America’s experiment in subsidized housing began, in many ways, in Austin, home to some of the very earliest public-housing projects in the country. That heritage is being kept alive in Nelsen Partners’ refurbishment and expansion of the Rebekah Baines Johnson (RBJ) Center, a 1972 high-rise apartment building that provides low-cost homes to local seniors in the fast-gentrifying heart of the Texas capital. Nelsen’s intervention gives the tower and its 250 units a much-needed refresh, opening up the façade with additional windows as well as a glassed-in top-floor sky lounge with sweeping views of downtown Austin, the nearby Colorado River, and Lady Bird Lake.

The tower transformation is complemented by an additional 279 units of mid-rise new construction that embraces the existing tower while adding outdoor courtyards for RBJ residents. Breaking up the rote tower-in-a-park scheme of the original design, the plan also calls for replacing a portion of the barren surroundings of the central building with still more development, including market-rate apartments, office space and retail (the work of SWSG Momark Collaborative). This low- and mid-rise village will reconnect RBJ to the evolving and dynamic urban fabric of East Austin. At the same time, streets and entry corridors throughout the one million square-foot neighborhood will be transformed into active public space, alive with greenery.

  • Services: Architecture
  • Client: DMA Development Company, LLC / Southwest Strategies Group / Momark Development
  • Status: Wrap Complete / Tower Under Construction
  • Year: 2022
  • Scope: 270,000 GSF / 279 Units (4 & 5 Stories)
    Tower: 279,00 GSF / 225 Units (16 Stories)
Matthew Niemann


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