After years of moving at a slow pace, high-rise construction in West Campus has started up again as part of the city’s plans to attract Austin’s student population to the area.
The construction is a result of the University Neighborhood Overlay Plan, a 2004 Austin City Council initiative to create more housing opportunities for students and decrease commuting issues. Although West Campus construction has been slow in recent years due to economic turbulence, officials said construction has resumed in the recent economic recovery. Currently, there are plans of at least six new high rises in the West Campus area over the next two years.
Upon approval of the plan, construction of about 20 high-rise buildings such as Quarters, 21 Rio, The Block and Calloway House around West Campus began. Of the proposed six new buildings, some have been started and others are still in planning phases.
Land Development and Construction LLC, an Austin-based commercial real estate company, recently broke ground on a new six-story building at 21st Street and Pearl Street. Robert Lee, the real estate company’s CEO, said student housing is a top target for financiers to invest in following the recent recession.
“Everyone is seeking investment-based properties right now, and student housing is near the top of the list,” he said.
Lee said although the student housing market at other schools has been captured, the University Neighborhood Overlay Plan has opened parts of West Campus for expansion, and Austin’s population growth is making it a prime target for investors.
According to the Austin Business Journal, Austin is the ninth fastest-growing metropolitan area in America and gains 151 residents every day.
Monte Davis, owner of Austin-based real estate firm Davis Company Real Estate, said this expansion is necessary to meet the needs of students and young professionals moving into West Campus.
“Currently, we are about 18,000 beds short of what we need,” he said. “There are only about 6,000 [under construction], so we will even still be off the mark.”
Richie Gill, a Plan II and economics senior and owner of Mr. West Campus, a local real estate agency, said people are beginning to realize more and more what a favorable investment Austin is, and he will be interested to see how construction changes the city in the future.
“It has just taken a while for people to realize that the economy here is not nearly as volatile as it is on the east or west coast,” he said. “In five years, how in the world is the city going to look?”