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 (Block 188)
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).

Major Redevelopment Project Near Lady Bird Lake Moving Forward

Major Redevelopment Project Near Lady Bird Lake Moving Forward

Option C - Master Plan RBJ Site - Aerial - featured

Most folks I know are in favor of having a range of housing options available in the downtown area.  After all, having a mix of residents helps make for a vibrant urban core.

Part of what’s missing in terms of downtown Austin real estate is a strong inventory of affordable housing and dedicated housing for seniors.  Although the ways to achieve the goal of affordable housing are hotly debated among just about everyone – most people think the goal itself is a worthy one. And while it’s true that empty nesters are a thriving component of downtown Austin’s population (Forbes listed at as the #4 City to Retire In in 2014), very little exists in Austin’s urban core in terms of housing specifically designed for an aging population.

One existing senior facility is located just southeast of downtown Austin.  Built over 40 years ago and owned and operated by a non-profit called the Austin Geriatric Center (AGC), the 16-story Rebekah Baines Johnson residential facility (RBJ Center) has stoically watched as the downtown skyline and the surrounding neighborhood has transformed.

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Back in July of 2014 we covered the redevelopment announcement for the RBJ Center.

The facility sits on land that was previously the site of a federal fish hatchery, and the AGC, led by Frank Erwin, Jr., bought the land cheaply when LBJ closed the fish hatchery and brokered the transaction right before he left office in January 1969. Over the years, the City of Austin acquired segments of the originally 27 acres purchased by AGC. Today, the 5-story RBJ Health Administration Building that sits next to the residential tower and includes city health offices occupies approximately 2.3 acres City-owned land that was part of the original 27 acre site. The City also purchased the remaining 6.7 acres of undeveloped land, dedicating it as parkland.

The AGC retired the mortgage on the RBJ Center and land in 2013.  Years before and in anticipation of retiring the mortgage, the AGC Board of Directors began discussions regarding the future of the RBJ Center.

In 2010, the City approved a Resolution directing the City Manager to coordinate the City’s involvement in creating a master plan for the RBJ and adjacent City-owned site, and to consider adding the future redevelopment of City Land into a master planned project.  A report was prepared and presented in late 2011, outlining options for a master plan for the tracts.

Option C from the report was selected.  The attributes of Option C as listed in the original Master Plan Report are:

  • RBJ builds  structured parking in order to sell 8.8 acres of its land to generate revenue
  • create 500 affordable senior units
  • create 2-Story row houses on Haskell Street
  • create 25,000 SF of commercial usage – 10,000 of which will most likely be an expanded health clinic (dental plus other medical care).
  • Main new building is 5-story with structured parking
  • 8.8 Acre site will be developed by others as mixed use, with 25,000 SF of commercial, and up to 340 residential units all with structured parking, which could be affordable / work force residential units

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Just last month, the City approved the mixed-use zoning that would be required in order to have the commercial usage included in the redevelopment.

We’re excited to see that these major redevelopment plans for the Rebekah Baines Johnson Center at 21 Waller are moving forward.  Infrastructure and accessibility improvements, the addition of high-density housing options to suit a mix of income levels, and significant commercial space will breathe additional new life into an already growing area.  Not to mention the massive benefits of revitalizing the existing public green space – community space that is currently and will continue to be an integral part of the neighborhood.

The 2011 report described the impact of the project accordingly:

This opportunity to create an enlarged campus to include affordable housing and health services for seniors in a prime Austin location is one of the most exciting development prospects in the city today. Moreover, the possibility of including additional land uses on a parcel bordered by the Saltillo TOD on the north and the Holly Redevelopment to the east positions the RBJ Project as the potential gateway for a complete revitalization of East Austin.

41-waller-exterior-2There’s very little doubt that this project will have a big effect on the surrounding neighborhood, and should reflect positively on values for both single family homes and multi-family units in nearby condominiums like 41 Waller.  Commercial activity in the area will increase, as well, to cater to an influx of new residents, medical staff, and other residents and staff that will be brought to the area because of the redevelopment.

