Director Sylnovia Holt-Rabb said in a statement. “The collaboration exemplifies our commitment to creating lasting positive impacts through thoughtful urban development."

What's next

Next up, the city plans to host a fifth meeting of the project's Community Advisory Committee in December and share neighbors' feedback with the development team.

Over the coming months, stakeholders will also begin planning and engagement around the park and new on-site cultural feature. An artist could be chosen for that work as soon as April.

The new development's construction is now expected to start in July 2024, and housing could first be available in 2026.

Before redevelopment begins, Austin is expected to sell the property to Greystar for $11 million.

Quotes of note

"I’m proud of the St. John neighbors and citywide community leaders for making this critical work possible. I can’t wait to celebrate the groundbreaking of this development with all our neighbors and partners early next year," said District 4 council member Chito Vela, who represents St. John, in a statement. "I appreciate the effective partnership between the city, Greystar and HACA, and hope this project serves as a model for future developments."
About half of the housing units at the St. John project will be income-restricted. (Courtesy city of Austin)
About half of the St. John project's apartments will be income-restricted. (Courtesy city of Austin)
"Greystar is excited to reach this milestone in the redevelopment of the St. John Site. We are humbled by the opportunity to help fulfill the community's vision of bringing much-needed affordable housing to the St. John neighborhood," Greystar Director of Development David Walsh said. "We would like to recognize and thank the St. John community for their thoughtful input that shaped our site plan as well as their support and partnership throughout this process."