East Side Round-Up

East Side Round-Up

Birds Eye

Is “Facebook Employee No. 6” planning a hotel in East Austin?

Ezra Callahan, aka. Facebook’s sixth hire, decided to invest in building a chic, eco-friendly, boutique hotel brand — Arrive Hotels.

There is no official announcement, but it appears that Ezra is hot for Austin and is planning another Arrive Hotel at Sixth and Chicon. Specifically a 5-story hotel, totaling 80 units with restaurants on the bottom facing the street, totaling about 12,000 square feet. The project site is currently occupied by a Goodwill office building, which would be demolished. Burton Baldridge is connected as lead architect.

“After spending several years working on a product that’s all about connecting people virtually, I really liked the idea of trying to build physical spaces that did the same thing,” Callahan told Condé Nast Traveler.

The internet yields many articles from reporters gushing over his concept “Arrive Hotel” the first of which is being installed in Palm Springs, California, and which Conde Nast even billed as the “Hotel of the Future”.

Arrive Hotel in Palm Springs

Arrive Hotel in Palm Springs

The area is rife with redevelopment, starting with “Fourth &” condos (at 4th & Chicon). Adjacent to the Fourth & site, Eastside Station, a 300-unit luxury apartment building is slated to opening late 2015. And across the street on the same block as Arrive the Arnold Oil Redevelopment is underway on a three-acre lot, with a proposed 90,000 square feet of office space and 330 apartment units.

The neighborhood is transforming before our eyes, which leads us to….

One Two East hearing slated for Feb. 9

The contentious One Two East multi-family proposal, next to Franklin Barbecue, is slated to be heard by the Austin Planning Commission on Feb. 9, and City Council on Feb. 11.

The project, which is fiercely opposed by a group of community activists, initially was slated to be heard in January. The hearing was delayed probably to give city staff time to hone in the traffic impact analysis, as the opposition is rallying around the issue and it is likely to be the subject of debate.

The developers are seeking a zoning change that would allow them to build up to 180 feet, instead of the 150 feet allowed by current zoning. It is my opinion that One Two East as proposed at 180 feet provides a clear community benefit (it would include a grocer and pharmacy) to a neighborhood that faces changes in their way of life regardless if site is developed at 150-feet as allowed or 180-feet.

Given the media attention to the opposition to the project, there probably will be plenty of media coverage, but here is a link to where you can watch the Planning Commission live on Feb. 9 on your computer or phone.

Progress at Austin Proper as Developers Acquire the Land

Progress at Austin Proper as Developers Acquire the Land

Austin Proper Rendering - 2

Two big milestones this week for the Austin Proper condos, proposed as part of the Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment.

The Proper’s sales office opened on Colorado Street, and developers officially acquired the dirt from Trammell Crow.




Lamar Beach master plan would face challenges

Lamar Beach master plan would face challenges


The Lamar Beach sports fields, on the western side of downtown, near the water, have always just been there. The area has its own natural beauty, like much of the area around Lady Bird Lake, especially when bathed under twilight. But it is has always just been there. Not crying for help, or being lauded for its utility. Just there.  (Spoiler alert – if you are new to Austin, it isn’t really a “beach”. We’re funny like that.)


The Austin Parks Department is aiming to change that by moving forward with a master planned redevelopment, putting six concepts in front of the public. The city has launched a poll with a deadline of January 15 to solicit feedback on the proposals. A draft master plan is anticipated in March 2016, and a final master plan is anticipated in May 2016.


While the project is being run by the Parks department, it is clear that a major impact of any redevelopment will be major transportation changes. The proposals include the options of elevating, burying and relocating Cesar Chavez. I’ll be honest: the options seem a little overwhelming, and I have to give credit where it is do to American-Statesman reporter Andra Lim for breaking them down. (Your best bet to wrap your head around it is to use the article in conjunction with the project proposal graphics.)


Having spent some time looking at the proposals, I forecast a challenging execution of whatever master plan is adopted. Nothing in any of the Parks Dept. outreach that I have found talks about funding sources, and frankly I’d be surprised to see the city voters at-large support a bond for a “downtown park project”, or see Council Members give up ward politics to divert existing park or capital improvement funds out of their home districts.


In order to sell the master plan, it will have to be marketed in reducing traffic congestion for drivers exiting Mopac into downtown. And now for the buzzkill: on closer inspection it appears almost all of the proposals make traffic worse. I’ll tell you right now, that ain’t going to fly with folks.


