The former site of a busy Home Depot in Austin is closer to becoming a new residential complex offering affordable housing. On Thursday, the Austin City Council chose global rental housing company Greystar to redevelop the city-owned site in partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin.

The council’s unanimous vote clears the way for city staff and the development team to negotiate a master development agreement for the 19-acre site, located at 7211 North IH-35 and 7309 N. IH-35 in northeast Austin’s St. Johns/Coronado Hills neighborhood planning area.

The initial proposal for the St. John Site (its official name at the moment) lays out a plan to build 560 residential units and 15,000 square feet of community commercial space as well as expanding and improving St. John Park, located directly behind the property. Half of the residential units would be designated affordable for those earning 50 to 70 percent of area median family income.

The city purchased the 13.8-acre former Home Depot site in 2008 and the adjacent, 5.2-acre former Chrysler dealership in 2013. Development of the site was part of a $58.1 million bond package to support the improvement of public safety facilities, approved by Austin voters in 2006. The site is located in council district 4, represented by Council Member Greg Casar, who was a strong advocate for its redevelopment even prior to his election.

After years of planning, study, and community engagement, the City Council issued a directive for the city manager to work with the community on a plan for the site that would better serve the St. John neighborhood. Requests for proposals were issued in 2020. In order to pivot to the new vision for the site, the solicitation required repayment of the $10 million bond debt used to purchase the land, which restricted its development to public-safety uses. Greystar’s proposal included paying the debt in full and required no city subsidies for the redevelopment (although subsidies for increasing the amount of affordable housing could be on the table in the future).

The council left open the question of whether it would enable the developer to purchase the site or require it to lease the land from the city. Depending on when the council approves a master development agreement, construction on the project could begin as soon as next year.