Remember When There Weren’t Enough Hotels in Downtown Austin?

Remember When There Weren’t Enough Hotels in Downtown Austin?

HA Bar to Cabana

A few years back, the Statesman was reporting on the hotel shortage in downtown Austin (link).

Given the boom of events happening in downtown, it was convenient to frame the “shortage” in the context of the Convention Center lobbying for expansion and how the hotel market had been steadily climbing to a fever pitch.

Notably absent from the discussion were short term rentals in downtown Austin, as STRs are prohibited in just about every single condo building downtown, and city approved STR licenses are limited even within the building that does allow it.

And, while the new inventory should have provided breathing room, it seemed to stoke a fire in the belly of the old guard of downtown Austin hotel operators. Everybody wants the biggest piece of the pie of this expanding market, and they’re ready put some dollars down to get it.


Construction in downtown Austin right now

When the commercial market began recovering a couple of years back, we observed announcements for one new hotel after another, and mystifyingly there continues to be news of more on the way: the Austin Proper project, a hotel project that will also have a condo component.

Among this new wave of hotels that are now complete, nearing completion, or anticipated to begin construction are:

  • The vast JW Marriott (1,012 guest rooms);
  • The boutique Hotel Van Zandt with its “when we get around to it” approach to construction schedules and its quirky Geraldine’s concept (319 guest rooms);
  • The Fairmont and its innovative “sky bridge” to the Convention Center (delivers 2017, 1,066 guest rooms)
  • The shiny new Hyatt Place at Brazos & 3rd (296 guest rooms);
  • The contentious Hyatt House, Holiday Inn, and Hotel Indigo concepts in the Red River district;
  • The highly anticipated but who-really-knows-when-it-will-get-built Hotel Zaza across from Republic Square Park (160 guest rooms);
  • The Westin –  coyly nodding to locals with the restaurant concept “San Jac” (similar to what Van Zandt and the Radisson seem to be doing) and live music themed décor, (366 guest rooms).
  • Aloft/Element – corner of Congress & 7th Street, (410 rooms)

Westin Interiors / Art First Look & Renderings
(they were still undergoing construction – that’s why the boxes in some of the pics)

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Altogether, these new hotel towers are adding a plethora of new rooms for nightly rent in downtown Austin (over 3,000 rooms in the last 10 years, per a Q4 2014 press release from the Hilton), and existing hotels are getting competitive with a renovation arms race.

We’ve recently started to see older hotels significantly up their game with costly upgrades and make-overs.

The downtown Hilton Austin on E. 5th, always ahead of the curve and artfully envisioning all of new shiny hotels on the horizon threw a mammoth, first-class event in the fourth quarter of 2014 to celebrate not only their established 10-year run of business, but also to relaunch their brand (“Capital”) and show-off the $22 MILLION worth of improvements to their 800 guest rooms, executive level, and pool / spa areas. I was at the gala – it was stunning, and effective.  It was clear that The Hilton was a downtown Austin institution, and would not be meekly standing by as the flashy newbies started to pop up. Here are some choice pics of the newly renovated Skyline Spa (previously known as the Tower Spa).  5 Fifty-Five Condos residents who opt in to the amenities also get to enjoy these new renovations.

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In their January 2015 story, Community Impact reported that the Hyatt Regency, just south of downtown, revamped their already enormous ballroom and added a new parking garage in 2014. The Omni downtown refreshed their look just a couple years ago, too.


Omni guest room after renovation

Hotel Ella (previously The Mansion on Judges Hill), sitting on the northern edge of downtown Austin, also recently undertook a complete rebranding and updated their facilities and rooms, along with a change of management. It’s elegant, and if you are looking for a space to host a tasteful, smaller wedding – I would definitely recommend looking into this location.

Hyatt acquired the historic Driskill hotel in 2013 and did an $8MM revamp of the interior, too.

And, though likely not as strategic and certainly not as substantial of a move, the Radisson’s replacement of the majorly lame and exceedingly dull TGI Fridays with the ultra hip, hyper-local and upscale Chavez restaurant concept (UPDATE: Chavez is now Dine). to their hotel space was also an extreme upgrade and statement that made people actually remember that there is a Radisson in downtown Austin.

