[Editors note: I’ve always wanted to know the story behind the ubiquitous “Maufrais” stamped into the sidewalks of downtown Austin.  Rob Hafernik wondered the same back in 2008.  Below we’re reposting Rob’s article, originally published at Texas Escapes, and reveals some history about one of Austin’s most long-lived and mysterious brands… a legacy that began over a century ago.]

I’m a curious kind of guy. When I walk the dog, I wonder about the things I see along the way.  Everyone in Austin is familiar with the word “Maufrais”, but almost no one knows what it means. There are poems about it, and blog entries wondering about it. There are even people who think “Maufrais” is as mysterious as crop circles.

MaufraisSidewalkAustinTX1RHafernickThe reason for this mystery is that the word is stamped into half of the concrete in Austin. Just in the space of one good dog walk, I see the word a dozen times or more. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that it must be the name of a concrete company, but enquiring minds want to know more. These days, enquiring minds are as addicted to search engines as Wimpy is addicted to hamburgers.

[Read more…]

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Co-working in downtown Austin has arrived, and competition is delivering flexible work spaces that are incredible.

WeWork is set to expand through to two additional floors (close to 1,000 new desks) in their current building right around the time of the opening of the 25,000 square foot Galvanize space in the Seaholm development.  Capital Factory, the original downtown Austin co-working/incubator/accelerator concept, is a major player in the market, as well.

Those large concepts look impressive, but aren’t a fit for everyone looking for a quieter space to be productive.  The result is that there are new co-working concepts leveraging smaller spaces in historic buildings.

As I walk into the space on the top floor of the Sampson Building on Congress Avenue, I am immediately struck by the quiet – audibly and visually.  The lack of distraction, hectic bustle, and co-working “flair” sets a much different tone than what I’m used to seeing in the other downtown Austin concepts (wework and galvanize), and the atmosphere is just one of the ways Open-Source Co-Working is trying to set itself apart from its larger competitors.

I’m a sucker for a historic building.  The patina and beauty that comes from being in a building like the [Read more…]

What’s the haps at the Green Water?

What’s the haps at the Green Water?

Adding new street grid, a mix of uses, and an attractive new “butterfly” bridge over Shoal Creek, downtown Austin’s Green Water Treatment Plant (GWTP) redevelopment is one of the most significant projects underway.

There are several pieces to the GWTP puzzle, and even us inveterate downtowners will benefit from a refresher.  The site is visibly made more complex with concurrent redevelopment of Seaholm and the new Austin Central Library to the west, and Third+Shoal to the north.

The Green Water Treatment Plant four-block redevelopment, for many years, was a concept of “what could one day be” and for years was not.

GWTP in 2009. POV looking south. Photo by AustinTexasDailyPhoto

GWTP in 2009. POV from 360 condos pool deck, looking south. Photo by AustinTexasDailyPhoto

Built in 1925 and decommissioned in 2008, the Green Water Treatment Plant was Austin’s first water treatment facility. In 2008 the City of Austin sought developers for public-private partnership to redevelop the site, as part of broader 2nd Street District, and selected Trammel Crow because they proposed the most dense and ambitious plan for the site.

Some environmental issues stalled the redevelopment for a while, but now remarkably there are three distinct projects underway, plus one more wildcard to-be-determined.

The four blocks of GWTP redevelopment. Cesar Chavez @ San Antonio

The four blocks of GWTP redevelopment. Cesar Chavez @ San Antonio

Northshore (Block 1)


rendering of Northshore apartments

Construction on the first phase of redevelopment is the Northshore, a three-tiered mixed-use tower that bills itself as “the ultimate luxury living experience” with approximately 440 luxury apartments, along with 50 affordable units and more than 40,000 square feet of office and retail space. Construction is wrapping up, and the project is expected to open soon.

500 W. 2nd Street (Block 23)


One block up from Northshore is the the 500 W. 2nd Street office tower. Construction started December of 2014 on this 29-story, 500,000 square foot office tower that will have two ground-level restaurants. The lobby of 500 W. 2nd Street promises to be a striking experience from both the inside and out, by way of 26-foot tall frameless glass wall. Google made headlines by becoming the first tenant to sign on at the project and will occupy almost half the building by its completion in 2017.

Austin Proper Hotel & Residences (Block 188)


This 32-story Austin Proper hotel and condo tower (now taking reservations) is the most recent to make the news, having just been announced this summer.  The project will include 243 hotel rooms, plus another 94 condo units ranging in size from 850 square feet to 6,000-square-feet penthouses.  Construction is scheduled to start in November.


To-Be-Determined (Block 185)


The last phase of Green Water is still up in the air, and please tip your editor if you know.  Trammell Crow is being tight lipped. The master plan calls for another residential tower, hosting 295 units, and a little more retail. It’s unknown if the residential units will go up for sale, or for rent, but I’m hopeful that the market will support a condo development.

Honorable mention: Third + Shoal

It’s worth noting that the four-block development butts up to one other major development to the north, which is not part of the Green Water redevelopment: Third+Shoal (slideshare), at 208 Nueces. Construction of the 349,000-square-foot, 28-story office building is scheduled to be completed in early 2017, following the demolition of the underwhelming Austin Music Hall.



