The Other Downtown Austin

The Other Downtown Austin

the streets are adorned with lush, green trees

It’s an exciting time to live in and be involved with Downtown Austin.  Major developments being announced, and construction commencing pretty regularly.  Population and commerce increasing exponentially each year.  More places to eat.  More feet on the street. More energy.  Austin, and downtown Austin specifically, garners a lot of local, regional, and even national attention… well, most of downtown gets attention.

See, there’s this “other” downtown.  A hidden-in-plain-sight curiosity.

Let me preface the point.  Take look at a map of downtown Austin.  Visualize downtown as four quadrants, with axes along 6th Street and Congress Avenue.

First, the southeastern quadrant of downtown is home to the monumental Waller Creek redevelopment, has fortunate proximity to most downtown and East Side venues, quick access to the Hike & Bike Trail, several exciting and new hotel developments, including the The Fairmont and the Hotel Van Zandt, and an array of existing and proposed apartment and condo developments.  70 Rainey, for example.

Second, the southwestern quadrant, the media darling of downtown Austin, with heavy economic investment, has a rich mix of residential, office, and recreational uses, and seems to be constantly boasting some sort of development activity.  Major, sexy condo tower projects like the Seaholm, the Greenwater Treatment redevelopment, and the newly announced Independent have put the area on the forefront of media coverage.  Substantial office projects like the recently completed Colorado Tower and the under-construction office tower at 5th and Colorado are also making news.

Third, the northeastern quadrant is bubbling as an “Innovation Zone” – with developments bringing new life to the medical and tech industries, as well as activity related to our state Capitol.  Very recently, Foundation Communities opened it’s affordable housing development: Capital Studios.  This area is also filled, FILLED!!, with blighted parking garages.  Fortunately, Texas State Capitol complex has started getting some attention in recent years.

And, now we’ve arrived at the subject of this post.

Fourth, and finally, the “other” downtown.  The oft overlooked top left corner of downtown.  The tranquil, lush, historically quaint, attorney office dense, northwestern quadrant of downtown!  (Bookmark this: OANA’s terrific historic online tour, block by block)

We simply don’t hear much from this neck of the woods, even though it’s among the most peaceful and pleasant places to live in downtown, with plentiful tree canopy, open parks, myriad law offices, Shoal Creek, ACC, and tasteful restorations.

It’s also some of the most expensive residential property in the City.  Most of the residential in this area is comprised of single family homes, like this, and this, and this one.  Many of these homes have become office uses, generally of the law firm or other office-practice variety (although some other fun stuff is starting to pop up!).

Austin Panic Room

The Austin Panic Room, a fun new concept that just opened in NW downtown Austin.

The reason we don’t hear of these big, shiny, fabulous, skyline changing developments?  Zoning.  It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.

For better or worse, many of the lots in the northwest part of downtown Austin simply aren’t zoned for high-rises.  It’s no simple task to get an area that’s this passionate with historic sentiment and neighborhood protections to simply approve mass zoning changes willy-nilly.  Some of the City’s most prime and walkable downtown real estate is almost completely untapped as far as density goes, with most lots being inhabited with one-story or two-story Victorian style homes.  To be clear, we like it this way, too!

There are a few dense developments in northwest downtown, like the newly constructed apartment tower, Seven.  And, Aspen Heights is under construction.  Also notable, are Westgate and Cambridge Towers, which are along major boulevards.  Typically, in this part of downtown, we expect to see mid-rise developments like 904 West, Park West Condos, and the Nokonah, along with a handful of off-the-radar apartment communities, like the Nueces Flats.

You can be on W 6th Street at midnight, then walk stumble 2-3 blocks north along Nueces and it feels like a different, quieter, world.

No doubt we will continue to read headlines about downtown Austin.  Along the way, it will be interesting to observe how the “other” downtown Austin remains relatively media mute.  Maybe it’s better that way.

-Jude





Two Rainey District Towers Getting New Restaurant Concepts

Two Rainey District Towers Getting New Restaurant Concepts

Rainey-emmer-and-rye-rendering

There’s always tons of activity in the downtown Austin restaurant scene, but we’re particularly excited about new restaurants in the Rainey Street District since this area of downtown is changing and maturing more quickly than other parts of downtown.

