Eureka Holdings, the Dallas-based company that has remained mum about plans for the more than two-dozen properties it has purchased on East 12th Street, has unveiled some initial goals for the area.
The plans offered by Austin-based consulting firm Lionheart, give a conceptual look at what could come to the historically black, bustling commercial street in East Austin, but offered few specifics.
Rebecca Leonard, of Lionheart, presented those plans at a Sept. 16 meeting of the city's Urban Renewal Board.
Leonard's plans for specific properties show that Eureka and its partners have been working on a comprehensive plan for the area. For starters, they envision 12th Street as a connection between Waller and Boggy creeks.
Leonard also said Eureka could capitalize on a long-awaited redevelopment of I-35.
“No matter what happens with I-35 – cap it or not cap it or whatever happens – we envision reclaiming East Avenue as the gateway to this corridor,” Leonard told board members. “We don’t want I-35 to be a barrier to Waller Creek and all it has to offer.”
Leonard said that in the future bicyclists and pedestrians should be able to use 12th Street to get from one park space to the other.
In 2017, KUT broke news of Eureka’s buy-up, reporting that the holdings company in three years had bought 36 properties on 12th Street between I-35 and Walnut Avenue. Since then, Eureka has continued buying land, accruing more than a dozen more properties. The company told city board members in September they intend to help maintain some of the neighborhood’s cultural spaces – and have done so with one already.
The Austin Monitor reported in May that Eureka began restoring one of its properties, the I.Q. Hurdle House, which was home to a black minister and public school teacher. But members of the city’s Historic Landmark Commission expressed anger at the company for taking so long to complete repairs.
“Eureka is committed to cleaning up our own properties and also working with the community to push crime and blight out of the area,” Leonard said.
Eureka told the Urban Renewal Board in September that it would hire a firm to study what needs to be done to maintain other historic parts of the East Austin neighborhood to "ensure their longterm viability."
Eureka and its partners have not yet disclosed specific plans for the residential properties it owns in East Austin. But at the September meeting Leonard suggested that the company may be interested in building affordable housing.
“I’ve been part of affordable housing studies and what’s always missing it seems is that private sector partner who can actually build the housing and get it completed,” she said. Eureka currently owns Mount Carmel Village in East Austin, which accepts low-income housing vouchers. “We’re hoping that we can be that partner for the community.”
Leonard told board members the company has had discussions with people at Huston-Tillotson University about needs for student housing in the area.
KUT reached out to Eureka to ask what it plans to build in the future, but the company did not provide specifics, though it did say it looks forward to working with the neighborhood in the future.
"Community input is extremely important to us, and we are excited to work together to create affordable and sustainable projects that reflect our community’s unique character and values."