Archives for March 2010

Progress at 800 W 6th Street

Progress at 800 W 6th Street

There’s progress at the corner of W 6th Street and West Ave.  The corner lot – 800 W 6th Street (tcad) – and adjacent lots, formerly home to Page Southerland Page, have been assembled and are owned by Cypress Real Estate Advisors.  For years, the corner lot served as a tire repair shop.  Not exactly the highest and best use.  Last week that tire repair shop was torn down.

In 2007 and 2008, Cypress was planning a residential tower.  The land is not in a CVC, but is not zoned CBD, and they would have needed variances in order to build what they wanted.  The project never got any legs as this was when the economy began to tank.

According to an article by Jacob Dirr (pdf) at the ABJ this past February, Cypress is planning a six-story, Class A, office building.  They do not need any variances, but do need an anchor tenant before construction begins.

It’s possible we’ll see the demolition of the PSP building in the next couple of months.  Short run use is likely to be a surface level parking lot.

-Jude

Car2Go Expands Pilot Program To State Employees

Car2Go Expands Pilot Program To State Employees

Soon, you’ll see more of these little buggers zipping around downtown Austin.  I’ve had the opportunity to drive one, and they truly do not feel that small once you’re inside and driving.  The flexibility of parking anywhere within a defined radius – you do not need to return it to where you picked it up – makes these cars perfect for one-way commutes.

Press release from Daimler

Downtown Austin Open Houses

Downtown Austin open house listings for Sunday, March 28th

Ahhh… it’s 8am and it looks like another beautiful day in Austin, Texas.  If you’ve been considering buying a downtown Austin condo, then you should come down and check out a few open houses.  You can generally walk from building to building.  When you’re done, you can enjoy an afternoon on Lady Bird Lake by renting a canoe or kayak from Matt Knifton at the Texas Rowing Center.

This weekend you can browse at your own pace at the Austin City Lofts, 36o condos, Cambridge Tower, The Shore condos, Spring condos, and the Austonian sales center.  If you’re into adaptive reuses of older buildings, checkout DAB’s list of downtown Austin lofts for sale.  Looking for downtown Austin FHA approved condos in order to qualify for 3.5% down?  We’ve got the info.

Sunday
1)
603 Davis #1503, 2bd, 2ba, $695,000, 2-4pm [AvenueOne]
2) 800 W 5th #601, 2bd, 2ba, $649,900, 1-3pm [Urbanspace]
3) 360 Nueces #2508, 1bd, 1ba, $287,500,11-2pm [Platinum Realty]
4) 1801 Lavaca #15A, 2bd, 3ba, $411,000, 12-4 [Uptown Condos]
5) 1801 Lavaca #4J, 3bd, 2ba, $469,000, 12-4pm [Uptown Condos]
6)
300 Bowie St, Spring sales center, model units, 1-5pm map website
7) 200 Congress Ave, Austonian sales center located at 300 W 6th, 12-5pm map website

Don’t see the properties you’re interested in? Ask a Realtor who lives and works in downtown Austin.

Downtown Austin Recycling Frustrations

I’m the first to proudly hang my green living badge on my downtown Austin condo door.  But, something that has always nagged at me is that there is no comprehensive recycling plan in downtown Austin.

Compared to most Austin neighborhoods, where there is single stream recycling, downtown Austin has a long way to go.  Single stream recycling is a consumer’s preferred method of recycling.  One bin for everything. Single stream recycling requires little more effort than throwing stuff away.  The aggregated refuse is hauled to San Antonio for processing.  This might change.

These bins do not work as well in dense environments.  Many single family homes will keep the recycling bin in the garage.  This is what my parents do, and they easily leave the smelly bin at the sidewalk [outside] to be picked up.  This model doesn’t work well in dense buildings, especially in high rises.

Most downtown buildings have a trash chute (not a recycling chute) on each floor, or provide nightly door-side trash pick up.  THIS is the motivational inflection point – living in a high rise, it’s simply easier to throw everything down the chute.  The obvious solution is to enable recycling at the users most convenient point – the point where many users (specifically, this author’s) motivation breaks down – the chute.

