Austin City Council delays final Riverside redevelopment vote

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Members of “Defend our Hoodz,” an anti-gentrification organization, protested at Austin City Hall on Sept. 19, 2019. The group was protesting the proposed redevelopemt of Riverside apartments, many of which house low-income UT students. 

Photo Credit: Pedro Luna | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Council postponed its third and final vote on redeveloping Riverside student apartment complexes at its meeting Thursday. 

The council unanimously rescheduled the vote for Oct. 17 after developers Presidium Group and Nimes Real Estate requested a delay. If the rezoning passes, 97 acres of housing will become a mixed-use development, which would demolish 1,308 mainly student-occupied apartment units in Ballpark North, Town Lake and the Quad East, West and South to make way for new residential units, hotel rooms, and office and retail space.

“I’m OK postponing the big case on Riverside,” council member Greg Casar said. “But I know at some point we are trying to wrap that up. I’m fine voting today too, unless ... there will be significant enough change between now and then.” 

Michael Whellan, the lawyer representing the developers, said he lacked all the signatures he needed on an amendment to the application and was not ready to proceed. The developers initially requested that the council defer the vote to the Oct. 3 meeting, but council member Natasha Harper-Madison objected because she would not be in town.

“I have some concerns with not being present to deliberate such an important item,” Harper-Madison said. “I ask we not postpone the item, or (we can) wait until Oct. 17.”

 

Nine citizens signed up to speak before the vote, according to the city clerk’s office. Alex Meed, a public affairs graduate student, lives in Ballpark North and said he planned to speak. 

“I’m actually kind of glad (the delay) happened because it’s more time for people to learn about this case,” Meed said. “I want people to know this is happening, and I don’t want to impose a position on them. My major complaint is students have been excluded from every part of it.”

Defend Our Hoodz, an anti-gentrification community organization, held a protest outside of City Hall a few hours after the postponement. Misha Salander, Defend Our Hoodz member, lives in Quad West and said she thinks City Council will ultimately vote in favor of the developers, but the organization will still protest. 

“Even though (the vote) is postponed, we’re still going to speak up and fight back and confront them,” Spanish senior Salander said. 

Members of Defend Our Hoodz protested outside of council member Pio Renteria’s home Wednesday night ahead of the vote. Jessica Meza, Defend Our Hoodz member, said they protested because they feel Renteria does not protect working-class interests.

“He is so readily available to sell our homes and our communities out,” neuroscience senior Meza said. “If he can’t give us any peace of mind in our homes, we’re not going to give him any peace of mind at his.” 

The council passed the rezoning at its first and second vote, so the third vote would allow developers to begin construction if passed. 

“I’m upset about the displacement because of its impact on people,” Meed said. “Whatever they do with this zoning case though, (Riverside) is still prime real estate and an old development. It’ll probably be developed, and I feel like there’s nothing the city can do to stop that.”