North Lamar development picks up at Triangle
It’s not just downtown that is building, cranes are also popping up on North Lamar, building luxury residential rentals near North Loop.
Two projects underway now just blocks from each other – the Triangle Tract 5 and Camden Lamar Heights – will add about 600 new residential units between the Triangle development and North Loop.
The Camden North Lamar project, on the northwest corner of North Loop and North Lamar, is a good example of redevelopment of industrial space in an urban core environment. To make room for the four-story mixed use development, about four single-story commercial/industrial buildings were wiped off the earth.
The Camden includes a six-level parking garage, and is expected to be completed in December of this year.
Just a bit south, on the southern end of the Triangle, work is just getting underway on the Triangle Tract 5 mixed use building, which will add another 275 apartment units. The project will rise six stories, and have four layers of underground parking.
The projects are not the only ones happening as part of the latest in a resurgence of the area, which includes a new rehabilitation hospital, which opened in 2012, and a mixed use affordable housing building, aimed at UT students.
South Lamar continues to increase density
Six apartment projects are currently being planned or are under construction, adding nearly 1,700 apartments in the next few years, in addition to the Alamo Drafthouse multiple use project.
Now developers are planning another 350-unit building, south next door to the Saxon Pub. The project is the second phase of the Post South Lamar apartment building which opened in September 2012 and is 61 percent occupied
Check out previous Austin Towers coverage of the South Lamar boom here
- The Dell Medical School is expected to open in summer 2016.
- The main campus has another 6.6 million square feet of development potential, and is including Urban Rail as part of its planning.
- Increased density in the central campus could accommodate about half of that potential growth.
- Phase I would require the replacement of the Penick-Allison Tennis Center.
- The Medical District will be built out in three phases, starting with a $334.5 million project that installs four new buildings: an academic building, medical office building, research building and teaching hospital.
- Total Medical District development: 4.4 million square feet.
- Within five years the UMCB (University Medical Center Brackenridge), Blackstock Family Health Center and Hospital Heliport will be demolished.
- Within six to 15 years the Erwin Center, Denton A. Cooley Pavilion, Collections Deposit Library and Cyberknife facilities will be demolished.
- The medical office building could be a joint venture with a private developer.
- Red River would need to be moved at 15th St. to make room for the hospital, which UT would pay for.
Cousins famously developed the Frost Bank Tower, a marquee and classy addition to downtown, which stretches up 33 stories and started construction in 2001. Last year, Cousins announced their gorgeous glass-lined 30-story office tower at intersection of Third and Colorado, in a spot initially planned for a hotel.
When the story about the new office building was leaked to the Austin American-Statesman, Cousins announced they would break ground sometime in late 2012. To date, nothing has happened, and the site plan is still pending, with a new deadline of August to clear up existing issues.
One reason for the delay is they still don’t officially have their zoning, which is on this week’s Council agenda.
According to some city paperwork, apparently Cousins is proposing to excavate the brand new streets in front of its property, which were reconstructed as part of the GreatStreets redevelopment on Colorado. This requires a traffic mitigation and street reconstruction plan, and also a determination by the Austin Transportation Department director that an economical alternative route is not available to the applicant.
Meanwhile, office demand remains hot, but there are other new towers – namely Block 51 and the Schossler developments on Lamar -- which could be delivered sooner.
Cousins Back On Congress
This past week, the Atlanta-based company announced it plans to sell a little more than $150 million in stock to purchase a 20-story building at 9th and Congress.
A few months ago, the Austin Business Journal reported that the former owners had just poured about $3 million into renovating a rooftop terrace and the building’s largest tenants include Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend PC, Texas Monthly, AT&T Inc. Teachers Retirement System of Texas and Gordon & Rees LLP.
No word yet if the building will continue to be leased and managed by Thomas Properties, which runs the property now.
One has to wonder if some of these legacy tenants are about to term out of the building and if Cousins will be raising the rent. Cousins, traditionally, has been a developer of downtown Austin property, not a portfolio owner.
At the start of April, contractors filed paperwork in order to close the sidewalk at W 7th and Rio Grande to excavate in order to begin construction of 7 Rio.
There was much rejoicing when, in December, news spread that 7 Rio’s site plan had been approved. But when it comes to projects with a history like 7 Rio’s (languishing for almost five years) nothing is ever certain until shovels are in the ground.
When completed the 24-story building will bring about 221 multi-family rental units.
A few blocks south, constructors have filed paperwork to raise a crane at Block 51, across the street north from the new federal courthouse and begin construction there.
In February, Austin Towers posted that groundbreaking was set for March, after the developer hit a snag with getting an approved traffic control plan and an erosion plan for site construction.
The estimate, which was based on an application for utility work, was off, but not by much.
Plans call for 13 stories and 195,000 square feet of office, anchored by IBC Bank. If you recall, initially the developers planned to break ground this last December.