At the Sabine we have a trash chute, and no clear recycling program.  There is a garbage bin in the Hilton Garden Inn’s loading dock that can be accessed by winding through the basement, or outside via a 500lb door.  There we can dispose of cardboard, only.  The next best alternative: Amber would make the weekly effort of gathering our recycle-ables, and driving them over to Ecology Action on 9th Street @ I-35 Frontage Road.

At the Shore we have dedicated bins for various materials.  It’s a cumbersome process, but an available option, which is nice.

What buildings do it right?  That is, who is using dedicated single stream recycling chutes on each floor?  Gables Pressler and the Austonian.  Kudos.

OK, what happens to the thousands of beer cans and bottles consumed at downtown bars?

Jennifer Herber with City of Austin Solid Waste Services (SWS) helped me by explaining the ordinances in existence that would affect downtown Austin.  SWS provides recycling pickup for anything up to four-plexes, anything more than four-plexes are serviced by private sector companies like EFI and Waste Management, for example.  Dumpster service is most popular type of service available downtown.

The Commercial and Multi-family Recycling Ordinance became effective in April 1999.  This law requires any business with 100 employees to have recycling for at least four materials, and multifamily complexes over 100 dwellings to provide recycling service for at least two materials.  For example this could be one bin for cardboard, one for plastic bottles, one for newspaper, and another for glass.  Problem is, SWS has only two people code enforcers they rely on to confirm compliance.

Lacy Laborde with the Downtown Austin Alliance informed us that last year, City Council directed the City’s Solid Waste Advisory Commission (SWAC) and Solid Waste Services Department to make recommendations to amend the Commercial and Multi-Family Recycling Ordinance.  SWAC continues to hold meetings with stakeholders, includes subcommittees for restaurants and retailers, to understand how to best amend the ordinance.

All buildings within the Downtown Refuse Contract District (6th Street, Warehouse District and Congress Ave) can currently recycle paper and cardboard products.  There is a voluntary program that bars can opt-in to for glass recycling.  This includes several dumpsters placed throughout the alleys of East Sixth Street.  Only 10 bars participate in this program.

I want to emphasize this point:  The vast majority of beer bottles and cans in downtown Austin bars are NOT recycled. They’re just thrown away.  Take a moment an envision how many beers are consumed during a given week.  Now, imagine those beer cans and bottles piling up at the dump.  Next, imagine that they’ve been doing this for decades.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

SWAC should receive all subcommittee recommendations by April.  Hopefully, council will review them soon after and push for improvements.

-Jude

p.s. Thanks to Lacy Laborde with the DAA, and Jennifer Herber with SWS for helping me navigate the various recycling rules and programs available.

Chilled Water

Chilled Water

Something like an '80s album cover - DANA Chill Water Crew. From left to right: Jude Galligan, Mitch McGovern, Dale Glover, Greg Anderson, Darron Ross

At your single family home, you likely have a big 3 x 3 ft. HVAC compressor resting along the side of your property.  Now, imagine you’re building 440 residences in the 360 condos each requiring its own compressor.  Where do you put them?  You don’t put them anywhere, usually.  Most large buildings use chillers and cooling towers that take up valuable downtown Austin real estate and incur significant capital cost and maintenance expenditures.  So, what’s a builder to do?

downtown chill water district connections

You tap into the City of Austin chilled water system designed to cool high rises efficiently.  An underground network of pipes that provide chilled water to meet the cooling needs of multiple buildings.  There are two chill water plants serving the downtown Austin district.  The first is located in the state parking garage at 3rd and Nueces.

Basement of downtown chill water plant #2

No doubt, you’ll recognize the second plant and its blue tile facade on the northeast corner of the City’s Harry Whittington’s(?) convention center parking garage at 5th @ Sabine.  Inside those walls is a 1,000,000 gallon tank filled with water and ice.  Glycol infused water runs through a winding system of tubes chilling the water that passes over it.  Below are photos from a tour provided to DANA last week.  We couldn’t get a photo of the ice room as there is no light, and what you can see looks like murky water.  My camera’s battery ran out before we got to the roof, hopefully someone else from the tour has a photo.  Thanks to Greg Anderson for organizing, and Austin Energy’s Darron Ross for guiding the tour.