About a month ago, the Downtown Austin Blog had a post hinting at the redevelopment of the abandoned, sad-looking Arby’s at 17th and Guadalupe, received with some skepticism.
Guess what? It’s going to be developed into an 80-unit student housing apartment complex and they want to do it fast.
About a quarter of the block at 1715 Guadalupe has been an abandoned fast food restaurant with its onsite parking use for contract parking. Recently, it has been sold to a developer for mid-rise student housing, with below grade parking.
Here’s the catch: The construction schedule requires work to begin by March 15, in order for the project to be ready for UT student move-in this August. The entire project area will have underground parking, which will required about two months of demolition, excavation and grading work.
It will be interesting to see if this still becomes student housing if the project deadlines cannot be met. Initially, this lot was going to be redeveloped into downtown mixed-use and someone literally scratched out “condos and retail” on the site plan application and wrote “apartments”.
UT had record freshman enrollment this past year, and if the market said lending was easier for that use, then that’s how the chips fall.
There’s likely to be universal consensus that a mid-rise student complex will be great for adding some life back into that part of town, and be especially good for the adjacent Dive Bar and Arturo’s coffee shop.
But, like cutting into an overcooked, yet still tasty steak, the current plan leaves bit sadness about what could have been.
Street-level retail and condo owners, which would have been vested in the community, would have been much juicier than student housing. Not to mention: the site is zoned for DMU-CURE and not in the Capitol View Corridor, which means density could have been packed in there.
We’ll also not that unlike other apartment projects percolating around the core, this one – because it is student housing – is unlikely to be converted into condos at a later date.
On the other hand, having student housing bleeding into downtown does it’s own unique part to keep the core vibrant, and really adds a level of affordability and youthfulness to downtown, which a luxury high-rise condo tower would not.