The Mansion at Judges Hill is going to starting to look like the Broken Spoke: flanked by development on both sides.
Dirt has started turning on a 141-unit development, dubbed 21 Pearl, will rise up west of the Mansion at Judges Hill, across from the Park West Residences condo development.
Meanwhile, another 118 units (plus about 3,500 square feet of retail) are planned east at 1901 Rio Grande in a project called Skyline Rio, in place of a budding food trailer park in a parking lot, and a two-story apartment building. (The project actually is on the 1901, 1903, 1905, and 1907 Rio Grande lots.)
The 21 Pearl project represents the entry of Lennar Corp., the third-largest U.S. home builder by sales, into rental housing, in a bid to capitalize on rising rents and growing demand for apartments. Skyline Rio is developed by the Austin-based Rolling Cash Equity Group, which bought the block in 2008 and originally planned a five-story building made up of 100 to 150 residential units and about 12,500 square feet of ground level retail space, along with two levels of underground parking.
The 21 Pearl project bring 141 units and affordable housing
The property is located in the special zoning district covered by the University Neighborhood Overlay (“UNO”) guidelines which allow for both greater buildable height and density than would otherwise be permitted.
It is interesting that the developers are using an affordable housing discount on fees for these projects, since both should have access to credit and capital should be a no brainer.
Never the less, both projects seek to qualify for Austin’s S.M.A.R.T. (Safe, Mixed-income, Accessible, Reasonably-priced, Transit-oriented) housing deal.
The city exempts qualifying units from some development fees. To receive the exemptions, builders agree to build housing that is sold or rented to families with incomes below 80 percent of the area median income (under $39,900 for a family of four). The city also expedites approval of building permits for qualifying projects.
This could have been a tactic for the developments to be move-in ready in time for the 2014-2015 UT school year, versus any altruistic endeavor to maintain affordability in the core.
This in hindsight might have been a flawed strategy. Just down the street, developers are pursuing a fast-track permit at 17th & Guadalupe that they think they can have ready by the August move-in period for students.
Here’s the thing: demand for housing near the core is such that either of these developers could easily fill up their units with any amount of the young, well-off workforce migrating into Austin. It begs the question really, if housing near UT should even be considered “student housing” anymore, such as this project just north of the Mansion at Judges Hill was labeled. Back in the day, you could count on an apartment near UT to be filled with kiddos. But now, the area is catering to a demographic of young people craving urban living, sans the rising cost of being “downtown”.
The vacant lot across the street from the Mexican American Cultural Center at 70 Rainey filed paperwork to build a mixed-use sky scraper consisting of a restaurant, residential units, and parking.
Down the street, the North Shore Lofts are moving forward with a multi-family building at the corner of the north shore and I-35, that will bring 44 class A multifamily units to the site.
The 70 Rainey development, which encompasses the lots between 66-72 Rainey Street, had been interested in incorporating 64 Rainey Street into their plan, but the MACC successfully lobbied City Council last fall to get the land instead.
The 70 Rainey development, which would share an alley with the Shore Condos, includes Riverside Resources and is being financed through Ft. Worth-based Kelly Capital Partners, had said it planned a 31-story, 385,464 square-foot mixed use, multifamily project there if it could include the 64 Rainey lot. (To add perspective, the Shore condo tower next door is 22 stories.)
Details should emerge soon as to whether their project scope will be reduced, but it is evident that the team is moving forward, and ceding the 64 Rainey lot to the MACC for now.
Down the street, the North Shore Lofts are moving forward and will offer incredible views of Lady Bird Lake. If built, these would replace the Towers of Town Lake as the southernmost residential project in the Rainey district.
The Downtown Austin Blog had posted a short item on the North Shore Lofts in February, noting that the site was rezoned from downtown mixed-use (DMU) to central business district (CBD) in 2005, and at the time was owned by Tom Calhoon, of Calhoon Properties.
It looks like it has changed hands and now belongs to a consortium called Town Lake LLC, which lists JCI Residential President Kurt Goll as the point of contact.
JCI Residential looks like a relatively young company but has experience principals, and is developing over at the Plaza Saltillo area on East Fifth. (Their website also lists a mystery project, called Seville, which will bring 200 units “within blocks of downtown” plus 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail and live/work space.
The North Shore Lofts will certainly have to contend with a lot of ambient highway noise, and the JCI team seems to have a lot of experience with architectural design, so it will be interesting to see how this project incorporates sweeping views, but mitigates sound pollution for tenants. They are also building a $24 million, 300-unit multifamily complex in Buda near that Cabela’s, which presumably would suffer from the highway noise pollution, so they must have something figured out.
Details are still sketchy, but it looks like someone, possibly Novare-Andrews-Urban is planning to develop a hotel at the intersection of Eighth and Neches Street, across from Stubbs.
