Plan to develop urban center near Austin airport receives preliminary site plan approval

Presidium buys out Marketplace Real Estate’s stake in 270-acre mixed-use project

Dallas-based real estate investment firm Presidium Group LLC has taken a step forward in its plan to raise a mixed-use development on 270 acres along Austin’s eastern edge.

The Velocity project, which could significantly alter the fabric of Southeast Austin, promises up to 7 million square feet of apartments, offices and other commercial space with about 310,000 square feet planned to be dedicated to retail, restaurants and entertainment — including a potential grocery store.

The project has been in the works for years. It would transform a mostly untouched swath of land in eastern Travis County, bringing homes and businesses to what are now open fields near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Presidium on Oct. 24 shared additional insight into its vision, a little more than a week after the Austin Planning Commission on Oct. 11 gave its site plan a unanimous stamp of approval.

Formerly a partnership with Austin-based commercial real estate firm Marketplace Real Estate Group LLC, Velocity is described by Presidium as a “class A multifamily development” with “attainable apartments,” about 2 miles from the Tesla Inc. headquarters.

Map: General location of Velocity project, east of ABIA

“The Planning Commission approving a preliminary plat for Velocity is a meaningful step forward, and we’re grateful for the green light to advance to the next stage,” stated Mark Bulmash, Presidium president of mixed-use/master plan development, who is overseeing the project.

The commission previously rejected the plan and required revisions be made to remain compliant with the city’s land development code, including changes to stormwater management plans.

Presidium bought out Marketplace’s stake about three months ago, said Doug Launius, managing principal at Marketplace.

“We are very happy and we wish those guys the best going forward,” Launius said. “We are still very active in Southeast Austin and very bullish.”

Previously introduced as Velocity Crossing, the scope of the plans increased in size from 5.5 million square feet of development to 7 million when Marketplace and Presidium announced their partnership in March 2020.

More details on massive project

The property rests along a high-traffic area primed for development, along Onion Creek where State Highway 71, State Highway 130 and FM 973 meet in Southeast Austin. It’s located north of cosmetics manufacturer Capsum Inc. and south of Tesla’s immense factory.

The lots outlined in the preliminary plan range between two and 20 acres, with the larger highway-facing plots planned to host a large-scale grocery store or major retailers. The development is also planned to include a seven-acre green space.

The site is also next to 124 acres owned by Austin Community College, which plans to create a regional workforce campus for 10,000 to 12,000 students studying in fields such as automotive, building construction, heating and air conditioning, welding and jewelry making.

Plans for the development presented before the commission were drafted by planning and design consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

“Velocity will create an inclusive community, with a grocery store, shops, restaurants, attainable apartments and employment opportunities — all located less than 2 miles from Tesla’s gigafactory,” Bulmash stated.

As a high-density mixed-use center outside Austin’s Central Business District, Velocity has drawn comparisons to The Domain and Mueller. Similar big projects now under construction include the $1 billion EastVillage in North Austin and the $3 billion Uptown ATX.

The project also moves forward as Austinintes prepare to vote on a $350 million bond to create more affordable housing in the city, which has experienced increased costs of living in recent years.

Bulmash said the project will have high-quality, class A multifamily living but that the market-rate apartments in the area are generally considered to be at rates attainable by a wide cross-section of residents.

“This area is changing rapidly, and we aim to help fulfill the need for quality housing, desired retail and places to work — along with a generous amount of parks and open space that will be accessible to the community at large,” he said.

The project also aims to bring more employment opportunities to a less developed part of the city.

Bulmash emphasized that the property’s limited industrial services-planned development zoning, or LI-PDA, allows a great deal of flexibility and allows the development team to be responsive to market conditions, both now and in the future. That could mean manufacturing and commercial uses on site, from prototype assembly and equipment repair services to general retail and medical uses.

The development will also be near the end of a new train line, as Project Connect’s Blue Line is planned to run to the airport.

“The site’s location naturally connects to the region’s road, rail, and trail network — and we’re designing Velocity to make the most of every possible connection. It’s also worth noting the site is located within a federally designated Opportunity Zone and a Triple Freeport Zone, two government programs that help entice businesses to the area,” Bulmash said. “Put all these attributes together, and Velocity offers nearly every kind of space for nearly every kind of need.”

The development is planned to take 10 to 20 years to build out, divided into at least three phases.

“There’s still quite a bit of work ahead of us. We look forward to continuing to work with City of Austin officials and members of the community to create a destination with wide-ranging appeal,” Bulmash said.

Beyond Velocity, Presidium is busy in Austin. It has under construction a 283-apartment community near The Domain in North Austin and the company is also behind the proposed River Place development, which could bring 10 million square feet to East Riverside Drive.

By   –  Staff Writer, Austin Business Journal

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