Take A Virtual Ride on I-35 “Cut & Cap” Plan

Take A Virtual Ride on I-35 “Cut & Cap” Plan

Downtown_Austin_Improvement_Concepts-6_-_YouTube

I’ve been a proponent of the “cut & cap” plan for burying I-35, and reconnecting Austin, ever since Sinclair Black began sharing the concept a couple (few?) years back.

To see how well the “cut & cap” design works, we need look no further than Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, which sits atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Below are six videos produced by TxDOT that shows two variations for the future of I-35:

1) “Modified Existing Concept”
2) “Depressed Concept with Caps”

The “Depressed Concept with Caps” option – the cut & cap option – would bring Austin’s urban planning into the 21st century. The “Modified Existing Concept” is what happens when TxDOT engineers and staff have the authority to value-engineer Austin’s livability.

Hat tip to @happywaffle for finding these.

Downtown Austin Improvement Concepts-6 “Depressed Concept with Caps” [CUT & CAP]

[Read more…]

Austin’s First Residential Tower Planned Without Parking… and a grab bag of news from Congress Avenue

Austin’s First Residential Tower Planned Without Parking… and a grab bag of news from Congress Avenue

The Avenue - Image source Austin American Statesman

For years Congress Avenue north of about 7th Street was a dead zone after business hours, a statement punctuated by the Chipotle occupying prime real estate at the corner – shuttered promptly at 8 p.m. and closed on weekends.

That is all set to change with the Statesman reporting yesterday on a 30-story apartment tower — void of the normally ubiquitous parking garage pedestal — planned at the southeast corner of 8th & Congress.

Coined “The Avenue” the project will reportedly break ground in May 2017, taking two years to complete, and costing about $60 million. This is a landmark project taking advantage of the City casting aside minimum parking requirements downtown.  The Avenue will replace the decade old plan envisioned by Sinclair Black for 721 Congress Avenue.

The capital markets which fund large residential projects have a historic refrain that goes: “it’s gotta have parking, or you get no money!

Still, I remain cautiously optimistic this one could happen.

The Avenue - Image source Austin American Statesman

The Avenue – Austin’s first residential tower planned without parking – Image source Austin American Statesman

Also on Congress Avenue

New life is sprouting up elsewhere, but at the cost of a long time downtown stalwart: the Austin Shoe Hospital. The bright side is the building at 720 Congress was bought by the guys who created East 6th Cocktail Bar “Whislers” and will be a quality establishment drawing a good crowd. Whislers 2 — for lack of a better name — is located directly next to the Townsend, an equally classy cocktail lounge that opened in 2015 that can also accommodate shows housing 100-plus people.

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One block north, at 800 Congresss, the partnership between ParksideProjects and Shawn Cirkiel has wrapped up its redevelopment of the the home of longtime Austin restaurant Hickory Street Bar & Grill.  However, the site seems relatively dead still, but that may change as it matures after only being open a couple months. (Casual observers of downtown will note mixed opinions about this site, after a faction of downtown heavy-hitters mustered to block a hotel planned there).

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By the looks of it the sidewalk cafe at 804 Congress, it should be operational soon.  A thinly credible rumor — attributed to an anonymous, but well-groomed, youth vaping on the sidewalk there — places another Caffe Medici, or another coffee shop starting with “M”, at the location.  #GrainOfSalt

Elsewhere on Congress

At 9th and Congress, construction has wrapped at the Texas Public Policy Foundation headquarters.  More than just an office building, the new space houses the state-of-the-art Joe B. Hogsett Theater and the Red McCombs Event Center which keep the corner lively later into the early evening.

Texas Public Policy Foundation

Texas Public Policy Foundation

Sadly, some things on Congress never change, including the terrible eyesore of boarded up facades between 9th and 10th. However, with life creeping north on Congress, I feel it is only a matter of time before whatever disagreements are preventing progress are overcome by the value of development there.

Derelict buildings on Congress Ave

Derelict buildings on Congress Ave

-Jude

p.s. Yesterday I toured the Fairground Austin’s construction site at Congress Avenue & Cesar Chavez. I am now certain it will be one of the most impactful downtown projects, benefitting the most people: residents, workers, visitors alike.

East Side Roundup

East Side Roundup

7th Street's "Eastline" condos by PSW

KRDB’s “SOL 2.0” condos coming soon

A innovative retail and condo mixed used development focused on sustainability is in the works on across the street from the State Cemetery, east of I-35, at the intersection of MLK Jr. Blvd and Leona St.

KRDB - SOL on MLK

KRDB – SOL on MLK

This will be KRDB’s next iteration of its first Solutions Oriented LivingSOL — sustainable development built in 2012 three miles east from downtown. That 40-unit, $10 million project has gathered a lot of good praise, including from the New York Times.

