Texas Capitol Complex future: wide-open spaces

Texas Capitol Complex future: wide-open spaces


The Texas Facilities Commission just released its 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan, and is detailing a bold, exciting plan to turn state property north of the Capitol into enjoyable public space.

The Capitol Grounds are a jewel.  As a place of recreation it is overlooked.  It is like a mini Central Park in the heart of downtown Austin, where one can stop by on any nice day or night to have a picnic, read under the lights, play, or hang out under great old trees.

Which is why I am so pleased with this new report, which details three phases of development in the Capitol Complex, culminating in 5 million square feet of new building space, but also a lot of outdoor greesnpace.


Offices aside, the guiding vision of the 2016 plan is transforming Congress Avenue between 15th Street and MLK into a car-free, grass-filled, tree-lined event space: the “Texas Mall“.


Excitingly — and I did not realize this — lawmakers have already funded Phase 1 of the master plan, including a million square feet of new office space, but also three blocks of the Texas Mall landscape and associated streetscape improvements. (Not to mention, 4,840 new parking spaces plus underground utility upgrades.)

Ingeniously, refreshingly, parking will be provided by a combination of underground parking below the Texas Mall and parking structures (above and below grade) integrated into each new building.  In the future, parking for state workers and visitors will be much more conveniently located. This parking strategy will eventually allow the glut of Soviet-looking parking garages – downtown’s worst blight – littering the campus to be demolished and redeveloped.

Imagine a Capitol Complex, flanked to the east by the UT Medical District, connected north to UT Austin, and also south to downtown proper. It is a very exciting prospect. The radical truth is that the Capitol Complex could become a professional nexus of it all.

And here’s why: currently, 5,000 employees in 22 leased properties occupying over 1.5 million square feet of offices scattered over Austin.

At full build-out of the master plan, the Capitol Complex has the capacity for 5 million square feet of new building space, including lots unrestricted by the Capitol View Corridor. Even with state workforce growth, there would also be more than three times the office space than the current need to house state workers — inviting private sector companies to lease from the state.


The potential is amazing really.

More info:
2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan (pdf)


Seaholm Update

Seaholm Update


It’s important to keep in mind that, in addition to the 280-unit Seaholm condos tower, nearly all of which is under contract, Seaholm was envisioned to be a live-work-play redevelopment available to all Austinites.

The recent Seaholm Intake survey got me thinking about what the status of construction is at Seaholm proper.  Among the flock of cranes that fill the Austin skyline, and construction on nearly every other corner, it is easy to lose track.

I took a recent walk through the development to see for myself whether Seaholm was transforming into an urban activity center, or was getting close.


The short answer is: it is still a construction zone.

What isn’t under construction has that bleak look and feel of freshly poured concrete, like that of a freshly minted outlet mall somewhere off of I-35.  However, there are signs of life and a light at the end of the tunnel.

The condo tower expected to deliver in February 2016 – lower floors first – and continue through April/May when the upper floors will be ready.

In all, between 70 to 170 people are working at Seaholm right now on daily basis, by my guess.  However, between the Under Armor and Athena – two healthy employers – the math shows that a whopping 800 people would fill the space on a daily basis. Add to that the 280 condo units, a massive multi floor restaurant, and the Seaholm will become a major hub.

