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City on the Rise

In Austin, it can feel like another day, another new development. This year, St. Elmo Market, Community First! and Seaholm caught our eye for their function, design and emphasis on thoughtful development that will forever change how Austinites live.

When all three developments are fully realized, they will be game changers for not only the neighborhoods in which they live, but for the city as a whole. Here, we meet the people behind the projects and learn just what we can expect once the final brick is laid.

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St. Elmo | South Austin

Imagine the sights, smells and sounds of the world’s great marketplaces, like Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid or Pike Place in Seattle. Now imagine that energy, flavor and cultural blending right here in South Austin. Brandon Bolin of GroundFloor Development and Matt Spillers are the two developers behind St. Elmo, a 12-acre, mixed-use project that is the future home to a premier public market in the Capital City.

Spillers, who spent years working in the hospitality industry, and Bolin, whose expertise is in development, knew that the one-time bus manufacturing warehouse on South Congress Avenue and St. Elmo Road would be the perfect venue for a robust, worldly marketplace. Adding such a venue to the city is fitting given the tremendous culinary growth seen in recent years. “Austin has one of the most progressive culinary scenes that’s going on in this part of the world,” says Spillers.

Capturing the city’s distinct flavor and honoring its increasingly international influence is one of the many aims of the market, as is creating a space where entrepreneurs in food and beverage can launch focused ideas and build on big dreams. Much research went into the planning process. Spillers and Bolin traveled the United States and Europe, moving from market to market to learn from the different social experiences offered at each venue. Certain elements were taken from myriad places, such as the openness of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, which is going to be emulated at the market in St. Elmo.

To bring more depth to the experience, this central food and beverage hub will be flanked by a host of other projects, including condominiums, creative office spaces, entertainment outlets and even a hotel. No matter if you’re a resident, a vendor, or someone simply passing through, the community here will be grounded by the market, an age-old social gathering place driven by food and drink that is finding new life at St. Elmo.

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COMMUNITY FIRST! VILLAGE | East Austin

For Austin nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), providing shelter for the homeless extends far beyond four walls–real solutions come from building communities. “You have to have that community and place to belong,” says Donna Emery, development director at MLF. The organization has received much praise since its inception, (in November CEO and co-founder Alan Graham was named “Austinite of the Year” by the Austin Chamber of Commerce), thanks to its innovative responses to tackling the needs of Austin’s homeless.

Over the years, the organization has provided places to heal, means of nourishment, and opportunities for the disabled and chronically homeless to find purpose. With the program’s latest project, Community First! Village, a 27–acre master planned project in East Austin, this effort will be continued in profound ways. Here, residents are empowered to take on different opportunities that will earn them an income, such as selling concessions and operating the projector at the Alamo Drafthouse community theater.

The Community First! Village will also have a sanctuary and hospitality center, recovery gatherings, Bible studies and music groups. There will be a medical building and a building supplies center to service the operation yard. There will be workshops and art studios and tiers of housing options, including RVs and micro homes to name a few. “We have the best custom builders in Austin, Texas over there building,” says Emery, adding that 5,000 volunteers over the past two years have helped with the project, including everyone from cabinet makers to electricians, Eagle Scout groups and charitable organizations. “It’s really been accepted by the community in a huge way,” she says adding, “We’re seeing hearts transformed.”

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THE SEAHOLM | Downtown

Though our skyline may be gleaming with new glass buildings, one of the city’s most anticipated developments was actually inspired by a historical facility. The Seaholm Power Plant is an unusual space for Austin because of its industrial edge, a distinguishing factor that John Rosato of Southwest Strategies Group recognizes.

“We went to great pains to maintain the character and bones of the power plant,” he says. The 12-year project has been a joint effort of a team compromised of local companies. In addition to John Rosato, this includes Danny Roth from Southwest Strategies; CIM Group; Jeff Trigger; Allen Cowden of State Street Properties’ and Kent Collins of Centro Development, LLC. Preserving the integrity of the power plant meant keeping many artifacts in tact, such as pipes, for example.

Vestiges of these elements are also mirrored throughout the entire Seaholm development, which includes a low-rise building home to Trader Joe’s among other retailers, and a 31-story condominium tower that will be move-in ready in March 2016. “We borrowed all of the steel and concrete elements in the other two buildings so they were complementary and not competing with the power plant,” says Rosato.

All three of the buildings surround a public plaza, which will be home to programs and events such as morning yoga with Ballet Austin. The LEED Silver power plant has been meticulously repurposed with sustainability in mind, one effort of which includes capturing rainwater to irrigate the property’s landscaping. Coupling style and sustainability, green spaces and industrial flair, the Seaholm is creating a community that all at once pays homage to its heritage while embodying the future of Austin.

CREDITS

Photography by Kenny Braun

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