Chavez Interior Entryway

Chavez Interior Entryway

Additionally, we’ve seen applications for two new renovation permits of existing hotels in just the last couple of weeks.  The Holiday Inn on I-35, adjacent to Ladybird lake near the Rainey Street District has applied for permits relating to exterior facade work, an interior remodel, and a 382 sf expansion of their fitness center.  The Hampton Inn on 2nd and San Jacinto is also apparently planning an interior remodel, along with revamping of its breakfast area.  We’re sure to see more of this on the way.

While all the growth and change can be exciting, we have to remember there are growing pains.

A boutique hotel concept just east of downtown on Cesar Chavez was recently shut down by the City due to 11th hour neighborhood protests, even though there had been initial neighborhood support, the locations were just blocks away from I-35 and nearby existing commercial uses, and owners had reportedly bent over backwards to accommodate each and every request of stakeholder groups.

Then, last week, two revered local music venues, The Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlies, rallied public outcry against the new Hyatt Hotel project construction behind their sites.  (Hyatt – careful that you don’t kill the golden goose.)

The clash between commercial development and local live music / bar venues in downtown Austin is not new. In 2010, wrote an article on Echotone, a film exploring this emotionally charged issue. You can read the 2010 DAB article here.

It can be frustrating to see big-money hotels sprout up throughout Austin, often with a tone-deaf plan that ignores what makes their location interesting.  All the while the most interesting local boutique concepts get shut down by neighborhood groups in the periphery of downtown.

C’est la Vie!  These are first world problems.  On one hand it’s all very exciting, but on the other hand – it’s sometimes like watching how sausage is made. Growth is not always smooth and rarely pretty.

A Fourth Street Flurry of Office Development in Downtown Austin

A Fourth Street Flurry of Office Development in Downtown Austin


Two major downtown Austin office tower developments were announced this week.

405 Colorado Street, currently a surface lot just south of Frank, is set to be developed by the Brandywine Group. Although we’ll be sad to see the exterior wall art project that Frank and The Blanton collaborate on together be covered – we’re always pretty supportive of dense development instead of surface parking.


Indeed! Especially when you aren’t restricted by Capitol View Corridors!

The ABJ reports that while many of the details have not been sorted out, that the current intent for the development would be office / retail / and parking.

Meanwhile, at the corner of 4th and Guadalupe, a stone’s throw from the Plaza Lofts, Travis County is massaging its hopeful plans to blight Republic Square Park with a bland and purposely pedestrian unfriendly new civil courthouse. Due to the high-price tag of the proposed project, Travis County is planning on leasing half their lot (purchased for a cool $21.8MM in 2010) to private developers, who would build an office tower on the “back” portion of the lot. Officials say it will reduce the project cost by 20% (taking into account the income from the lease and property taxes). We still think Travis County is missing the point – many folks’ opposition is not about the development cost, it’s about the opportunity cost of building a civil courthouse on that lot.


Other office towers are in the works for the area, not the least exciting of which is a 179,000 sf, 18 story tower currently under construction nearby at 5th and Colorado – scheduled for completion in spring 2016. The office tower at 3rd and Colorado has only recently completed, as well.


The office tower at 5th & Colorado, picture taken end of May 2015.



New Demo Permits Signal Progress At Waller Park Place

New Demo Permits Signal Progress At Waller Park Place


A fresh new set of demo permits has been applied for that will make way for the largest private development ever proposed in Austin: Waller Park Place.

In total (we counted), the demo permits account for over 30,000sf of building space.

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The demo sites are as follows:

504 Willow St (the old Chain Drive location)

505 Willow St

92 Red River

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94 Red River

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96 Red River


New Tower Proposed in the Domain Austin

New Tower Proposed in the Domain Austin

Domain 7 rendering, courtesy of Endeavor Real Estate

Downtown isn’t the only part of Austin getting a new tower.  We recently learned that HPI (a commercial real estate company) is looking to build a 300,000 sf, 11-story office building with an adjacent 7-story parking garage near the Domain up in north Austin. The building will be next the IBM 45 building in the Domain.