The project will redevelop a ratty-looking half-story parking garage and vacant lot. The owner, oddly enough, is the United States Postal Service, and USPS reps from Washington D.C. have signed off on zoning change paperwork. But with mounting financial troubles and shifting demand for postal services, the USPS surely is in the midst off-loading this land.
There’s already about a dozen hotels underway or planned downtown, to the tune of about 3,800 rooms. However, this one certainly positions itself to be a primary destination once the Waller Creek project is completed.
We’re not sure who is behind this hotel, but an application from Austin Journeyman Construction was just filed to rezone from Multi-Family 4 to Downtown Mixed Use, which is capped at about 12 stories.
Last month, the same folks filed a Capitol View Corridor determination request, in which they said they planned to go for Central Business District zoning but it seems the math didn’t support the need to go to CBD. (No word yet what the height is capped at).
The Post Office took over the land from Novare Group - the developer of 360 Condos -- in a special warranty deed in 2012. The two groups have been bed fellows for years as they tried to figure out what to do with Block 51, and in 2012 finally struck a deal.
It is only a matter of time before this will start rolling though city commissions and the smoke clears. A quick note: this project is just outside the limits of the Waller Creek TIF, in case you were wondering.
Does this herald the start of the Red River redevelopment?
Ground flood retail coming to Sixth and Lamar, topped by four layers of parking
Even for people who have a strong interest in urban Austin development, the increasing activity is hard to keep track of, especially when overshadowed (literally) by bigger projects.
A lot of attention is being paid to the construction boom on South Lamar, but there is a fair amount underway on North Lamar near downtown too.
This area is branded as the "Market District" and runs from West Elm on the south, past the Nokonah, and north to the Tavern. But, the term has caught on with few people.
When you take a hard look, it’s exciting for folks who live within biking or walking distance, but pretty quickly you have to start wondering: Is Lamar Boulevard going to become a parking lot?
Ground work is starting now on the demolition of a vacant building at Sixth and Lamar, which will be replaced with 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space topped by four levels of parking.
Just a bit south, a 25,000-square-foot building is being added at Fourth St., which will have two stories of offices over street-level retail space.
Austin-based Schlosser Development Corp. is behind both projects, which are easy to lose sight of in the face of Schlosser’s planned 20-story skyscraper behind Whole Foods, which will also include an adjacent five-story building. Even though that skyscraper was announced some time ago and a site plan filed about a year ago that is still in review (SP-2012-0036C), there is little being done in public view, although Schlosser’s people told the Austin American-Statesman in April that construction could start next year.
What’s remarkable, besides the flurry of construction and continued health of Austin’s development, is the amount of cars these are all going to add onto the N. Lamar area. On any given day, weekends included, anyone who has driven to Whole Foods has cursed regret by trying to cross the Lamar bridge.
Photo credit: Nathan Bernier, KUT News
We crunched the numbers over at Austin Towers, and even though we’re no transportation wonks, by our math based on rules of thumb and open records, the construction listed above equals some 8,000 more people trying to get in and out of the Whole Foods area daily. Bet that most of them will be by car.
Keep in mind – as pointed out by KUT’s Wells Dunbar – Lamar Blvd is already one of the most congested roads in Texas.
This speaks to a larger issue at play along all of Lamar: for these offices and shopping centers to be attractive, people have to be able to access them. The turning point at which Whole Food employees start to rebel because they can’t get to the office, and shoppers start to rebel because they can’t graze at the salad bar at Whole Foods means an eventual shift back to the suburbs.
When the proposed Austin Fairmont mega hotel project swooped in to the news a couple years ago, snatching the spotlight from the JW Marriot mega hotel, there was a healthy dose of skepticism about it would get off the ground.
A lack of visible activity on the site has been quietly stoking perceptions that the Fairmont will end up anything more than pretty drawings. The site filed a site plan in October 2012, which is still in review, but site plans are never guarantees of construction.
There had also been some chatter that a proposed sky bridge over Waller Creek, connecting the hotel to the convention center, had caused a project-stalling rift between the developer and the Waller Creek Conservancy.
But fret not!
Apparently, Doug Manchester, president of Manchester Texas Financial Group, which is developing the project, told the February monthly meeting of the Urban Land Institute’s Austin chapter, the project will break ground this October, with a 2016 opening date.
(The ABJ reported that Manchester wants to also champion a “major push” to develop the Austin Convention Center into a more competitive convention space to take on the like of San Diego, but that's another story for another day.)
That the president of Manchester talking a big-picture, long-term view and ensuring a room full of people the project will break ground this year is about as much proof as you need to know this is a real project.
With that in mind, it is will remarkable how this project changes the entire scope and scale of Downtown Austin. Besides altering the skyline (the Fairmont will rival the Austonian’s height), this project absolutely transforms one of the major eastern gateways into downtown.
For more Fairmont hotel renderings, follow this link to download a PDF presentation from 2012.