DAB: News Roundup

DAB: News Roundup

Bowie Street underpass finally on drawing board

The Bowie Street underpass project, to connect the Market District to the Pfluger Bridge under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, has been in the public domain for almost six years, but stagnant without any real progress.

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

Now it appears engineering plans are finally here!  This is especially welcome news for residents of Gables West and Spring Condos.

Records show a site plan by city infrastructure contractor HDR (although watermarked as “preliminary”) was officially signed off by engineers and submitted to city permitters in mid-August. Past reports anticipated the underpass to wrap construction in 2016, and this is a good sign the ball is moving.

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge


So Long, Cozzoli’s

Cozzoli’s Pizza, a frequent late-night haunt of downtowners at 7th & Congress since 1981, closed its doors for good last month.  Owner Moosa Meschin, who worked behind the counter until the end, posted a farewell well note as he enters retirement.

Hatbox, a haberdashery once located on South Congress, has opened up shop in the space and is a welcome addition to promote an activated N. Congress corridor.

I’ll miss Cozzoli’s comfort food.  This is a loss for everyone in downtown Austin who appreciates the unpretentious.



416 Congress Boutique Hotel back from grave?

It was way back in 2011 that City Council blessed the 416 Congress “sliver hotel” only for the project to stagnate and never get off the ground.

However, the project has just been resubmitted, keeping it in play, and it remains unchanged from the 2011 vision. That plan call for a 26-story, 130-room hotel and restaurant behind a small 120-year-old Congress Avenue building (the entire structure, other than the front façade, will be demolished).

416 Congress - rendering

416 Congress – rendering Dick Clark Architecture


Proposed Kimber Modern Rainey loses the Kimber

The Kimber Modern Rainey hotel, slated to be a 30-room boutique hotel, in the Rainey Street District is at risk after mastermind Kimber Cavendish told local media she is out.

Located near the corner of River St @ East Ave, and with CBD zoning in place it’s an attractive development site.  There’s an indication in the report about the project’s moving forward with a different brand and vision.  Stay tuned.

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

SXSW guru’s company picks up downtown parcel unhindered by Capitol View Corridor

SXSW executive Roland Swenson’s development company — CZ Properties — picked up an acre parcel next to the State Capitol at 1400 Lavaca Street, according to new reports.

The property, which is just under an acre and currently includes a two-story building occupied by the Texas Restaurant Association, could be developed into something much more.

SXSW has remained tight-lipped other than to say it will be overflow office space. But I’d lay a small bet that an announcement will coincide in some way with the SXSW 30th anniversary (next year) if Swenson is planning to develop the spot.

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol


Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Closed Downtown Austin recycling center lot to be developed by 70 Rainey developer

Ecology Action of Texas announced back in June that the downtown recycling center — at 707 East 9th Street — would close at the end of September.

What’s more interesting for some than the center closing is what’s possibly in store.

Travis County records indicate the property was sold in May to an entity called Waller Creek Development LLC.  The company, according to web searches, was formed in April this year, and is managed by James Hefelfinger of Sackman Enterprises.

Sackman Enterprises is also developing the 70 Rainey condos.

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

The East 9th Street property is capped by a Capitol View Corridor, but with Sackman staking a claim in Rainey Street, expect something very interesting to come that is complementary to Waller Creek corridor redevelopment.

Filling station at 10th & Lamar sold by Travis County

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved selling the gas station used to fill county vehicles to a developer.

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

Sam Kumar, founder and president of the construction firm Journeyman, told the Austin-American Statesman he plans to build a small office space and three or four condominium apartments at the property.

Although not a huge project, it’s a welcome addition to liven up the North Lamar corridor downtown. The property has been underutilized since the urban renaissance of downtown Austin, and left in rather dingy status by Travis County.

Block 87 — at Trinity and Seventh — as massive mixed-use development

Very exciting news broke this week, the long-blighted parking lot owned by the Episcopal Church, is being marketing for a bold new vision.

Specifically, the Church is looking for a partner to develop Block 87 as part of a 600,000 square feet tower of office, residential, retail uses, generous parking, and the Archives of The Episcopal Church.

The lot at Trinity and Seventh streets was bought by the Episcopal Church in 2009, and sits across the street from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

The Church first planned a 70,000-square-foot, five-story archive building, a garage and limited ground-floor retail.. However, in 2011, it was reported that Church funds were diverted to assist in global disasters, and the lot has since sat untouched.

Sadly, derelict surface parking lots and adjacent homeless resource centers don’t exactly create welcoming environments downtown.  The community should be extremely supportive and optimistic that this project will get off the ground, sooner than later.


Conceptual rendering of Block 87

Villas on Town Lake HOA contemplates redevelopment

The HOA controlling the two acre site that is home to the Villas on Town Lake condos, located at 80 Red River Street, is availing themselves to proposals from potential buyers.  The 58 unit condo, built in 1982, is situated along Waller Creek.  According to the article, 80% of the ownership would need to approve any proposal.

The development regulations for properties within the Austin Waterfront Overlay, which this site is part of, are historically contentious and could impact what is feasible.