Interested in checking out what’s for sale in the immediate area?  Visit our partner site REATX to see Austin homes for sale near the RBJ Center at 21 Waller. This search also includes available commercial properties for sale.

70 Rainey – New Renderings of Downtown Austin’s Next Condo Tower

70 Rainey – New Renderings of Downtown Austin’s Next Condo Tower

Renderings by Page Architects

Austin Towers has obtained a couple of additional renderings of 70 Rainey condos, a tower proposed in the Rainey Street District of downtown Austin.

The renderings come from the architect, Page (née Page Southerland Page).

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70 Rainey (aka “SEVENTY Rainey”) is expected to be 35 stories tall, hosting approximately 160+ residences. The site has unique geography that will provide the west facing residences protected views of the Hill Country and Lady Bird Lake. West facing units will also have view of the downtown Austin skyline.

What we can glean from the images is that there is a lot of attention being paid to the mezzanine deck, above the parking structure.  Looks like the gap between the podium and the tower, around the 10th-12th floor could clear 30-40 feet which, if correct, would be a dramatic setting for outdoor amenities.

Drawing by Page Architects

Drawing by Page Architects

Also, it’s nice to see the parking podium – typically an ugly feature on any building – wrapped with a green wall, of sorts.  Hopefully that feature does not get value-engineered out of the final product.

Another subtlety: it looks like the adjacent lot to the south, owned by the MACC, could become a complimentary pocket park next to the building.  This would take some coordination with the City or the MACC, but it could be a nice bonus for the neighborhood.

Rendering by Page Architects

Rendering by Page Architects

Progress at the site appears earnest.  Yesterday, we observed engineers doing geo-technical drilling.  Hopefully these renderings are more than just ideas, and the developer can execute on this vision.  The site that 70 Rainey sits on was originally entitled by Riverside Resources, and there was a previous proposal before Riverside owned it.  Sackman Enterprises acquired the site in 2014 and is seeing the project through to fruition.

Here’s the thing about Rainey: it’s a multi-use district that is evolving within downtown Austin. It’s not purely residential. It’s not a bar district. It’s the wild west of downtown. The juxtaposition of everything, the frenzied mixture of restaurants, venues, parks, and high-rises, is what I love about living here.  When complete, 70 Rainey will join other district buildings like Milago Condos, The Shore Condos, and Skyhouse.


Reservations for 70 Rainey condos to begin soon

How Much Does A Downtown Austin Condo Appreciate Over Five Years?

How Much Does A Downtown Austin Condo Appreciate Over Five Years?

Austin condo performance over five years, moving average

“How much will this condo be worth in a few years?”

Is there a more important question for an investor?  It’s a question without a specific answer, though.  Nobody can predict the future, of course.  However, we can glean insight from what history tells us.  The information we uncovered is pretty interesting.

Below is an analysis I prepared on the moving average of a 5 year hold of a downtown condo.  We can look at the annual median sales price per foot of every recorded condo sale since 1997*.  This is a broad market analysis including every downtown condo tower.

When we do this, we observe the moving average for trailing five years of appreciation at its lowest was 14.75%.

In 2014, specifically, the typical downtown condo owner would have seen appreciation of 63.62% over the previous five years.


Austin condo performance over five years, moving average

Austin condo performance over five years, moving average

*NOTES to analysis:

1) Reflects ALL transaction records for condos in MLS Area “DT” since 1997.
2) some early records did not have correct square footage, so the data is normalized by constraining the data set to condos with a square footage range of 100-12,000sf.

Adios Taco Cabana

Adios Taco Cabana


Just about two years ago, reported on news about a third iteration of a plan to redevelop the Taco Cabana site at 211 S Lamar – the site adjacent to the Bridges on the Park condos.

Since then, there have been additional changes, including a change of ownership to MLB pitcher Huston Street.

approximate outline of 211 S Lamar Site

approximate outline of 211 S Lamar Site

Signals of development can be found in many forms, including spray-painted awnings from the building being used as “closed” signs.

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