First Look: Another large mixed-use project on tap for South Lamar

First Look: Another large mixed-use project on tap for South Lamar

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The tidal wave of construction on South Lamar Boulevard – near the Broken Spoke – isn’t over yet.

Plans have just been filed for a large mixed-use project, consisting of three buildings, totaling half a million square feet of office, retail and 304 apartment units.  The project is another development by Ardent Residential, the same group that developed the similarly named Gibson Flats and Burnet Flats (not to mention the Four Seasons Residences downtown).

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The mixed-use project — called Lamar Flats — will go in across the street from Red’s Porch. The site currently holds a Golden Corral, which will be demolished, and is next to the planned In-N-Out Burger.

Lamar Flats plans call for:

  • a 4-story 125,000 square foot mixed use building
  • a 5-story 158,000 square foot mixed use building
  • about 137,000 square feet underground parking
  • a 4-story residential building

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The area in question has been the subject of years of press coverage while the world-famous Broken Spoke became flanked in by two residential rental projects. Over the past year, South Lamar has undergone a complete transformation. Six prior mixed-use projects brought nearly 2,000 new homes for people eager to live in the area, plus over 100,000 square feet for shops, restaurants, and small offices.

The development along South Lamar brings with it sweet, not just sour. As pointed out by the Austin Contrarian — South Lamar has become a destination in its own right — like downtown, the Triangle, or South Congress.

From a residential real estate standpoint, the development is boon for land owners. A transformed South Lamar is also an increased draw to those purchasing condos near the core.  While it may not bring a lot of vertical development like we see elsewhere, projects like this $4.2 million townhome project on 2002 Glen Allen, also increase urban density in the area and start to become more attractive to builders.

However, the new development will also raise the ire of the existing neighborhood and through commuters who gripe about traffic. This is likely to increase the call to action they are placing on District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen. Kitchen made South Lamar improvements one of her campaign platforms.

The city is responding accordingly and launched a study last year to look at improving the South Lamar area between Lady Bird Lake and Ben White.  Another major project, like the Lamar Flats, lends inertia to the effort to bring a lot of same bike and pedestrian friendly designs that are now downtown into the South Lamar area.

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Structures with Stories – 119 E 6th and the Tides of Changing Commerce – Downtown Austin Real Estate

Structures with Stories – 119 E 6th and the Tides of Changing Commerce – Downtown Austin Real Estate

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The concept that buildings tell stories is nothing new.  There are several books written on the idea (we have some in our brokerage office), and this is a founding principle on which many historical and preservation societies and the like are based (it’s certainly one of the more satisfying aspects of being involved in the real estate and development business). And, in this way, the building at 119 E Sixth street is the same as other towers in downtown Austin – but that’s paradoxically also what makes it different than every other tower in downtown Austin.  While every tower in downtown Austin has a story, this particular site and structure’s story is uniquely its own.

What initially piqued my interest about 119 E Sixth is its recent conversion from a lower-end, off-the-grid apartment community with a slightly scary convenient store at the ground floor to a higher-end short term rental complex atop a shiny new 30,000 square foot Gold’s Gym. The lot is owned by Stream Realty, who, in partnership with vacation rental company, Top Trip Rentals, has done a nice exterior remodel of the building, working with local companies like Sixthriver Architects. The interiors are also being updated, and some units are currently available for short term rental through Top Trip – many at lower prices than nearby hotels (they’ve provided us with many of the photos below).

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Funnily enough, Top Trip Rentals also manages an STR right out of the historically rich (and outright awesome) – Graeber house, which is only a couple blocks away from 119 E Sixth.  Our firm listed this remarkable home a couple years back for the Graeber family. There’s a pool in this house, y’all – and it’s RIGHT on E Sixth and you wouldn’t even KNOW IT!  Don’t believe me? Take a look at our photos from a couple years back (the home is also listed on the Top Trip site – it’s furnished differently now).

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My original intent in researching the site was to provide a vanilla, informational piece on the building’s current use as an alternate option to a hotel, and to contextualize the building’s use within an industry vertical that’s climbing towards a fever pitch in downtown Austin. I also thought there may be something interesting to be learned about the short-term rental market in Austin in a general sense with some tie back into many condo HOAs’ refusal to entertain such use within their buildings, and how other buildings have embraced STR use to their advantage.

But, last week, after visiting the building and speaking with the knowledgeable vacation rental proprietor of the 24 rehabbed units at 119 E Sixth, Chereen Fisher, I couldn’t help but become fascinated by the site’s history, partially outlined on the plaque outside of the building.

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119 E 6th is the site where commerce started in Austin.  This location has seen a plethora of timely uses, starting as a dry goods store, then transforming into a grocery store, a fire department, a bank, a trailblazing commercial coffee roasting facility, and a wholesale operation.  Chereen also told me that, in 1979, the original structure was demolished and an apartment complex with a parking garage was built as part of a large-scale effort to save the neighboring Driskill hotel (apparently, more parking was needed for the hotel to profitably continue operation). And there it sat until the tides of commerce shifted yet again as a new variation of the hospitality industry was born in Austin.

Gray, S. A. Mercantile and General City Directory of Austin, Texas---1872-1873., Book, 1872; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38126/ : accessed July 17, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.

Gray, S. A. Mercantile and General City Directory of Austin, Texas—1872-1873., Book, 1872; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38126/ : accessed July 17, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.

Screenshot 2015-07-17 13.23.16

The Capitol of our great state, Austin, Texas, Book, 1915; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth41246/ : accessed July 17, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.

In short, this site – a site that many of us probably nonchalantly walk by on our way to some Congress or W Sixth destination – and its uses were / are at the very epicenter of Austin’s constantly developing commercial district.  119 E Sixth provides a tidy historical illustration of the evolution of commerce in Austin, and tells a story of Austin’s ever changing business dynamics from day one of Austin’s commercial existence.

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Mind = blown.

 

 

A note: I’m OBVIOUSLY just chipping tiny bits from tip of the iceberg of the history of this building and this site. And I know that the story I’m “reading” from this building is just one of many stories that this building tells.  I’d love to hear from readers about anything they know about this site and any interesting, historic stories you may know and want to share.

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.

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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.

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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, DowntownAustinBlog.org 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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505 Willow St

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92 Red River

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94 Red River

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96 Red River

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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

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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.

Apartments

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)

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Interior Photos

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Hotel / Combination

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

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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

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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

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Site prep

10 stories
189 rooms
Extended Stay

Office

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

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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
29-stories
500,000 sq. ft.
Two ground-level restaurants

Condo

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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from Shoal Creek Conservancy FB Page, courtesy of Emily Peacock