New owners dig prospect of living at old airport

Aaron Wine is ready.

The Austin resident will be one of the first homeowners in the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, which is being redeveloped.

He has sold his house in eastern Travis County and plans to move to Mueller with his wife and two children when his new home is ready early next year.

On Tuesday, Wine was smiling as Glenn Hagler, his former neighbor - who also is purchasing a Mueller home - took photos of him at the official groundbreaking on Mueller's first 348 single-family homes. Representatives from Catellus, the master developer of the Mueller redevelopment, the city and home builders also were there.

"We always wanted to live central," Wine said. "It's close to everything for us. And everyone cares about the community. Everyone is putting in effort to make this a great place."

The former airport is being transformed into a 711-acre development with housing, stores, offices and medical facilities. It is being designed as a pedestrian-friendly community with plenty of park space and an emphasis on green building. When it's completed, it will have as many as 10,000 residents.

Hagler, a firefighter and paramedic, is glad to be among them.

"What's going to make the area good is the community of people moving in here," Hagler said. His wife, a cellist with the Austin Symphony, was enthusiastic about the idea, but Hagler said he has some reservations about Mueller's proximity to areas with higher crime rates and questions about where his children will go to school. Ultimately, he said he is excited to try something new.

Homeowners will move into the first phase by the end of the year through early 2008.

Roads are being built for the next phase, which will have 360 homes. Construction will begin in mid-2008. The options will include the same yard, row and garden court home styles as in the first phase. But there also will be live-work units, which have retail on the bottom with living space above, and Mueller houses, designed to look like mansions but housing several condominium units.

Because of high interest in the first phase, Catellus set up a sort of lottery to decide who would have a chance to buy a house. The company hasn't decided whether they will use the system for the second phase.

The mortgage credit crunch that has hit housing markets hard in many other parts of the country has not affected Mueller so far, said Matt Whelan, senior vice president of Catellus.

Mueller officials met with local banks and national lenders to discuss the situation. Whelan said lenders are still working with buyers, including those who make 80 percent or less of the Austin area's median income.

"Even in the middle of this credit crunch, we'll be able to move forward and build houses and have our affordable buyers purchase them," Whelan said. "We don't anticipate the whole credit crunch having any impact on Mueller."; 912-2942