Coupled with the SuttonTowers project on the north edge of the Rainey Street District, Austin will literally be unrecognizable in that area compared to what it had been in the past. Before those nostalgic feelings take root, consider: This is all part of a plan, which the community has gotten behind and a lot of careful thinking.
The Rainey Street District is supposed to become a dense cluster of skyscrapers. The Waller Creek district is supposed to become a world-class tourist destination, with a landmark hotel.
This is the third public proposal for the site by the developer, which is a partnership between Post Investment Group of Los Angeles and Ascension Development of Dallas (pdf).
The new plan incorporates about 10,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, designed to take advantage of the curbside views of the lake, the Austin Business Journal reported earlier this month, including information that some space would be dedicated to the upcoming bicycle-sharing program, and three levels of hidden underground parking.
The Business Journal, which reported on the new plan Feb. 1, states that the developer wants to make it a condo project, instead of apartments. A Feb. 22 story in the Statesman refers to them only as apartments.
The plans for this site have changed quite a bit in the past 24 months, and now look to be a fallback from an initial plan that lacked financing. Initially, the developer planned a $40 million six-story hotel, with 12 condominiums on the hotel's top floors, with units priced in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, but said if it couldn't secure financing, it would go for apartments.
It is easier for builders to secure lending for rental units, versus condominium or hotel projects. However, many of the apartment complexes being built in and around the core of Austin are designed in such a way that at a later date, they can be converted into for-sale units.
Will Cureton, who was with CLB Partners when it was (formerly) developing the 7Rio project downtown and knows the Austin market, is the founder of Ascension, which makes up half of this developer team, so it’s safe to say there’s been a lot of thought put into this current, third, design/use.
We think the project would succeed as condos, a hotel, or apartments, all of which are experiencing unprecedented demand in Austin and will continue to.
This new plan is contingent on an up-zoning that will provide greater height scheduled for the Planning Commission March 12 and the City Council on March 28.
With some tongue-in-cheek fun, it’s worth pointing out that both recent newspaper stories are insinuating that the developer is holding a number of trees hostage in order to get the up-zoning approved.
The Statesman says that in “exchange” for zoning, the developer will be “saving some mature trees on site.” Meanwhile, the ABJ says: “The revised design also would preserve several stately trees along Riverside Drive, which would be removed if the rezoning is rejected.”
(We’re not even going to ask if those are Heritage Trees.)
Rendering of Lakeshore Apartments courtesy of Big Red Dog
As the Lakeshore Pearl apartment construction wraps up on the south shore line next to Riverside Drive, Cypress Development is prepping the next phase of the Lakeshore PUD development.
The Lakeshore PUD is next door to, but distinctly separate from the SouthShore development, in case you’re confused.
The next phase of Lakeshore will be a 285,000-square-foot, 282-unit apartment complex, which includes five levels of parking the building will wrap. The site does have one heritage tree, which will be incorporated in the building design.
The Lakeshore development has been a slow burn, being announced just before the recession, stalling like other projects and changing hands with a number of civil engineering firms, before getting off the ground with Big Red Dog.
Some time ago, Lakeshore PUD development kicked off with construction began on the Lakeshore Pearl, a $20-$30 million project planned for 230 units along Elmont Drive off East Riverside, which is opening now with rents ranging from $800 to $2,300. We’ll expect a comparable rental cost for this development.
If anything, this development shows that Cypress is certainly keeping the pedal down on Austin multifamily development. In addition to the Lakeshore Pearl, there’s:
- The University Park Apartments at the Concordia University site, next to St. David’s and I-35 downtown. Its 302 units, average rent of $1,529 a month, with a projected summer 2013 opening.
- The Corazon TOD development on E. Fifth, next to the train station, which is 262 units with average rents of $1,500 a month. The project would include 13,300 square feet of retail-restaurant space.
- The Lamar and Manchaca Apartments, which is 318 units, average rent of $1,350 a month, along with 11,700 square feet of retail. Cypress hopes to break ground in March.
Not to mention in 2011, City Council approved (pdf) a 707,414-square-foot mixed-use Cypress development at the 16.24-acre site of the vacant Cinemark Movie Theater adjacent to Barton Creek Square Mall.
It is a relief that Cypress is moving ahead with the Riverside development, even as City Council delays adopting the East Riverside Corridor Zoning Plan, apparently because the fast-food lobby is making a stink about drive-thru’s being barred in the plan. Hopefully, City Council makes good on plans to adopt the Riverside Plan this March 7 and put that silliness behind it.
However, its plans for the real estate are less than crystal clear. The Austin American-Statesman, at least, is terming it a “campus”.
As we know, Cirrus Logic planted a flag downtown when it built a new headquarters building at Sixth and West Avenue in 2011.
Soon after, news broke that the company had purchased a quarter block caddy corner to the headquarters, on the northeast corner of the Seventh Street and West Ave intersection, which it planned to use as prototyping and manufacturing space. (However, this plan is now on ice, but more on that later.)
