The Austin Chronicle

Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Travis Flats Open in North Loop

By Lina Fisher, November 19, 2021, News

On Nov. 10, the Travis County Commissioners Court celebrated the grand opening of Travis Flats Apartments, a mixed-use, mixed-income development at 5310 Helen St., at 53½ St. and Airport Boulevard in the North Loop neighborhood. Rents for the floor plans with cute Austin-centric nicknames – "The Lady Bird," "The Zilker," "The Paramount," "The Moon Tower" – range from $990-a-month studios to $1,950-a-month three­-bedrooms. That comes in well below Central Austin market rents; as of Nov. 11, the average rent on Apartment List for a studio apartment in Austin was $1,644, and for a three-bedroom, $2,702.

Of the complex's 146 units, 122 are affordable to those making 60% or less of area median income – currently $59,340 for a family of four – with the remaining 24 market­-rate units targeted to the "missing middle – a population vulnerable to being priced out of the Austin area," as Travis County's press release describes it. In addition to a fitness center, media lounge, children's activity center, and Wi-Fi-enabled community room, the development includes 80,000 square feet of office space, which houses the county's Health and Human Services, Veterans Services, and District Clerk Jury-Passport offices.

Plans for Travis Flats began in 2016, when Travis County Housing Finance Corporation partnered with DMA Devel­op­ment Company and Southwest Strategies Group to redevelop a parking lot next to the county's North Campus office complex into both needed workspaces and affordable housing. Con­struc­tion began in 2019 and was completed in June, financed by, among other loans, $1.5 million in federal tax credits awarded by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and $2 million in bond and grant funds from the city of Austin. As a S.M.A.R.T. Housing development, Travis Flats also received $750,000 in city fee waivers.

Aside from bolstering Austin's affordable housing stock, serving people who make "approximately $9.00 to $20.00 per hour," Travis Flats will offer educational services like ESL, GED preparation, job training, credit counseling, and "other supportive services that ensure employment stability and/or upward career mobility." The development is served by CapMetro route 350 and is close to an H-E-B and the ACC Highland campus; commissioners hope Travis Flats will yield "significant economic impact ... $12M+ in terms of local construction related activity and ripple effect of spending income and generating local jobs," as well as provide "stable, high quality and affordable multifamily [homes], near employment opportunities, amenities, and quality schools."

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