With the residential that already exists in the district, and more coming online like Millennium Rainey Apartments, 70 Rainey, and the proposed Waller Park Place, expanded commercial options for this downtown Austin area were imminent, and we’re now seeing day spas, salons, a dry cleaner (!), and more eating options pop up in Rainey.

Skyhouse Apartments is filling a corner on the ground floor with a fun looking concept called Emmer and Rye. We’ve reached out, but don’t know a ton about it (there appears to have been a restaurant in Seattle with the same name that closed a couple years back, but we’re unsure if it’s related).  The only online marketing they seem to currently have is their Instagram account.  We did find some great renderings online from their architect, Kevin Stewart, though:

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Additionally, the Hotel Van Zandt, a boutique hotel concept opening right next to The Shore Condos this summer, is opening a very smartly named Geraldine’s restaurant concept, which will boast undoubtedly stunning lake views as well as good food and fun.

Check out their website (it’s just a landing page, right now) here, and sign up for updates.

Also, check out updated Hotel Van Zandt interior renderings at the Austin Business Journal.

geraldines-austin

 

These concepts will join existing Rainey dining options No Va, El Naranjo, G’raj Mahal, Bangers, Javelina, Salvation Pizza, and Royal Blue Grocery.





The Grove and Lola Savannah Coffee Coming to Downtown Austin

The Grove and Lola Savannah Coffee Coming to Downtown Austin

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One restaurant outside of downtown Austin that I enjoy is The Grove on Bee Caves Road.  The atmosphere of the outdoor patio, sitting under the canopy of magnificent live oak trees, beset with families and ladies’ nights groups, is light, crisp, clean, and interesting for its occasional cougar spotting (remind me later to tell you about the time the clunky-jeweled, immoderately tanned, bleached-blonde, and probably about 2 bottles of rosé deep, woman stood in front of our vehicle in the parking lot, arms outstretched, intermittently punching the windshield, shouting at us “you don’t understand!” blocking our exit for over 5 minutes. Actually, no need to remind me – I just told you about it).

When I venture out that way, I generally will have wine and dinner at The Grove and then enjoy a fresh made cappuccino and a pastry at the connected coffee shop Lola Savannah, which has the same owners. I really love both places – but tend to stay in downtown more often than not to dine, so was delighted to hear that they will be coming to downtown this summer!

Both concepts are slated to go in the prime ground floor space of the Cirrus Logic building at 800 W 6th, which was most recently inhabited by Tapasitas (now closed). The location had been challenging for prior restaurant concepts, but if any concept can make it work, I believe it’s The Grove and Lola Savannah.

cirrus-logic-the-grove-austin-downtown

The partnership team behind the concepts is extremely experienced, and The Grove’s approach and brand will work extremely well in the space and in the overall arena of downtown Austin dining.  I have not been to the Lakeway location, but the patio that The Grove has on Bee Caves is one of the most enjoyable restaurant spaces, and was designed by celebrated architecture firm Dick Clark Architecture in 2008.

Here are some photographs of the Westlake spaces taken by Paul Bardagjy (these are also on the Dick Clark Architecture site):

Reports state that The Grove / Lola Savannah will eventually take over the space that Restaurant Jezebel is in, as well.

We can’t wait to visit!

The Grove / Lola Savannah
800 W 6th St, 78701





Things to do in Downtown Austin – Austin Panic Room

Things to do in Downtown Austin – Austin Panic Room

Austin Panic Room

Are you itching for something a little different – a little outside of the normal weekend routine of brunch, shopping, frisbee golf in Zilker, etc?

Well, have I got a recommendation for you – Austin Panic Room.

It’s one of the funnest group activities that I’ve done in a very long time, and they have recently relocated from East Austin into downtown Austin at 1205 Rio Grande, near ACC and Pease Elementary.

Here’s the scoop:  Austin Panic Room is basically just a big puzzle you solve with your friends (and maybe some strangers) in about an hour.