There are only a few towers up that way, including the Tower of the Hills office building (10 stories, at 1309 Research Boulevard), The Arboretum Plaza buildings, and the up-coming Domain 8 office tower (plus a few more). The recently completed Domain 7 office building is 6 stories.

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Here’s what we know:

  • Address = 10725 Domain Drive (just west of the intersection at Braker and Burnet, off of Domain Parkway)
  • Lot = 4.57 Acres (~199,000 sf) – the southeastern part of a much larger existing lot, currently used as a parking lot for the nearby IBM 45
  • Building Coverage = 115,344 sf
  • Proposed structure (s) =  ~300,000 sf
  • Proposed access = Domain Parkway
  • Number of stories = 11 stories, with a 7 story parking garage adjacent to the tower



Downtown Austin Development Update

Downtown Austin Development Update

Northwest perspective

Below, find a no-spin update on various development projects happening in Downtown Austin, organized by type of project, and then by alphabetical order.  There’s been lots of press about proposed condo projects, but as I write this there is only one active crane attached to a condo project: Seaholm.


1) Aspen Heights Apartments
Status: under construction
Location: Intersection of 8th and Nueces

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2) Millennium Rainey Street
Status: under construction
Location: Intersection of Driskill and Rainey

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3) Northshore Apartments (Estimated Completion – Q4 2015)
Status: under construction
Location: 110 San Antonio Street (@ Cesar Chavez)

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Construction began mid-February on the first project on the site of the former Thomas Green Water Treatment Plant, aka. “Block 1″.

440 apartments for lease
~23,500 sq. ft. of office
~14,900 sq. ft. of restaurant
~13,900 sq. ft. of retail.

4) Seven Apartments
Status: complete
Location: 615 W 7th (@ Rio Grande)


Interior Photos

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Hotel / Combination

1) Austin Proper
Status: proposed
Location: 202 Nueces (@ 2nd Street extension)


2) Holiday Inn Express / Hotel Indigo
Status: under construction
Estimated completion: Fall 2015
Location: 8th and Neches

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Architect: Mitchell Carlson Stone Inc. of Houston
Notable: The two hotels will have separate entrances: the 167-room Holiday Inn express will be accessed on Neches Street, and the 133-room Hotel Indigo’s entrance will be on Ninth. Hotels will be operated jointly by Intercontinental Hotels Group.

3) Fairmont Hotel
Status: under construction
Estimated completion: Summer 2017
Location: northeast corner of Cesar Chavez @ Red River

Developer: Manchester Texas Financial Group
37 stories (plus 4 levels of underground parking)
1,066 rooms
Notable: The hotel will have a direct connection to the Austin Convention Center through an elevated walkway / skywalk.

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4) Hotel Van Zandt
Status: under construction
Estimated completion: Summer 2015
Location: 605 Davis St, 78701


Exterior is mostly complete. Construction still occurring on front entrance.

Developer: San Diego-based JMI Realty
326 rooms
Operator: San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels.

5) Hotel Zaza / Gables Republic Square Apartments
Status: Site prep
Location: northeast corner of 4th @ Guadalupe

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Demolition and site preparation have started.
24 stories
216 apartments for lease
160 hotel rooms

6) Hyatt House Hotel (TBD)
Location: 901 Neches


Site prep

10 stories
189 rooms
Extended Stay


1) Cirrus Logic Annex
Status: complete
Location: 605 W 4th St, adjacent to the 360 Condos.


This small office development that houses one tenant: Cirrus Logic’s research facility.

2) Lincoln Properties, 5th and Colorado Tower

Status: under construction
Estimated completion: Spring 2016
Location: 201 W 5th St

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Dallas-based Lincoln Property Co. is building a 179,000 sq. ft.; 18-story office building on the southwest corner of West Fifth and Colorado streets in downtown Austin.