The only options that would make traffic better than current conditions would include major costs, and potentially strong community opposition (in the case of elevated roads especially). This rings especially true when the Council and voters have higher priorities to debate, such as I-35 toll lanes, commuter rail, and Lamar/Burnet transportation improvements — thus making it more likely they will table a Lamar Beach debate.


I think a viable alternative to any of the master plan proposals simply looks at how to make existing conditions more accessible and useable with a low-cost, low-impact solution. A major improvement, that wouldn’t require a big ordeal could include adding a minor street to connect the YMCA frontage to Lamar and Pressler, and improving the park-scape.

In summary:


Tyndall condos at Robertson Hill

Tyndall condos at Robertson Hill

Rendering of the Tyndall Condos

The Tyndall at Robertson Hill, a planned East Austin condo development at 8th Street & I-35, will offer a downtown alternative with views of the Austin skyline.

For the better part of a year, this 171,000-square-foot East Austin condo development has flown under the radar of most, despite its highly visible location along I-35 between 8th and 9th streets.  Austin’s own Momark Development, in partnership with Mathias Partners, plans the 176-unit complex, topping at 70-feet high, complete with a pool overlooking downtown.

Tyndall's view of downtown Austin

Tyndall’s view of downtown Austin

Located at 800 Embassy, the project will develop a vacant lot that has been in play for some time, but never saw any dirt turned. The Tyndall condos are designed by Humphreys & Partners Architects with interiors [rumored] to be fashioned by Joel Mozersky.

I’m enthused about this project, for a couple reasons. First off: Momark does good work.  Led by Terry Mitchell, experienced Austin developer who has embraced urbanist causes.  So, I’m pleased to see a project from a local firm.  Second: Almost all the developable land adjacent to the east side of I-35 has been developed as apartments for rent.  Notably, the Eleven Austin owned by the Forestar and the AMLI Eastside national apartment chain.  As a general rule, and there are certainly exceptions, apartment buildings like the former offering 6-12 month leases and escalating rents do not foster the same level of community ownership that comes with residents who are invested with equity in their home, and intending to be there for years to come (let the flame wars commence!).

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Interestingly, site plans for the project were approved some time ago, under the predecessor name or pseudonym “8ATX”.  A YouTube video featuring a drone pilot simulating views from the building was posted back in February.

The Tyndall at Robertson Hill will be the fourth major East Austin residential development planned along the I-35 corridor.  It is a bit curious that the Tyndall hasn’t made more headlines like the planned redevelopment of the RBJ Center at Nash Hernandez and I-35, or the Plaza Saltillo redevelopment which is only four blocks south.  Nor has it been brought up at (that I’ve seen anyway) in the context of the contentious One Two East project proposed four blocks north.  Granted it’s not seeking out the same building height variance as that project.  Still given the heated commentary about east Austin condo development, perhaps it is by design that the project has kept a low profile.


Oracle, a Fortune 100 Company, has purchased 27 acres in East Riverside

Oracle, a Fortune 100 Company, has purchased 27 acres in East Riverside

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Over the past few years, developers have been steadily redeveloping a concentration of dilapidated rental housing just east of downtown along the waterfront and East Riverside Drive.

There is a Starbucks, Chipotle, and whatnot nestled in faux-urban Lego-like development of the separate South Shore District and Lakeshore projects that are new and nice if that’s your sort of thing.

And yet, it just didn’t seem like a ripple effect of redevelopment along Riverside was taking effect. The redevelopments exist as a dichotomy compared to the surrounding decades-old single story shops, many with Spanish-language storefronts, and multifamily rentals that are affordably home to many students and low-income families.

However, Oracle — the behemoth corporation that specializes in database software for other behemoth corporations — pretty much just blew that stagnant dichotomy out of the water by dropping a huge anchor there.

That huge anchor is a plan for a 560,000-square-foot state-of-the-art campus the company just unveiled, which will create waves of redevelopment much quicker than gentrification and population growth would have done eventually. The company said it plans to add about 500 employees over the next few years, presumably housing the majority at the campus. To that note, the company also purchased a nearby — yet unnamed — 295-unit apartment building to house workers.

