The Colony Park Sustainable Community planned unit development application process is underway. On Tuesday, City Council’s Housing and Planning Committee unanimously recommended the full Council initiate a streamlined application and rezoning process.
“Colony Park represents one of our greatest opportunities to leverage public land to develop affordable housing and improve the lives of both current and future Austinites,” said Natasha Harper-Madison, Council member and committee chair. “This community initiative is the culmination of decades of advocacy by East Austin residents and collaboration between city departments.”
Council contended with the financial challenges faced by the project to remake the city-owned 208 acres in East Austin late last year. With the financing gap closed, the city can move forward with changes to the original planned unit development ordinance, which will pave the way for a new development with 230,000 square feet of office space, 130,000 square feet of retail, 831 apartments, 1,072 single-family lots, and more than 48 acres of public parks and open space.
The city has faced criticism over the decadeslong delay. To demonstrate the project is now a citywide priority, the city manager’s office has created a “strike team” of department heads and technical experts from across the city that will collaborate on the project. “This is absolutely an important priority for our city,” Assistant City Manager Veronica Briseño told the committee.
Martin Barrera, redevelopment project manager at the Economic Development Department, also acknowledged the delays. “It’s important to know that we have a very long history,” he said. “We have been working for decades in this community making promises that we have not delivered on.”
The resolution initiating the streamlined PUD process will go before Council before its July recess. The planned unit development application will go through the pre-check process May 30. On June 8, the city will host a public outreach meeting, and in mid-June the zoning application is to be submitted. From June through September, staff will review public comments and the development team will respond. City staff will discuss comments in September and October, and the application will go through the commission process in October. The proposal could go before City Council on first reading Nov. 30.
In order to achieve the timeline, which Barrera called “aggressive,” staff proposed several recommendations for the committee’s consideration. The recommendations include authorizing the city manager’s office to process the application without the payment of fees and to move the application to the Planning Commission without seeking considerations or recommendations from any other committee.
Harper-Madison thanked staff for its work. “We absolutely appreciate it and we absolutely appreciate the level of commitment to recognizing, especially you Mr. Barrera, that we have a debt to repay and I appreciate that commitment that we are making actively as a city,” she said.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.