3) Colorado Tower (Complete)
Status: Complete
Location: 303 Colorado St

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Developers: Atlanta-based Cousins Properties / San Antonio-based Hixon Properties Inc / Silver Ventures
30 stories
400,000 SF office tower
Street-level retail/restaurant

4) Block 23 Office Tower
Status: under construction
Location: 502 W 2nd  (Green Water Treatment Redevelopment)

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Architect: Gensler
500,000 sq. ft.
Two ground-level restaurants


1) 5th and West
Status: Site prep
Location: northeast corner of 5th @ West Avenue

Turnin' dirt at Fifth & West

Turnin’ dirt at Fifth & West

39 Stories
~150 condos for sale

2) 70 Rainey
Status: Proposed
Location: 70 Rainey Street

View from Rainey Street, approximate location of building entrance.

View from Rainey Street, approximate location of building entrance.

35 Stories
~160 condos

3) Seaholm
Status: under construction
Estimated completion: Winter 2015
Location: 800 W Cesar Chavez

Seaholm as of May 28th.  Photo courtesy of Kraig Kujawa.

Seaholm as of May 28th. Photo courtesy of Kraig Kujawa.

The 1950’s Art Deco Seaholm Power Plant and the adjacent property is being redeveloped into a high quality, mixed-use attraction. The project features a mix of office space, a Trader Joe’s grocery store (already open!), local retail shops, contemporary condos, special event space, and an outdoor terrace that overlooks Lady Bird Lake. The condo project at Seaholm is SOLD OUT.

4) The Independent
Status: proposed
Location: 3rd and West

Future site of The Independent. Photo courtesy of Kraig Kujawa.

Future site of The Independent. Photo courtesy of Kraig Kujawa.

Downtown Austin Creek News

Downtown Austin Creek News


Downtown Austin is a bit of unique geography, flanked by two natural creeks: Shoal Creek to the west and Waller Creek to the east – each flowing into Ladybird Lake to the south. As downtown Austin flourishes, both creeks are making efforts to restore / improve their terrain and engage the community around these natural amenities.


The Waller Creek project is admittedly of a much larger scale (and has been around quite a bit longer thanks to the vision of former Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole) than what’s happening with Shoal Creek, but both efforts are making a huge difference in the way residents and visitors interact with the landscape of the urban core.

Shoal Creek Conservancy specifically is setting out to restore water quality, improve infrastructure, restructure management and maintenance, create directional / informative signage for the public, and otherwise engage the public with programming and public recreational facilities.

Waller Creek Conservancy is a broad-scale effort to completely transform the creek.  It’s touted as the nation’s largest urban creek to undergo the transformation envisioned by the Conservancy.

All of the improvements to both creeks will undoubtedly positively affect the values of the towers in their vicinity.

Downtown Austin Condos Along Shoal Creek

Downtown Austin Condos Along Waller Creek

In recent creek news…..

The Waller Creek Conservancy recently posted this update on their Facebook Page:

Construction is nearly complete on the flood conveyance components of the Waller Creek Tunnel. Construction of the pond at the main inlet at Waterloo Park is complete and screens are in place to filter out trash and debris before flows enter the tunnel. Crews are working on the dam in Waterloo Park which will divert floodwaters into the tunnel and limit the amount of water that continues down Waller Creek. On May 5th, a large storm event dropped 2 to 4 inches of rain across Austin in a matter of a just a few hours. With just a small portion of the dam in place, floodwaters from Waller Creek filled the inlet pond and entered the tunnel where it flowed to Lady Bird Lake for the first time. Pond levels have since subsided and work will continue on the dam as weather permits.