That bring us to modern day, with the Austin American-Statesman reporting the company purchased the north portion of the 600 Rio Grande block, which used to house a Yoga Vida studio and former Aquarelle restaurant (at 606 Rio Grande).
Cirrus said in a statement that “no decision has been made regarding the ultimate use of the property” and that “owning this property provides us with an option for future growth in the area.”
Curiously, the American-Statesman story mentions nothing about the manufacturing facility a block over.
Is that part of the deal dead? Seems so, for now.
Back in January, the Austin Business Journal reported the manufacturing facility plan was on ice because “the small retail center isn’t zoned for Cirrus’ needs, and it has spent the past year-and-a-half muddling through the permitting process.”
The plans called for a 79,023-square-foot building, but it is now on hold until “Cirrus executives can nail down an exact use,” the ABJ says.
There also appears to be some simmering tension with the Original Austin Neighborhood Association (OANA) and city regarding the scope of Cirrus’ ambitions.
At last night’s Downtown Commission meeting, the company and attorney Richard Suttle requested support for new zoning to allow it to transform its surface parking lot – adjacent to the north of the headquarters building – into an 8-story structure that would include a parking garage with office space on the top and bottom floors.
After a drawn out discussion, including input from the neighborhood, the Downtown Commission did not support Cirrus’ upzoning request (from GO to DMU-90), but did not vote to oppose it either. The commission wanted more information before endorsing what amounts to a large structured parking garage on Shoal Creek.
Whatever the case, Cirrus seems to be setting itself up as a long-term downtown stakeholder and is quite healthy at present, as Forbes magazine put the company in No. 8 for best performing small public companies. Net-net, downtown Austin has gained a lot from Cirrus’ presence, and it’s refreshing to see an Austin tech firm investing so heavily in the urban core. They are setting an example for other Austin firms figuring out how to build a company around Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennial employees who desire to work and live with a better connection to the city.
In June 2012, Endeavor gave us the first look at the IBC Bank building planned on Block 51 across the street north from the new federal courthouse, which is slated for 13 stories and 195,000 square feet of office (and a little restaurant) space.
When they did, the Statesman reported developers planned to break ground possibly by Christmas last year, which has come and went without fanfare at the site and as development has rolled steadily along in other sites around downtown.
While it’s probably safe to say the project is certifiably delayed, it is like a smoking volcano and certainly not dormant. Last month, the smoke started rising when the developer filed an application to occupy the right-of-way and remove existing power poles along 500 block of San Antonio Street and the alley; and bury telecommunication lines. That application indicates we should see some activity starting in March, and construction lasting through June 2014. (This crane placement diagram was also submitted)
Other clues hint that up to last month the developer and the city were still working on an approved traffic control plan and an erosion plan for site construction. However, just a week ago, a site plan correction presumably resolving these issues with the City was approved.
In one of the documents filed with the City, an engineer writes simply: “The saga continues.”
We’re glad to see this saga is having a happy ending.
Austin Towers, for one, couldn't be more excited for this project to get off the ground, and at the least for this dangerous building on the corner to be demolished.
This rendering of the new of the building from the southeast, compared to what is there now, is simply gorgeous and Endeavor gets a hat tip for exceeding what it means to provide realistic renderings of a project that gets the community excited. For anyone who pines for the “old days” before downtown’s redevelopment, we submit this as Exhibit A for why development makes downtown Austin a better place.
Point of view from the Plaza Lofts
It’s also great to see a project making the maximum use of the height limit available to it in the Capitol View Corridor, which translates into maximum property tax revenue to subsidize the suburbs pay into the general fund for parks and police. Look at these elevation drawings and not how the building literally butts up to the height cap.
The Austin Business Journal provides a first look at renderings for the $68 million, 300-unit StreetLights at Barton Springs apartment building taking some of the space and under construction now. Adjacent to the site, AustinTowers has learned the Hyatt Town Lake is removing a substantial amount of surface parking, and instead building a seven-story parking garage and amenities behind the Sherry Matthews building.
At 19 stories, the apartment project will eclipse the Hyatt hotel by about 25 feet. (For reference sake, the Chamber building is seven stories).
This residential project is next iteration of the Aquaterra condominium project, which fell victim to the lending withdraw of the 2008 recession, re-envisioned as apartments. Dallas-based StreetLights Residential is developing the Barton Springs project and the skeleton should start rising in a few months, with completion in late summer next year.
The new project is of similar scope to the former Aquaterra vision, both at about 200 Feet, and like 7 Rio – another condo project that died and was reborn as apartments – local architect Brett Rhode is the designer of both buildings. Aquaterra’s first seven floors were parking garage, and its unknown if that carried through in the current design.