[Read more…]





Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Reflections on the Brazos by Ryah Christensen (2nd and Brazos)

The Second Street Public Art Master Plan (part of Great Streets), in coordination with the City’s Art in Public Places program, has methodically been placing art in around the district since the mid-2000s, when 7 sidewalk enhancements were commissioned at district intersections to reflect a unified theme.

The City of Austin has a 2% for art ordinance that was established in 1985. Art in Public Places (AIPP) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and Austin was the first municipal public art program in the state of Texas. Under the ordinance, 2% of eligible capital improvement project budgets are allocated for the commission of public art for that site. The projects in The Second Street Public Art Master Plan are under that envelope of funding.

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91 Red River Moving, To Be Preserved

91 Red River Moving, To Be Preserved

91-Rainey-downtown-austin-3-750

New signals of an inevitable redevelopment of the northeastern corner of Davis Street and Red River.  We noticed yesterday that there was drilling outside of the home and we asked about it.  We were told by a reliable source that the home, constructed in the early 1900’s, is being relocated to a retirement couple in Thorndale, possibly as part of a larger retirement community of historic homes.

Back in August of 2014, 91 and 91 1/2 Red River received demo permits from the City. As the Rainey Street district continues to evolve, we are glad to see these homes preserved.

91-red-river-600x337





5 things Amazon Will deliver to Downtown Austin in 1 hour

5 things Amazon Will deliver to Downtown Austin in 1 hour

Amazon-Prime-Now

Delivery and in-home services in Downtown Austin are getting ridiculous in the most amazing way.  New ideations of these delivery services just… keep… appearing.

And now a giant has arrived in the marketplace. You can now get 1 HOUR DELIVERY of everyday items to your downtown Austin condo or office, through the new Amazon Prime Now App.

You do have to be a member of Amazon Prime, and you have to download the app onto your phone.

Choose your item from the options on the app.  Choose whether you want 1-hour delivery ($7.99/order) or 2-hour delivery at no additional charge.  $15 minimum.  Also, you should probably tip, though they say it isn’t required, but I’m guessing it’s expected by your delivery guy.

Here are five types of items that you can have Amazon deliver to you in 1 hour:

Amazon-Prime-Now

 

1. Nyquil (or other medicines).  Say you are siiiiick and Royal Blue Grocery is a couple of blocks too far away.  Well, heave a courier get you some NyQuil and throw in some Kleenex to hit your minimum.

 

2.  In the midst of a home project and covered in paint or grime?  Order your painter’s tape, picture hooks, and hammer right from your home.

 

3. Throwing a party and forgot some things?  Have an Amazon courier bring over your plates, cups, and napkins (and a couple of snacks) while you prepare for your guests.

 

4. Out of pet food but don’t want to get in downtown rush-hour traffic?  You guessed it, an Amazon courier will bring Fido or Kitty some food and treats.

 

5. A laptop.  Because why not?

Amazon-Prime-Now-downtown-austin-17

 





Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

la-bare-austin-exterior-5

Remember La Bare on Riverside?  Yeah, you do.

If you’re new to Austin, La Bare was a “ladies club” located at 110 E Riverside Drive that advertised male dancer entertainment.  From the get-go, the business was troubled due to an incompatible use with the surrounding neighborhood (even then, when it wasn’t as densely populated with residential developments like The Crescent and others) and eventually re-opened on I-35, where it commenced to unwind.

That first part of that story sounds familiar, as a strip club was recently proposed and faces opposition at 422 Congress.

Just as fascinating as its salacious past are the future possibilities for the site, which is now being listed by commercial brokers Avison Young.

The fact that it’s been vacant for yeeeeaaaaaarssss seems nuts given it’s HIGHLY desirable location (again, a familiar theme in recent news). Why?  We can only speculate, but it likely had to do with figuring out how the adjacent TxDot property will develop.

With a large landowner controlling several adjacent lots in one of the most desirable areas of Austin, we expect that once the planets align we’re going to see a master plan for all of these sites.

Down the street, CWS is mid-construction on a 260-unit luxury apartment complex.

 

la-bare-austin-exterior-for-sale-sign-2-750