Endeavor gains OK to erect tallest buildings in East Austin

Endeavor Real Estate Group LLC’s plan to transform an East Austin dairy plant into a multi-tower, mixed-use development has taken a significant step forward, with July 20 rezoning approval from Austin City Council.

The redevelopment is proposed on 21 acres currently occupied by a Borden Dairy Co. facility on Levander Loop, overlooking the Colorado River. Endeavor aims to create a bustling mixed-use district with 1,400 residential units, more than 400,000 square feet of office space, more than 100,000 square feet of retail space and a 220-room hotel near Cesar Chavez Street, East Seventh Street and U.S. Route 183.

With a new maximum building height of 120 feet, the planned towers could rise 10 to 12 stories — taller than any other building in a largely residential and industrial area.

That advances plans by the Austin-based developer that have bounced around City Hall for a few months.

Council voted 7-1-1 in favor of the rezoning, with Council Member Alison Alter opposing the deal and José Velásquez recusing himself from the vote.

“I think it is a good project,” said Council Member José Vela. “It is going to bring a good, new place for folks on the east side.”

Alter remained skeptical, reflecting some resistance from those concerned about increased density in a gentrifying part of Austin and the environmental impact so close to the Colorado River.

“I continue to be uncomfortable with this process here,” Alter said.

It was the third and final reading needed for the rezoning, after Council voted on first and second readings in June.

The land, divided into four separate tracts, is owned by New Dairy Texas LLC and is valued at about $14 million by the Travis Central Appraisal District. The LLC appears to be tied to Colorado-based Capitol Peak Partners, according to Travis County real estate records. Borden was bought by Capitol Peak Partners and KKR in 2020 for $340 million.

The East Austin Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving housing affordability, had pushed to delay the rezoning vote. It has voiced concern about the buffer between the redevelopment project and the Colorado River Park Wildlife Sanctuary to the south.

Armbrust & Brown PLLC land use attorney Richard Suttle, representing Endeavor, emphasized that the developer plans to increase an initially proposed 60-foot setback from neighboring property to a 75-foot buffer that will include a negative strip.

“This case has been on file for a year,” Suttle said at the meeting. “We have had multiple meetings with all the stakeholders. We have had changes to talk about it all along the way. I just don’t think anything beneficial will come from prolonging of the discussion of this case. In no way does that mean we will ever stop talking to the neighborhood as we get into the planning of the project.”

Daniel Llanes, a member of the Colorado River Conservancy, said negations with Endeavor “broke down” after the two sides could not agree on a height for the project’s planned towers.

“Please do not put a 120-foot building in my neighborhood,” Llanes said. “We are willing to negotiate somewhere between 120 and 60 feet.”

Daniel Llanes

Daniel Llanes

Arnold Wells/ABJ

Llanes said his organization questioned the site’s exemption from Austin’s Waterfront Overlay District, instated in 1986 to regulate development near the city’s primary source of water, and pressed for scrutiny of the project’s environmental impact.

Others see the redevelopment of the site as a natural step in the city’s growth.

Gary Babatz, a resident of the nearby Montopolis neighborhood, said opposition to the project is “rooted in a fear of change.”

“I am excited for this development,” Babatz said. “I am excited for change. I am excited to see what this parking lot turns into. Taking an industrial site and turning it into a mixed-use development for people to live, work and play. This kind of development is its own community benefit.”

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