Next door at the Hyatt, the hotel owners are building a parking garage, that will also house a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and meeting space. Parking has always been a complete zoo there, and this will hopefully make the area much more inviting for people accessing the boat rentals on the shore, or the hotel proper.
Adding additional amenities to the Hyatt could have something to do with the fact that they were one of two authorized helicopter pads for ferrying people from the Circuit of Americas to downtown, but it could just be a play for more event attendance, given the slew of Austin events these days.
This new development will surely be a game changer for the area, in terms of drawing more foot traffic and retail investment into that are, especially with the RunTex site being redeveloped on the other side of the lot, next to First Street.
It is easy to see, with this happening, a rapid transformation of the entire south shore of the river. Glory is the day that Hooters lot becomes something of community value. (Finger's crossed!!!)
One small point of concern: Anyone who has driven through the labyrinth of cross streets – Riverside, Barton Springs, South First and South Congress – during rush hour surely has felt a sincere frustration at the amount of traffic and high-concentration of intersection lights.
I hope that our city leaders have a plan to accommodate the additional amount of bike, pedestrian and car traffic that will be flowing into this very tiny area.
As it relates to that, though, this new apartment building could have a healthy portion of tenants who work downtown, and therefore might opt to own a bike, but no car, especially when Car2Go stocks a depot a few feet away at the City of Austin administrative tower.
The internet went abuzz when Apple ground broke on the first building about a month ago, and people are still scratching their heads about what the campus will look like, but no longer.
Austin Towers has obtained an image on what to expect, and no, it is not the Cupertino Spaceship twin.
Apple plans seven office buildings totaling 1 million square feet. Two of the buildings, as noted by AppleInsider, are under construction.
Hers some more details Austin Towers has learned:
Apple has redesigned the original site plan (pdf) from before it got involved in the development to reflect a campus approach, which replaces oodles of surface parking spaces with three garages capable of holding 5,500 cars. Austin Towers has also learned that Apple is putting the pedal down on construction and using a bold maneuver, called a “Fast Track” permit, in order to complete one of those parking garages by the time the first office building is done. A Fast Track application allows for initial work to begin on a development while the remainder of the plan is still under review, and is at Apple’s own risk.
Meanwhile, traditional driveways on the original plan are being replaced in the Apple plan with pedestrian courts and corridors to the greatest extent possible. In all, the Apple plan reduced the original proposal from 80 percent impervious cover (meaning 80 percent of the ground was going to be covered by concrete or asphalt) to about 55 percent.
We're glad to learn that Apple's plan will retain all the large trees (aka. Heritage Trees), including some that had previously been approved to be removed.
AppleInsider notes that the entire project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.
This project exemplifies a future “reverse commute” from urban living in Downtown Austin to suburban offices. Assuming that a good portion of these future Apple employees are millennials, the school of thought – which seems very plausible – is that as TV shows like Seinfeld, Friends and Sex in the City has created the next Shangri-La to be walkable urban places, as opposed to white picket fences.
That means that even though Apple is building in the suburbs, the bulk of new jobs created are expected to appeal to a demographic that will search for homes closer to the walkable, recreation-centric neighborhoods near downtown Austin.
Earlier this month, site plans were submitted showing that a 65-unit condo development is being planned on the derelict site on the south side of busy Barton Springs adjacent to the railroad, McDonalds, and Peter Pan mini golf.
It’s inconclusive, but it appears that the original developer still owns the land and is involved, but that Dallas-based Carleton Development is breathing life back into the project. The project’s original website, 1155BartonSprings.com, never expired, but the site has no information at present and says it is being updated.
The 1155 Barton Springs project has been in the works under various names, including The Milan, since at least 2005. In April 2007, PPT Development announced plans to break ground by that year’s end, with tenants moving in by mid-2009.
Those 2007 plans were grander, it appears, than the current incarnation, and proposed just 24 residential units, ranging from 1,600 to 6,200 square feet, that would list for $1 million to $6 million each.
Original model for 2007 proposal:
Everything screeched to a halt though, after the developer got cross with the city over zoning after complaints from the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association. A deal between the city and developer was later reached, which capped on how tall the building could be. Bad news kept coming the project when, in 2010, it entered bankruptcy.
It is unclear right now whether the architecture of this project is going to change significantly from what initially was shown, but it is probably a safe bet so.
Overland Partners, the original architect out of San Antonio isn’t to be found on the current site plan paperwork. (Although, the project is still listed “on the boards” on the architect’s website.)
Interestingly, Stansberry Engineering Co. remains the civil engineer for the former and current proposals. Stansberry is in the obvious good graces with the city, as the lead engineering firm on the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan.
Austin-based Co’Design has been retained as the landscape architect, where as the original landscape designer was reported to be Peter Walker & Partners of Berkeley, Calif.
That this project is being rejuvenated is something to be celebrated. The land occupies the long-vacant Treehouse restaurant and nightclub, which looks scary and hideous. The land is already developed, and not contributing any way to the community. A revamped project proposal gives it its first chance in a long time to do just that.