What’s interesting is that Oracle’s execs are telling the media the campus is going to be focused on attracting “millennials” which (memes and snarkish stereotypes aside) has big implications.  When you think of millennials in land development terms, think “compact and connected”. This is important in the context of the previously mentioned notion that the deal could spark a sort of chemical chain reaction reverberating all the way down East Riverside, and up to East Oltorf.

Assuming Oracle is successful, they will spread the “live-work-play” ethos of New Urbanism into a stretch of the city it has never been before. Presumably, becoming a center of gravity to draw like-minded businesses and residents.

This is all well-and-good, given than in 2013 City Council adopted the East Riverside Corridor Plan, which aims to transform East Riverside from Carmageddon in a people-centric corridor connecting downtown to the airport.

Frankly, I think the City of Austin planners deserve a lot of praise, along with former Council Member Chris Riley, for pushing the East Riverside plan as early as they did. The webpage for the plan foretells that “due to its proximity to downtown and Lady Bird Lake, change is underway in the area” and Oracle just made that prophecy come true.

As John Aielli said on the radio this morning while he marveled that his home — which he bought in the 1980s for $70-something — was now valued in the $400’s: “What a time to be alive.”

One Two East – Another East Austin Development Faces Fierce Opposition

One Two East – Another East Austin Development Faces Fierce Opposition

Rending by Rhode Partners

The level of hyperbole from opponents of the One Two East project is reaching new heights.

The Austin Planning Commission is scheduled next month to hear a case where the developer of the 2.8-acre site, next to Franklin Barbeque, is asking for a zoning variance to increase the increase the building to 185 feet from 150 feet. Council Member Ora Houston — who opposes the variance — said she sees the  as a “brick wall” that blocks out the Eastside community.

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One Two East proposes two towers, with 472 apartments, of which half will be dedicated to senior living. In addition, rather than sit on a parking garage pedestal as is typical, it was revealed in September at the Design Commission the developer is talking with HEB, Randalls/Safeway and Sprouts to occupy a 60,000 square foot grocery/pharmacy on the ground floor. In fact, the inclusion of grocer/pharmacy would be an obligation if the zoning change is granted.

If you drive around, you’ll see nearby homes have taken to putting up yard signs and launching a website (nomore12east.com) to stop the project.  However earnest their hearts, their logic seems faulty.

As project architect Brett Rhode pointed out to the Design Commission in September, current zoning allows for the development of a single 150-foot with an obscenely ugly, exposed parking pedestal with no street-grade retail.

Here’s a contrast of what is developable under current zoning, atop a rendering of the proposed project, taken from a screenshot of the Design Commission archive tape:


It’s blurry, but you get the idea.  I see a proposed project that seeks to integrate into the community with a walkable, affordable grocer is the mark of a project that should be allowed a zoning variance to do so.

It is clear from watching the presentation to the Design Commission that extensive conversations have gone on between the developer and community members. The developers even said they’d thrown $1 million in a pot to help neighbors being priced out due to rising property values. Where the impasse is that resulted in the neighborhood association going to battle after 10 months of negotiating is unknown, because a reasonable person would conclude that redeveloping the site (pictured below) is a good thing.


Given that, I can’t foresee community forces kyboshing a project that was within the current zoning, if that is what the developers opted to do should they lose the variance fight.  Current zoning allows for a building with ZERO community benefits, and purely profit driven. One Two East as proposed at 180 feet provides a clear community benefit to a community that faces changes in their way of life due to Austin’s explosive growth whether the site is developed at 150-feet as allowed or 180-feet.

One Two East is just the most recent development to face Austin’s neighborhood political machine.  The defunct proposal for the East Side Hotel along E. Cesar Chavez lost to fierce objection from nearby residents concerned about the appropriateness of the project and risks of overflow parking into the neighborhood.  Instead, the neighborhood is going to get a 260 unit apartment building.  Was it a good trade off for the neighborhood?  That remains to be seen, but I’m skeptical.  I’m also skeptical the vitriol towards One Two East’s enhanced design isn’t short-sighted.


Demolition of Brinks as Homewood Suites Hotel Prepares Site For Construction

Demolition of Brinks as Homewood Suites Hotel Prepares Site For Construction

AT's crude massing of the project

It was over a year ago that AustinTowers.net reported on the prospect of another downtown Austin hotel, Homewood Suites, a Hilton Hotel brand proposed to deliver 150 rooms and a 17 story building.  This week, demolition of the former Brinks Security building at 78 and 80 East Avenue appears to have wrapped up in preparation for construction.

