Vacant Airport Transforms into Vibrant Housing Development

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Wildflower Terrace is a senior mixed-income apartment property in a 700-acre development in Austin, Texas. When it opened in 2012, it was the first predominantly affordable rental property in Mueller, an urban infill site that was formerly occupied by the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. This joint project between the City of Austin and Catellus Development implements a master plan to convert the site to commercial, residential and recreational uses. When fully built, Mueller will include more than 5,900 homes, including a minimum of 25% affordable owner-occupied and rental units. “The way business is done at Mueller, there is a lot of buy-in early on,” shared Diana McIver, president and CEO of DMA Companies. DMA Development Company, LLC served as developer for Wildflower Terrace. “Affordable housing can get a lot of pushback from NIMBYs [Not in My Back Yard],” she added, “but people know from the beginning that there is quality affordable housing at Mueller, and Catellus sets a tone to inform stakeholders and collects feedback early in the development process to make the process go much smoother.” Wildflower Terrace’s 201 apartments include 174 units subject to income qualification, ranging from 30% to 80% of the median family income, and 27 units leased at market rates. The affordability term is 99 years. The Mueller Affordable Homes Program outlines the provisions for the site’s affordable housing development. The results of the affordable housing program are reviewed annually by the Austin Housing Finance Corporation and incorporated into the city’s consolidated affordable housing plan. The $24.8 million project was financed with the help of a small loan from the Mueller Foundation, a nonprofit created by Catellus to support Mueller’s affordable housing goals. The project also attracted $14.5 million in equity from 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), secured in 2010. The affordable and market-rate units in the energy-efficient, LEED Silver-certified building are indistinguishable, with 700- to 1,000-square-foot floor plans, 9- and 10-foot ceilings, ENERGY STAR appliances, washer/dryer connections, and walk-in closets. Most units have balconies or porches, some with views of downtown Austin. The property also includes ADA mobility-accessible units, and site- and hearing-accessible units. Starting the project during the Great Recession yielded lower construction pricing, which allowed room in the budget for higher-quality finishes. Amenities include a movie theater, community room, fitness center, billiards room, a library and computer center, laundry facilities, and an art studio. Walking trails and Mueller’s Southwest Greenway, and future Southeast Greenway, are nearby. The four-story building with one- and two-bedroom apartments also includes structured parking that allows each resident to park on the level adjacent to his or her apartment. [caption id="attachment_15323" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Photo credit: Patrick Y. Wong[/caption] Like most of the major multifamily developments in Mueller, Wildflower Terrace is a mixed-use property. Utilizing the 5,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Keys to success include:
  • A robust public-private partnership
  • Substantial, long-term public engagement
  • A strong public policy commitment to affordable housing
  • Design guidelines and review process for a cohesive neighborhood fabric
For more housing affordability resources, including the full case study on the Wildflower Terrace development, visit and the Land Use 101 toolkit at The toolkit also includes access to the full report, How Did They Do It? Discovering New Opportunities for Affordable Housing. Deborah L. Myerson, AICP — author of the How Did They Do It? Report — contributed to the content of this article. Myerson is an urban planner with 20 years of experience in housing, community development, land use and transportation policy, and urban revitalization.

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