Increasing the number of units – which assumes smaller, more affordable units – compared to multi-million-dollar ones is a smart market bet. Market demand means urban dwellers will gladly pay a healthy six-figure sum to have access to the trails and Barton Springs Pool – not to mention things like Whole Foods and soon Trader Joe’s, now easily accessible via the Pfluger bike & pedestrian bridge, which was absent in 2007.
Proposed Austin Hotel on Congress Ave.
Austin City Council this week is expected to hold a public hearing on the planned boutique hotel, located at 800-804 Congress Ave, which “pit some of the city’s biggest landowners against each other,” as the Austin Business Journal put it.
The applicant, developer David Kahn, is proposing a mixed-use mid-rise hotel that will include office space, restaurants, meeting space and live music. The site is the current home of the Hickory Street restaurant and a three-story historic building. The developer intends to keep the historic facade and construct a new 30-story building behind it.
The developer wants to reduce what is called a “step back.” On Congress Ave, buildings must create a “step back” 60 feet at about nine stories. Like so:
However, the developer wants to build a building like this:
Austin Hotel CURE request
A host of powerful people are opposing allowing this to happen.
The Austin Chronicle published an in-depth story about it just this month, where Kahn, said "I really think that it's all about our office building. If we were not building an office building, One American Center [Sixth & Congress] would not be spending money to protest this."
Height comparison of proposed hotel vs One American Center & the Austonian (source: SkyscraperPage.com)
Yellow box shows how Austin Hotel’s proposal would relate to Congress Ave. The site is not in a state-protected Capitol View Corridor.
Council should approve the project design. Here’s why:
1) According to city staff, the developer’s request is in line with the Downtown Austin Plan, which city council adopted unanimously, after years of public input and refining, in 2011. The Downtown Austin Plan, in fact, states that 60 feet is greater than necessary to protect the character and view of the Capitol corridor on Congress Avenue. If the downtown community want to spend years developing plans, then when they are adopted – unanimously by city council – the community should abide by them.
2) For council to enforce a 60-foot step back flies in the face on consistent precedent. Whether or not you want them to in this case, the facts are that four properties have requested a reduction of 60 feet to 40 feet on Congress Avenue and they have all been granted by city council. Adding 10 additional feet, the height of a basketball goal, is not realistically going to impair the view or experience for anyone living in, working in, or admiring downtown.
3) This section of Congress Avenue is a veritable ghost town on weekends, bogged down by blighted buildings at 9th Street and void of many pedestrian-friendly amenities for locals or the countless annual tourists visiting the Capitol. Adding a vibrant, high-quality and diverse development will boost not just the block, not just the area, not just Congress Avenue, but all of Downtown Austin.
4) All downtown office tenants and residents risk having a once-immaculate view blocked by new developments. It’s a bummer, but it is the price we all pay for living in the fastest growing city in the country, going on three years straight. The holistic downtown community would rather see additional development, bringing tourists, businesses, and residents into downtown, reducing sprawl, protecting the aquifer, and generating tax revenue. People choose to live in downtown and to relocate their office from the ‘burbs there because it is alive. To stifle that life in this case is short-sighted, because it reduces the quality of downtown Austin for future generations.
With all of the apartment construction happening in Austin’s urban core, Eleven hasn’t garnered the same media attention as the downtown high-rise construction. Eleven will be a 3-story and 4-story buildings offering studio, loft, 1 and 2 bedroom units, plus parking. The community will occupy about three acres at the intersection of I-35 and East 11th Street, at the proper address of 811 E. 11 St.
The average unit size will be 793 square feet and the project is participating in the Austin energy green building Program. Phoenix-based Alliance Residential Co. will be the operating company.
According to the Spartan website, pre-leasing begins this year. For such a visible project, the development has a complexing and somewhat hidden cyber presence. I suppose the development really markets itself by virtue of its location, but here’s the backstory as to perhaps why its not that well-known.
Site plans for a four-story, 267,000-square-foot multi-family project – known as FMF Robertson Hill (SP-2011-0182C) — were submitted to the city back in 2011 for the same location. The applicant and site owner was BB&T, one of the largest financial services holding companies in the U.S.
(You’re thinking: “Robertson Hill? That’s the rental building next door, right?” Well, yes, once upon a time. But now AMLI has it, and has dubbed it AMLI Eastside. )
So, the site plan is approved in December 2011, then nothing happens until … drum roll … Magic Johnson saves the day!
In May 2012, Magic Johnson’s Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds – which also helped financed the W Austin – puts out a press release that it is teaming with Austin’s Forestar Group on the project and kicking off construction in 30 days. The new team also added another building to house a leasing office, fitness center, business center, community club room.
Which leads to a bonus if you ever enjoyed a glass of wine nearby at Uncorked and thought to yourself, “This is nice, but I’d really like to enjoy this view in a swimsuit."
