In order to provide more space for pedestrians, bikes, and residents at a central-city affordable-housing project currently under renovation, the city of Austin Planning Commission voted at its Feb. 19 meeting to recommend the permanent closure of a small stretch of Chalmers Avenue to cars.
The commission voted 7-3-1 to recommend a plan to convert the block of Chalmers Avenue between East Third and East Fourth streets into a green space with walking and bike paths as part of the redevelopment of Chalmers Court. Built in 1939, the original complex was one of the first federal housing projects completed under the 1937 Housing Act—and, it should be noted, was originally constructed for white families only. (It was integrated after the Civil Rights Act of 1968 legally ended segregation, as were its East Austin counterparts Rosewood Courts and Santa Rita Courts, originally built for African-American and Latino families, respectively).
Now managed by the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA), the property is located in what has become a massive area of growth in and around Saltillo Plaza in East Cesar Chavez. Its redevelopment will correct numerous problems attributable mostly to the original complex's age, including lack of central air conditioning, lack of ADA compatibility, and general deterioration. The development is led by Carleton Companies, with Chris Crisara of Nelsen Partners as lead architect. The project is taking place in three stages and will result in space for almost 400 families, with the same number of deeply affordable units as the property had before (158), as well as a few income-based and market-rate units. Residents who lived there at the time it was closed for redevelopment were offered the opportunity to be relocated and return to homes in Chalmers Court.