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Controversial East Riverside development gets new name and master plan
(Sasaki)

The 97-acre mixed-use development slated for 4700 East Riverside Drive has a new name—River Park—and master plan that includes the addition of a 12-acre retail center.


The developer behind River Park, Presidium, shared its vision for the project, which will include more than 400 affordable units as well as 10 million square feet of offices, shops, hotels, parks and homes.

Bordered by the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park and Country Club Creek, the development will feature access to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and more than 30 acres of public parkland and urban trails. It will also be served by a forthcoming light rail line planned under Project Connect, the $7.1 billion transit overhaul that Austin voters recently chose to fund.

"The location and size of River Park provides a unique opportunity to solve and address some of Austin's biggest challenges such as housing supply, affordability, connectivity and mobility—all on an urban-infill site within five minutes of downtown," Presidium Director of Development Michael Piano said in a statement Monday.

River Park is scheduled to be built in phases over the next two decades, with a preliminary start date planned for 2023.

Austin City Council voted 6-3 in October 2019 to approve zoning changes for the site, which is at the intersection of Riverside and South Pleasant Valley Road, after months of controversy.

Members of Defend Our Hoodz—a local advocacy organization that the Austin Police Department has said overlaps with the Mike Ramos Brigade, a local antifa group—protested outside the homes of Council Member Sabino "Pio" Renteria and Michael Whellan, an attorney whose firm represents the developer.

The University of Texas at Austin student government voted to approve a resolution asking the council to vote against the zoning change or to provide more affordable student housing in the area, which is home to many lower-cost apartments.

Council members acknowledged concerns that the project would worsen gentrification in one of the few remaining affordable urban core neighborhoods. But they also conceded that development was inevitable.

"Rejecting this rezoning request will not deflate the redevelopment pressure facing this area," Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said at the time. "It's a difficult but very real truth."

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