KRDB - "SOL 2.0" on MLK

KRDB – SOL on MLK

The next iteration — simply called the “MLK Mixed Use Project” — will be a 25,000 square foot project on a half acre plot. The unit specs and prices have not been released yet, but we’re expecting news to be forthcoming now that the project is getting underway.

The land in question is currently occupied by a single-story home, which by the looks of it has been decline, and this project looks like a quality build. As East Austin develops, its important for innovative projects like this to continue to take root, and I’m excited to see the outcome.

Two townhouse condo developments spouting on E. 12th and E. 7th

Almost 70 condominium units are in the pipeline at two separate developments taking root at E. 12th and Walnut, and E. 7th and Chicon.

Lofts at 12th

Lofts at 12th – 27 condos by NAPA Ventures

The Lofts at 12th Street consist of a 27-unit luxury condos in a five story building brought to bear by NAPA Ventures, a prototypical Texas real estate investment company. No details have been announced on the size or specs yet.

7th Street's "Eastline" condos by PSW

7th Street’s “Eastline” condos by PSW

A short jog south, from Lofts, the Eastline — developed by PSW Real Estate — will consist of 48 townhome style residences on an elevated courtyard above garage parking and 5,000 sq. ft. of first floor retail space. The project features 1-2 bed units, and in the neighborhood of 1,000+-square-feet. Prices points have not been released yet.

New office and retail near I-35 with eye on design

A 128,0000-square-foot commercial/office building with underground parking is moving forward to fill a surface lot, just east of I-35 at 901 E. Sixth Street.

The project, being constructed by Austin Fairchild Management Company, will go in just opposite the 5-story residential building at 900 E. Sixth Street. At 5-stories itself, the commercial building will create quite a gateway heading from downtown to East Sixth.

No renderings have been released, but the designers are local firms Thoughtbarn and Delineate Studio, who also designed the Fair Market project developed by Austin Fairchild. Delineate Studios are also the creative minds behind Fourth&, a micro-loft condo development at Fourth & Chicon.

Here is a list of all East Austin condos currently for sale.

-Jude

 

Waller Park Place site prep – last phase of demolition work

Waller Park Place site prep – last phase of demolition work

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Yesterday we observed what appears to be the last component of demolition to prepare the site of Waller Park Place. The three tower plan would become the largest private development ever downtown Austin.

92 Red River, shown mid-demolition in the video below, is the last of the structures from Cesar Chavez to Davis Street have been razed to make room for construction to begin.

UPDATED: April 6th – the site is 100% cleared!  Four Seasons Residences in the background.

Waller Park Place - site prep is completed

Waller Park Place – site prep is completed

Waller Park Place renderings

Waller Park Place renderings

Downtown Austin's Waller Park Place site plan

Downtown Austin’s Waller Park Place site plan

Sneak Peek of Plaza Saltillo Redevelopment

Sneak Peek of Plaza Saltillo Redevelopment

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More and more news from the East Side.  

Plaza Saltillo

CapMetro will be voting on March 21st, its next board meeting, on the master development agreement with the Endeavor Real Estate Group and Columbus Realty team to redevelop the 10-acre Plaza Saltillo site into a mixed-use, mixed-mobility development.  The proposal includes affordable and market-rate apartments, as well as office, retail and open space.

Plaza Saltillo

Plaza Saltillo

From the presentation today, below are proposed community benefits

  • Larger than required street trees will be planted to create a pleasant shaded pedestrian experience from the beginning
  • Innovative water quality treated through green infrastructure
  • Preserving trees around the historic buildings and park
  • Designed by a local architect to reflect site history and neighborhood character
  • Worker Safety Provisions recorded in the master developer agreement
  • Affordable housing units that float through the development, entirely integrated into the market-rate units
  • A portion of affordable units will be reserved for seniors
  • Austin Energy Green Building and LEED Certified
  • Paseos built out as places, not just sidewalk connections, including landscaping and green infrastructure

 

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Fairmont Austin May Get A Sister Project

Fairmont Austin May Get A Sister Project

manchester-3rd-red-river

Last week, Manchester Texas Financial Group outlined a proposal to the City of Austin Historic Landmark Commission to relocate three old, but not landmarked, buildings.  The houses would be relocated directly across 3rd street, landing on a wedge of land that already shared by the Trask house and Castlemen Bull house (which was also moved to its current location).

three houses located in the 600 block of e 3rd street proposed to be moved across the street.

three houses located in the 600 block of e 3rd street proposed to be moved across the street.

The question at hand is will the HLC be cooperative.  This effort is running parallel to a preservation effort for the nearby Palm School.  Michael Van Falkenberg the lead designer of the Waller Creek District Master Plan is in support of the effort.