Magic Johnson did too (not really) and Eleven includes a rooftop deck that will include a resort-style swimming pool, outdoor living area, grilling area and courtyard with bocce ball, chess and a yoga area.
The proposal to redevelop the complex began being crafted by the Texas Facilities Commission staff under the direction of then-new Executive Director Terry Keel in 2009.
Keel himself is a Republican, and was member from House District 47 (Austin) from 1997 until 2007.
The kill switch on Capitol Complex redevelopment was publicly thrown by Sen. John Whitmire, Democrat-Houston, who said: “We ought to have totally off-limits the Capitol complex” and that he “cannot imagine, as I’ve heard, they want to allow the private sector to build condos on Capitol grounds. It’s just … our children, grandchildren, are going to think somebody really lost their mind.”
(Note: Lest there be any confusion, at no time were condos proposed on the Capitol Grounds, read the 2011 report here and the 2012 report here.)
Sadly, KUT is reporting that Whitmore wants to “give lawmakers time to permanently stop projects in the pipeline.”
This includes the proposed Planetarium. Sigh.
When the news broke, Whitmore was the mouthpiece, but since several other lawmakers have talked to the press in support of his comments.
So admittedly, it is not just Whitmore who took issue here. As far back as November, Keel’s plan was catching flak from the State Sunset Commission.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: Which two politically-opposed state lawmakers each chaired criminal justice committees in opposite sides of the statehouse over part of the last decade?
Keel and Whitmore.
As an elected Republican, Keel chaired the criminal jurisprudence committee in the House, while Democrat Sen. Whitmore chaired the Senate’s criminal justice committee. If the vitriol being passed between parties these days is any guide, Keel and Sen. Whitmore are probably not golfing buddies.
It would certainly be a great injustice to the State of Texas, the countless visitors to the State Capitol, and residents of Central Texas if personal grievances from the past are, in part, the cause for Whitmore’s public attack on Keel’s plans for higher and better use (economically and civically) of the myriad blocks of parking surrounding the State Capitol.
According to the Statesman: “The spending is guided by a master plan looking out to 2035 that calls for keeping some county offices downtown and expanding the space for them as services increase to meet population growth.”
Above: Travis County owned block
Two months ago, the county closed on its most recent purchase of $7.25 million for a quarter-acre parking lot on the NW corner of 11th and San Antonio streets. The deal, which appears to have been pitched to the county by local firm D2000 as a turn-key lease with an option to buy, before the County decided to outright buy the land, will house a new 127,000 sq. ft. office building for the Travis County district attorney and county attorney prosecutors.
The county also issued bonds in 2010 to buy a building at 700 Lavaca St., which has private business tenants and will be converted into an admin headquarters.
The most well-known county project, of course, is a $200-$300 million courthouse on the land south of Republic Square Park purchased from the Austin Museum of Art at the end of 2010 for $21.75 million. Mind you, this isn't a case of the government salvaging an eyesore, like the Feds did with the Intel Shell next door. In fact, the county had to out-bid private developers for the land and eliminated a very attractive piece of land unencumbered from the capitol view corridor from private development, even though one of the ideas floated by the county is a public-private deal that includes a 72-story skyscraper.
It should be said that according to the last line in the Statesman article, the voters would like a say in whether the project moves forward. I feel less than confident the public would approve the plan, which would possibly mean the lot will come back to the seller’s block.
News about $1 billion in development downtown sounds like a good thing, but I think we should clarify that $1 billion in bond, or tax, funded construction that will result in a negligible long-term neighborhood benefits is different than $1 billion in private development with streetscape promenades, retail, sidewalk cafés and restaurants. (Read: Vibrant, fun places that also are sales tax generators.)
Government development on prime downtown land, mainly near Republic Park, also removes it from the property tax generators. (Civics lesson: Private development downtown significantly boosts property and sales tax revenue, which subsidizes city services for the ‘burbs.)
Will any of this change as the make-up of the commissioner’s court changes? Judge Sam Biscoe has certainly been a major pusher of the projects and he is leaving the bench to be replaced by either Gonzalo Barrientos, Sarah Eckhardt, or Andy Brown.
At least one county commissioner – returning Gerald Daugherty who represents the west and Oak Hill – thinks the new development would be better suited on the county’s North Campus along Airport Boulevard.
Take note here, everyone. It’s not often (or really ever) that Commissioner Daugherty – one of those who helped slay the 2000 light rail election by a hair – has many fans among those who live in downtown, but this might be one of them.
As a parting thought, consider that the Texas Attorney General, of all people, has been a thorn in the county’s side when it comes to its downtown dealings, too. According to the ABJ “county officials were ‘surprised by the amount of push back’ from Abbott when the county issued $65 million in bonds in 2010 to buy the 700 Lavaca Street building.”