What’s Going On Right Now

  • The Seaholm Residences tower construction remains in full swing, and is on track to be completed by March 2016. (Originally, construction was scheduled to be completed this year.)
  • The Front Lawn is graded and looks ready for sodding, perhaps after the summer heat passes and the sod would grow.
  • Trader Joe’s is open and is accessible by turning north onto Walter Seaholm Drive, off of Cesar Chavez. The passer-by wouldn’t know it was there if they were just cruising down Cesar Chavez, probably mistaking the entire area as off limits construction, but it is. A subterranean parking garage is right there once you pull in and offers a free hour if you buy something at Trader Joe’s. The grocer is also accessible at street grade with a frontage on West Third Street, and with a third entry way on the east side of the building.
  • An eyeglasses boutique, Optique, recently moved its doors from 360 Condos to this location facing the condo tower, and an Aveda salon is advertising next door that it is opening soon.
  • Meanwhile, Under Armor has opened up in the new building that also houses Trader Joe’s, and officer operations are in full swing. Likewise, operations there are also contained indoors.
  • The Seaholm Power Plant itself is both awake and asleep. On one hand, it’s interior was renovated to staff up to 600 Athena technology employees and there are people in there now. However, all that life is encapsulated indoors and the offices are insulated behind security-keycard doors. So it is kinda ghost-towny outside.
  • Umbel, a software company, subleased 20k square feet from Athena and is occupying the sapce
  • Boiler Nine Bar + Grill seems was scheduled to open by the end of 2014, and then sometime in May, and later sometime this fall.  Now, it is scheduled for opening prior to first Seaholm move ins in February.  The massive project is supposed to span 11,000 feet over four floors offering diners views from an observation deck and bar at the highest level, as well as an intimate lounge and dining experience in the lowest level underground by the original boiler room. The concept will feature three kitchens – including one with a wood-fire grill that will be open, allowing diners to watch chefs at work preparing food – and a bar on every floor.


Micro Housing is coming to Austin, and it can’t arrive soon enough

Micro Housing is coming to Austin, and it can’t arrive soon enough


A rendering showing a stack of 200sf Kasita dwellings

Professor Dumpster has been all over the news recently.  His startup Kasita, reveals a dwelling that is micro, modular, modern, and [relatively] mobile.

The Statesman reports that “the project will target urban Millennials and professionals and singles who want to live near city centers.”

The above rendering shows a stack of Kasitas at the northwest corner of Cesar Chavez & Trinity.  While it’s a good look, the reality for that location is already taken by White Lodging, and might end up in the hands of the Austin Convention Center.

The one downtown location that could work would be the Ecology Action site.  Otherwise, land prices in the CBD are going to be prohibitive.  The manifest destiny of Austin is to the east, and if you go one mile east of I35, then the economics start making much more sense… if the neighborhood is cooperative.


First Look at 48 East: Rainey Street’s Newest Tower

First Look at 48 East: Rainey Street’s Newest Tower


The newest high-rise coming to Austin’s Rainey Street District has made the move from renderings to reality.

Developers have officially filed site plans for 48 East confirming a 35-story, 246-unit apartment building at 48 East Avenue, which will deliver protected views of the rising and setting sun.

48 East Birdseye

Specifically, the project will have:

  • 169 x 1-bedroom units
  • 64 x 2-bedroom units
  • 6 x 3-bedroom units
  • 11,250 square feet of ground floor retail

All-in-all we’re looking at about 267,750 square feet of development. No word yet on when ground will break or units will become available for early reservation.

48 east elevation 2

A couple of weeks ago, Austin Towers tipped you off that the design of the building had gone from “blah” to “bam” after the developer switched architects to STG Design.


The newly filed architectural plans confirm that the “bam” design is locked in, and are rather striking. In a stroke of marketing genius, the building will look the best when driving by caught in traffic on I-35.

While more details emerge about 48 East, the “other” Rainey Street District tower, 70 Rainey, is still expected to happen.

48 east elevation 1

Downtown News ROUNDUP

Downtown News ROUNDUP

pressler at cesar

70 Rainey construction deal brokered

Renderings by Page Architects

Renderings by Page Architects

Austin City Council has cleared the way for 70 Rainey condos— a 35 story, 160-unit residential high rise in the Rainey Street District — to move forward with construction this November.

For the past couple of years the site has hosted several mobile food vendors, serving thousands of pedestrians walking on Rainey Street. With the Mexican American Cultural Center located immediately west of the building site, 70 Rainey’s west facing residences will offer amazing views of the lake and hill country.

The Council action allows for 64 Rainey to be used for construction staging for 2+ years and thereafter to be converted into park land.

All in all, this is a pretty good situation considering some of the consternation surrounding the future of 64 Rainey back in 2013.

Location of 70 Rainey showing clear views of Lady Bird Lake

Location of 70 Rainey showing clear views of Lady Bird Lake

48 East luxury apartment project ups ante with new design

About a year ago, news broke that a 35-story luxury apartment building was on tap, just a stone’s throw from the Skyhouse apartments in Rainey Street.

Architect STG Design has posted some new and exciting renderings that show a glass encased building that compliments the neighborhood.