The resulting assemblage of historic buildings onto a single tract seems like an interesting idea, especially with a direct connection to Palm Park.

Below are the conceptual renderings presented to the HLC.   This design is not confirmed, and the status of the project seems dependent upon the HLC’s guidance.  The conceptual renderings do reveal the scope of the vision, which is impressive, and would be a boon for the Waller Creek Conservancy and Palm Park.

The Austin Monitor has more on this story.

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manchester-3rd-red-river4  manchester-3rd-red-river2

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Palm School

Palm School

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I’ve been thinking about the fate of the Palm School, and cannot shake the feeling that preservation-at-all-costs is as dangerous to Austin’s future as development-at-all-costs.

Late last year, downtown’s representative on the Commissioners Court, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, tapped the brakes on an effort to preserve Palm School, a 123-year-old building at E. Cesar Chavez Street and I35.

palm-school-history

The Palm School is no longer a school.  It’s currently home to the county’s Health and Human Services and Veteran Services offices, but plans are for those workers to move to a new facility set to be built on Airport Boulevard.

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Few of my fellow urbanists are keen to give extremely valuable CBD land over to low-intensity uses that don’t pay into local property tax rolls, nor add to the vibrancy of the city.  Travis County misread public sentiment and got burned last year when it failed to turn prime downtown real estate into a civil courthouse bunker.

The County appears to be again stumbling into a very similar trap. This time it’s an effort to preserve the Palm School, and it has the backing of at least two members of Austin City Council.

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Parts of the building may claim roots back 123 years, but the building is fugly from all angles, a fact that few would dispute.  Across the street from an IHOP, the Palm School presents a gateway into downtown that is … uninspiring.  The facade hardly suggests the decent taste of a building built in 1892.  That’s because a private owner who bought Palm School in the 1970s gave it the malaise-era municipal design treatment.

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I respect that there are Austinites with a warm-and-fuzzy connection to the Palm School.  I get that preservation efforts need zealotry to be effective, or else nothing would be preserved; however, this is one of those subject properties where preservation is at direct odds with the scarce geography where we’ve collectively agreed to place density.

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Downtown Austin’s CBD is one of the few areas where builders and planners are given a relatively free hand to scale projects in a way that maximizes the compact and connected ideals of urban living.  It is possible to simultaneously be a preservationist and an urbanist, and the discussion of preserving the Palm School should not be willfully blind to the surging demands of growth in the central city.

-Jude

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A New Life For The Enchanted Forest Site

A New Life For The Enchanted Forest Site

South East view

The “Enchanted Forest” site at W. Oltorf and S. Lamar is being pitched for development into a mixed-use, 2-4 story project to be built on four acres.

Developer Scott Trainer is seeking to rezone the property in order to accommodate a 42,000 square-foot office building, 19,000 square foot restaurant, 29,000 square-foot specialty market and also include the existing Olivia’s restaurant.

The site is not an easy one to develop as much of the northern half is encumbered by flood plain.

Overhead view

Overhead view

During a City of Austin Board of Adjustment (BoA) hearing, where the variances requested got approved, Trainer’s representative told the BoA the idea for the development is to be a “community gathering place” with a market to buy fresh meats and cheese, along with a potential cooking school. (The representative also mentioned that neighboring 1400 and 1402 Oltorf were being separately redeveloped by that property’s owner, but provided no other details.)

South East view

South East view

Presumably, Trainer acquired the Enchanted Forest lot after the former owner Albert Deloach — who had established an awesomely eclectic outdoor art and concert space there while owning it for 25 years — put it on the market while lamenting to the media about his taxes, keeping up with City code and accommodating parking.

South view

South view

The site was listed for sale at $3.3 million.  So, Deloach did OK on that sale.

Trainer’s project is actually larger than the original Enchanted Forest lot, which weighed in at 3.1 acres. There is no date set yet for the Planning Commission to hear the case, but there doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of opposition.

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Trainer looks to have put in the court time to get the Zilker Neighborhood Association on board, and they expressed their approval to the BoA in October last year, after saying they had been in talks with Trainer for more than a year. Among the concessions extracted by the neighborhood association: no late night alcohol sales, no outdoor amplified music, and restoration of the creek.

Interestingly, the Zilker Neighborhood Association may be holding out for yet more concessions, due to the fact that in its letter to the BoA it was keen to point out “discussions are ongoing regarding the rezoning case”.

before & after, west bound on Oltorf

before & after, west-bound on Oltorf

All things considered – in the most nostalgia-ignoring practical sense – I find this mixed-use office & market concept preferable to another fugly faux-“luxury” apartment community.  Still, it’s a little hard not to watch this interview with the Enchanted Forest owner and not feel a tinge of loss for one of the off-the-wall things that cumulatively made Austin a place unto its own.

-Jude