Rental property giant Greystar and the city of Austin have signed a master development agreement for the St. John site, a former Home Depot site eternally on the verge of redevelopment in Northeast Austin.
The 19-acre, city-owned site at 800 East St. John Avenue (formerly 7211 and 7309 North IH-35, locations of a Home Depot and a Chrysler dealership) is slated to become a mixed-use, mixed-income community developed by Greystar in collaboration with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin. The city of Economic Development Department announced the agreement Thursday.
Plans are for a development with 526 rental units, half of them designated as income-restricted affordable housing. The project will also expand the St. John Pocket Park into a larger open space complete with walking trails and a splash pad. The site will be developed after close consultation with the St. John community and a community advisory committee, in alignment with the 2020 community vision, according to the announcement.
The site is part of the St. Johns/Coronado Hills neighborhood planning area and "held significant historical importance for the African-American community," according to the announcement:
Its roots trace back to the 1890s when the St. John Regular Missionary Baptist Association obtained 350 acres north of Austin to establish a freedman community with the St. John Industrial Institute and Orphanage as its anchor. In 2017, the Austin City Council directed staff to collaborate with the St. John community in creating a new community vision, which was officially adopted in 2020.
"This agreement represents a pivotal step toward realizing our vision for a more inclusive and vibrant St. John community,” said the city's Sylnovia Holt-Rabb. “The collaboration exemplifies our commitment to creating lasting positive impacts through thoughtful urban development."
The city bought 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.
Requests for proposals to redevelop the site issued in 2020. Solicitations 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. The city chose Greystar to develop the site with HACA in 2021.
Construction on the new community is slated to start in 2024.