By Brittany Anderson
BUDA — Buda is once again proving to be a hotspot for new development, with a mixed-use project potentially coming to the city’s north side.
Buda City Council held a workshop for the unnamed development during the regular council meeting on Jan. 17. Forum Investment Group presented its plans for the project, with senior managing director of development Rich Wilson explaining that the group has experience building mixed-use developments in several markets and is interested in expanding into the Austin area.
While no action was taken, the workshop allowed the council to learn more about the site plans and provide feedback.
According to the group, the site “sits perfectly in a transition location between the high activity of Buda’s commercial district to the south, and the tranquility of the low-density surroundings outside the Buda city limits to the north and west.”
The development is set to be located on approximately 31 acres of land on Old San Antonio Road and Manchaca Springs Road, right off of the I-35 frontage road. The site includes 28 acres, or 590 units, of multi-family residential space and three acres, or 6,000 square feet, of commercial space.
Multi-family housing, according to the developers, is typically multi-story apartments or condominiums with some ground floor retail spaces. The group anticipates three- to four-story buildings for this development and said that the 900 or so residents it would bring in would help stimulate Buda’s local economy.
“With the growth that is happening along the I-35 corridor and south out of Austin, [like]Texas Children’s Hospital locating their site not too far north of here, we feel like there is continued need for housing those folks who are coming to this area for the growing employment base, and this could be a part of that,” Wilson said.
Some of the proposed amenities of the development include a pocket park, pet parks, resort-style pools, fitness and activity centers, co-working areas, enhanced pedestrian streetscapes and green pathways that connect the residential to commercial.
The development would be implemented in three phases, with the first two phases building out the residential and the final phase building out the commercial.
While the site is located entirely within Hays County, only 12 acres sit within Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) with the remaining 19 acres within Austin’s ETJ. As such, developers are looking for Buda to request the ETJ release from Austin and provide water and wastewater utilities. According to the presentation, the city has plans to expand the 8” wastewater line to 12” to 15” that would be able to serve the site, and currently has capacity to provide water to the site with an 8” line.
“We’re in this really interesting predicament in Buda with water and wastewater … there’s been a lot of good planning to prepare for things that are coming, both in terms of residential and commercial developments,” council member Evan Ture said. “We have a lot of water and wastewater available, but growth kind of slowed down through COVID and through some projects changing in some ways where we’re paying for those projects in our rates with a few less people … To some degree, extending services helps in that it spreads those costs over more users.”
The site is not contiguous to the existing retail and commercial nodes, instead separated by about half a mile of vacant land and a plant nursery. However, it’s adjacent to the “Interstate Corridor” District in the city’s Future Land Use Plan, Wilson said, and according to the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan, dense multi-family housing is appropriate for this district.
While the council members were in support of the development and appreciative of receiving information so early on, several agreed that they would like to see more commercial space (or B3 zoning) within the development, which Ture said would be the “best thing for Buda” in order to get more sales tax dollars.
Wilson noted that the site is not at the I-35 access road or contiguous with the rest of the commercial corridor, which is part of their reasoning for not wanting to do full or even majority B3.
“We don’t think that there’s currently viability for a large-scale commercial project. We do understand that it’s important to the city to have the commercial tax base, which is why we tried to integrate some component of that,” Wilson said.
“I think part of the ask today is whether we’re willing to extend services [for]water and wastewater, do the ETJ swap, things like that,” Ture replied. “If we’re doing things like that, it’s sort of an ask of us. So the ask would be for y’all to significantly increase the retail portion as much as possible that the project can sustain.”
“Buda needs more access to places where we can get those tax dollars in, because we just don’t have enough of that room to be able to not make a good decision,” council member Terry Cummings added. “I think to not use the site lines along the I-35 corridor to promote some retail businesses would be a mistake, because that’s something that we need to try and sponsor and promote, and we don’t have enough of that space to just throw up a bunch of apartments and keep our fingers crossed … I hope you understand where we’re all coming from on this, because we have some very difficult decisions to make regarding our very little available land.”
While city staff has not done any analysis of the development yet, the group has submitted a letter of intent to request a development agreement. In the meantime, the group will continue to work with the city on the project as several more steps are needed to be taken before its final approval, including the release of the Austin ETJ portion and annexing and zoning of the land.