Brinks building before demolition

Brinks building before demolition.

The property is owned by East Avenue Investments, LLC, which acquired the site in 2013.

After demo.  Shore Condos in background to left.  Hotel Van Zandt to right.

After demo. Shore Condos in background to left. Hotel Van Zandt to right.

The site is located on the eastern edge of the burgeoning Rainey Street district, which has such close proximity to the Austin Convention Center that hotel operators are jockeying for position.  Including this Homewood Suites effort, there have been at least four hotels nearby that are either planned, under construction, or recently completed.

The eastern elevation will be the most visible to the highway. The plans show the first four floors will be garage parking, masked by a metal, architectural, facade that’s matched at the very top of the building as mechanical screening.

The eastern elevation will be the most visible to the highway. The plans show the first four floors will be garage parking, masked by a metal, architectural, facade that’s matched at the very top of the building as mechanical screening.

To the south along East Avenue, the much anticipated proposal for a boutique Kimber Modern Rainey hotel recently announced that Kimber Cavendish is no longer involved, and what becomes of that project is yet to be seen.  The Fairmont Hotel, with three cranes on their construction site, looks to be adding a new floor every week or so.   Hotel Van Zandt recently opened and is already getting great reviews from visitors and the neighborhood.


Plaza Saltillo redevelopment steps over line from dream to reality

Plaza Saltillo redevelopment steps over line from dream to reality


The scope of construction for East Austin’s Plaza Saltillo seems to be finalized, and now includes a previously unannounced 120,000 square-foot office building.

Media reported in August that Capital Metro and Endeavor remained at odds over finalized terms, but site plans filed a few days before Thanksgiving indicate they pinky swore on a deal. The result will be: 1) a new office building, 2) some 800 apartment units, 3) a 55,000 square-foot grocery store, 4) plus 73,000 square feet of sit-down restaurants, 5) and another 11,000 square feet of retail.

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The scale of Plaza Saltillo is huge, covering five blocks of barren railroad alignment, there are no words that can adequately articulate how it this development will reshape Austin’s urban core.  After all, it is not every day (every lifetime, frankly) that 10 acres of undeveloped land opens up in the heart of a vibrant city.  And, it will continue to be a catalyst of ancillary development.

While Plaza Saltillo may become the focal point once construction begins, the market for East Austin condos is already burgeoning. The 2.1 acre tract just east of Plaza Saltillo at “Fourth &” is under development to bring 130,000 square feet of live/work condominium units, and street level commercial space.  Meanwhile neighboring Eastside Station, a 300-unit apartment building is slated to opening late 2015 and across the street, the Arnold Oil Redevelopment is underway on a three-acre lot, with a proposed 90,000 square feet of office space and 330 apartment units.

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The vision/conceptual plan is by Torti Gallas and Partners. Michael Hsu is the lead local architect, so the aesthetics will match the design sensibilities of his other popular projects, including the 04 Mixed-Use Development (Perla’s), and Lamar Union.

Before breaking down the details on the final Plaza Saltillo development, I’ll venture a guess that the office tenant will be a major tech company. I find it peculiar that there was no office space envisioned when Endeavor pitched to become the site developer, which leads me to believe the office space is not being built on spec, but on the signed line of an anchor tenant. Further, I’ve heard recently from a credible source that a major Fortune 500 tech giant is flirting with a sizable investment in Austin’s urban core.  Again, this is just a semi-informed guess, but there you have it.


Ok, here is the breakdown of the planned development listed in freshly-submitted city records:

Block 1:

  • 160 apartment units
  • 55,000 sq ft supermarket
  • 38,000 sq ft restaurant
  • 120,000 sq ft office

Block 2:

  • 191 apartment units
  • 2,000 sq ft retail
  • 13,000 sq ft restaurant

Block 3:

  • 191 apartment units
  • 4,000 sq ft retail
  • 11,000 sq ft restaurant

Block 4:

  • 158 sq ft apartment units
  • 4,000 retail
  • 11,000 restaurant

Block 5:

  • 5,000 sq ft restaurant

Block 6:

  • 100 senior housing units

Conceptual Site Plan by Torti Gallas and Partners (the ugly mark up by AustinTowers.net)

For comparison’s sake, here is the breakdown that Endeavor included in its initial vision, which narrowly won favor with the Cap Metro board over rival teams at Riverside Resources, and another that paired Austin’s Constructive Ventures with Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co.