Michael Gatto
Foundation Communities


“Because I was able to enhance the quality of life for Austin’s low- and moderate-income communities, my experience at Foundation Communities as a Rose Fellow was incredibly rewarding. It was an invaluable learning experience. I now understand the interrelated roles of design and development in providing affordable housing and resident services.”

Caring for people and caring for the environment are one in the same for Michael Gatto. Michael put that belief to work during his Rose Fellowship with Foundation Communities. There he helped create four community learning centers and 140 units of single-room occupancy (SRO) supportive housing.

Michael cites the Spring Terrace SRO conversion as his most significant project. Funded in part by an Enterprise Green Communities grant, Spring Terrace was the adaptive re-use of an extended stay hotel into efficiency apartments for single adults. Also at the top of his list is the Vintage Creek Community Learning Center, a 5,000-square-foot facility that is now home to after-school and summer programs for resident children, as well as adult education classes.

However, he is proudest of the fact that his host has adopted green building practices and process. As a result the agency earned a two-star rating and a $4,000 sustainability bonus for the Vintage Creek Learning Center from the City of Austin’s Green Building Program.

Post-fellowship, Michael was the project manager and the sustainable design consultant for Skyline Terrace Apartments, the adaptive re-use of a hotel into 100 units of SRO housing. Michael is currently executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit Austin Community Design and Development Center, whose mission it is to improve the quality of life for Austin residents by providing sustainable design, planning and development services to low and moderate income individuals, families and neighborhoods. Michael was inspired to start the center by the connections he made and the conferences he attended as a Rose Fellow.

Michael graduated from MIT in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and received his Master of Architecture in 2001 from University of Texas at Austin. Prior to his Rose Fellowship, Michael worked as an MTS at Advanced Micro Devices, a company that develops computer processors and as a LEED sustainable design consultant on several municipal buildings at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems in Austin.

mgatto-spring-terrace.jpgSpring Terrace SRO Conversion

4.10 acres gross site area
3 stories
67,008 sq ft gross project area
140 affordable rental housing units
8 common residential amenity rooms (3,134 sq ft)
Common courtyard/terrace (13,000 sq ft)

Residential Unit Profile:
Spring Terrace, Austin’s newest supportive housing community, features 140 apartments with supportive services that promote permanent self-sufficiency. Spring Terrace fills a critical housing need for people who are homeless and those living alone on less than $24,900 a year. Each furnished apartment includes a private bath and kitchenette. Residents also share TV lounges, a fitness room, computer lab, laundry facility, and a courtyard. Spring Terrace was formerly an extended-stay hotel, purchased and renovated for a total cost of $5.4 million. Renovations include green building features that improve quality of life, conserve natural resources and reduce waste.

Rose Fellow Michael Gatto served as co-project manager, sustainable design specialist, and intern architect on the Spring Terrace project. Through the Michael’s work as a Rose Fellow all of the construction documents for this project were produced in-house at Foundation Communities.

2,970,777 Acquisition (land)
1,255,311 Hard (construction)
1,340,152 Soft (all other)
5,566,240 TOTAL

Completed 2006

mgatto-vintage-creek-learning-center.jpgVintage Creek Learning Center

4,851 sq ft gross site area New construction 2 stories
4,851 sq ft gross project area Community learning center (4,851 sq ft)
City of Austin Green Building Program Commercial Rating Tool

Residential Unit Profile:
Based on its understanding that it takes more than just affordable housing to make the families they serve successful, Foundation Communities has created community learning centers at all of its apartment communities. One such community is Trails at Vintage Creek, which offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and duplexes in a wooded, residential neighborhood in northeast Austin. The new, on-site learning center features a computer lab, kitchen, offices, staff workroom, and multiple activity rooms, and offers free after-school and summer programs for kids, as well as classes in English, money management, homeownership and GED for adults.

Rose Fellow Michael Gatto worked with Foundation Communities’ staff architect John Rickard to produce the construction documents for this new learning center in-house with the help of a CAD contractor. Michael also followed through with bidding, construction contract negotiation and construction administration.

This building was designed and constructed according to the City of Austin’s Green Building Program commercial rating system and was one of the last projects to receive a sustainability bonus from the city. Since this is Foundation Communities’ largest learning center to date, it has been able to accommodate offices for caseworkers for Katrina evacuees. It is also the venue for the Open Minds Project, a college level humanities class offered free, and with free child care, to parents.

758,144 Hard (construction)
7,789 Soft (all other)
845,933 TOTAL

Completed 2005


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