Photo courtesy of Austin Watershed

And, Shoal Creek Conservancy recently formalized its partnership with the City of Austin, which will likely increase the budget and the effectiveness of the many ambitious programs in the works for the creek, both long-term projects and short-term initiatives like removing graffitti and installing needed lighting at various travelled points along the creek.


from Shoal Creek Conservancy FB Page, courtesy of Emily Peacock

New Proposed Development – The Austin Proper (Block 188)

New Proposed Development – The Austin Proper (Block 188)

austin-proper-downtown-rendering has been reporting on the Greenwater Treatment Plant redevelopment project since 2008. The Block 188 project at 202 Nueces (aka The Austin Proper), a proposed hotel + condo concept, was officially announced earlier this year.  The development team for the project has recently submitted a new development site plan and seem to be energetically moving forward with the project.

austin-proper-downtown-renderingrendering from Handel Architect LLP’s website

Here’s what we know…

Project name = Austin Proper Residences
Building Type = Hotel with Condos for Sale
Number of stories = 35
Number of hotel rooms = 240-250
Number of Condos for Sale = 110-120
Parking = 4 underground parking levels
Lot Size = .489 acres
Height =  Estimated 400 ft tall
Location = 202 Nueces Street
Architect = Handel Architects LLP (known for their Ritz Carlton Hotel designs)
Developer = The Kor Group, (Trammel Crow is the master developer of the Greenwater Treatment Site, which includes 3 other blocks, consisting of apartments, office and other mixed uses)
Project Start Date = Fall / Winter 2015 (project is still in design phase)
Project Completion = 2018

The site was previously developed as a portion of the Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant, but the plant was decommissioned in 2010 and subsequently deconstructed / demolished. The lots falls within the waterfront overlay district and the developer is currently seeking a waiver related to the setback of the structure.

Here’s where the Austin Proper sits in relation to the rest of the Green Water Treatment Plant Redevelopment blocks.

GreenwaterMap-1 2

Just a couple of weeks ago, Real Estate Council of Austin posted this rendering on their Facebook page (in which the building appears a bit darker, and the both the base and the top of the building have a slightly different design – reminiscent of the JJ Pickle Building on E 8th, constructed in the early 60s):

2015 04 22 from RECA FB Page


jj-pickle-downtown-austinJJ Pickle Building

The initial designs appeared to have been generally well-received; we’ll see what folks think about the updates.

Downtown Austin Question Marks

Downtown Austin Question Marks

IBC tower looms over the current structure

There’s always activity going on in downtown Austin, but sometimes only part of the story is available. The last couple of weeks have been those sort of weeks.  Several exciting things look to be in the works, so we’d like to share what we know, and hopefully provide updates as we receive them!

501 W 6th – Site Plan filed

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Recently, the folks controlling 501 W 6th (better known as the Miller Blue Print site) filed a site plan application to construct a mixed-use building on the site. The site is currently CBD and about 20,000sf – and you can build up to the lot line.  We hope to see something exciting there announced soon.

Miller vacated the site earlier this year, though it looks like the family still owns the lot.

88 Rainey – Change of Use Permit Filed


Sister site, recently reported on a Change of Use permit recently filed for 88 Rainey (currently a vacant, dilapidated old house).  Unsurprisingly, the new use will be a cocktail lounge – rumored to be a Cuban concept headed up by some of the same crew that put together nearby Bungalow.  Last year, owners of the site filed a site plan exemption, which was denied – but we think that if a cocktail lounge does snap up the spot, the changes to the structure will likely be limited and it will feel like most of the other Rainey bungalow bars.  There was also a tree removal permit filed for the site last year and that will likely go forward, as the landscaping on the site looks like it could take it down a notch.

219 West – Various Permits Filed

Rendering of The Riley, 2013

Rendering of The Riley, 2013

A while back, Downtown Austin Blog broke the story about the proposed event venue named The Riley at the former 219 West (address: 219 W 4th) site.  Well, there’s been movement on the site – but it looks like plans may be going in a different direction. Maybe.

Permits have recently been filed to change the use from cocktail lounge to residential / office use, and to make an addition for underground parking and a 527 sf rooftop terrace with pavilion.  We wonder if the owner will use the site for personal use (sort of like a live / work arrangement), or if there are other creative plans for perhaps leasing the office structure out and using the residential portion as a short-term rental (of which there is a lack of in downtown due to various HOA restrictions in most condo buildings).