A previous rendering was leaked to the media when news broke in 2013, attributed to Levy Architects, which is still posted online. Despite the discrepancy, the STG Designed building clearly has “48 East” emblazoned on the facade, which certainly look better than the original designs.

A site plan was submitted this month to the city, which means more details should be forthcoming soon.

New lakeview residential project at Pressler and Cesar Chavez?

Austin area developers appear to have a new multifamily project planned on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, according to city records.

Two site plans have been submitted for 300 Pressler and 315 Pressler.

This area of downtown flies by the casual onlooker, but when the City of Austin completes an extension connecting Pressler Street to Cesar Chavez (in 2018 at the earliest) it will become much more visible.

And attractive for development.

pressler at cesar

I’ll be interested to see what the renderings look like for this building. The same company — FMF Pressler Park LLC — has consolidated ownership of the parcels in play. The parcels’ history is also connected to Central Texas developer Larry Peel, so the properties may be be reminiscent of some of his other projects if he is still involved.


Travis County Courthouse Proposal Still Missing Details

Travis County Courthouse Proposal Still Missing Details

austin travis county courthouse header

The Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously voted earlier this month to place the fate of their new 14-story downtown courthouse in the hands of voters. This past winter, I took a strong stance against the Courthouse occupying prime real estate in Austin to build a silo of a structure that in no way relates to the neighborhood it will inhabit.

Suffice it to say: I recognize the current courthouse is overwhelmed and under-equipped.

[Read more…]

Visuals: Austin Convention Center Expansion

Visuals: Austin Convention Center Expansion


Last week Downtown Austin Blog highlighted the Austin Convention Center expansion occurring at the Austin Convention Center.

This week, we’ve got new image renderings that represent a long-range master plan for the Convention Center.  The vision is truly to create a “Convention Center District” at a cost of $400 – 600 million not including the cost of the dirt.


[Read more…]

“Fourth &”: Micro-loft condos heading to East Austin, open slated for Fall 2016

“Fourth &”: Micro-loft condos heading to East Austin, open slated for Fall 2016


A micro-loft condo development at Fourth & Chicon is in the works, and expected to be completed in Fall 2016. The project teases to be an affordable option to more expensive downtown area dwellings.

Situated on 2.1 acres east of the Plaza Saltillo development and MetroRail station, the Fourth& project is expected to include about 130,000 square feet of live/work condominium units, and street level commercial space. When completed, the project will be among the largest single mixed-use developments in East Austin, with 97 condo units and another 42,000 square feet of commercial space.

This looks to be a quality project, and the developer — Capsa Ventures — seems to be working hard to carve out a niche for creating sustainable urban projects. Previous projects include Pease Place on Enfield Road and 904 West, at 9th & West Avenue.

So far, Fourth& is the only building in East Austin to offer micro-loft condominiums. Traditional “micro-unit” housing is about 300-400 square feet (about the size of a 1-car garage), and Fourth& is pushing the limits of the label, with units starting at 512 square feet. The project will also have larger sized units, reaching 1,400 square feet.


The building’s design and PR team is emphasizing the building’s micro-lofts, green architecture and efficient building… practicality over “needless sprawl.” The walkable location is near commuter rails and the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, so it will be easy to explore nearby or to move about the city.

Prices are expected to start at $235,000 for a studio, all the way up to $600,000 for bigger units. That may sound expensive when taken at a price per square foot, but considering the alternatives for downtown area living, it will be attractive for people who would otherwise be priced out of market.

According to news reports, the micro-lofts will still offer gas stoves, stainless steel appliances, LED lighting and European cabinetry. Among the amenities offered include reserved and guest parking, a dog wash, and an amenity deck with outdoor grills and a conference room with smaller meeting rooms for residents who work from home and want a change of scenery.

Fourth& continues to add to a major area redevelopment along the East Fourth street corridor, beyond the Plaza Saltillo development. Adjacent to the Fourth& site, Eastside Station, a 300-unit luxury apartment building is slated to opening late 2015. And across the street, the Arnold Oil Redevelopment (pictured below) is underway on a three-acre lot, with a proposed 90,000 square feet of office space and 330 apartment units.


Arnold Oil Redevelopment