Choice Downtown Austin Block Purchased For $21.75MM

Choice Downtown Austin Block Purchased For $21.75MM

Travis County will purchase a tract of downtown Austin land owned by the Austin Museum of Art for $21.75MM, according to InFactDaily.  Located directly south of Republic Square Park, it is certainly a choice piece of dirt. Currently a surface level parking lot, this land has everything going for it, most importantly it is not subject to a Capitol View Corridor.

I’m not thrilled by this purchase, based on the blighted construction Travis County has given Austin in the past.  My expectations for the type of building Travis County ultimately constructs has a high probability of being aesthetically mediocre, and it’s unlikely to offer a mix of pedestrian friendly uses at ground level. I’m just being skeptical.  Back in 2008, AMOA had much different plans.

This block is one of the most desirable undeveloped lots in downtown Austin.  Of course, not all downtown blocks are created the same.  Many are located in Capitol View Corridors, which limit height.  Some are located in a Convention Center Overlay, which forbids new surface level parking lots.  Get too close to the Capitol and you must contend with Capitol Dominance District, which also limits height.  This block has none of those encumbrances.

Back in June of 2009 the Episcopal Church purchased a full downtown Austin block at E 7th & Trinity for $9.5MM.

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. Rob Campanell says

    The parking lot at MLK and Congress would be a great location for the AMOA. We can have an actual Museum district in the city where you have three museums located within a lazy walking distance from each other.

  2. I will be pleasantly surprised if today’s municipality can match the architectural grandeur of the historic Travis County courthouse.

  3. Anastasia Beaverhausen says

    The picture used as an example of Travis County’s “blighted construction” is of an existing building the County bought at firesale prices. It was Lamar Savings, then University Savings, then Bank X., Bank Y, and Bank Z, at which time it became redundant to the downtown banking market and became vacant, Travis County didn’t build that, but they saved YOU a lot of tax money by picking-up a bargain on an entire block across Guadalupe from the courthouse. It would have been extremely irresponsible not to have bought it for adaptive reuse and to “bank” the land for future needs.

    The existing limestone courthouse building is very typical of 1930’s – 40’s southwestern civic architecture. There are at least 50 county courthouses in Texas built in that era in that exact same style. It’s classic Texas and IT WAS HERE BEFORE YOU WERE, so just deal with it.

    Get out of your car sometime and actually look at the courthouse up close. The entire building is clad in limestone with exposed seashell fossils and voids all over it. It’s unbelievably beautiful, unless you prefer panels of plastic-covered styrofoam pretending to be cut stone. But you probably don’t like cattle and oil wells either.

  4. Bad Bad Bad Bad, I hope something can be done to change this. I would rather have 5-7 more years of surface parking before something worthwhile gets put in than this project starting immediately.

    I understand the city wants a centrally located lot, but it seems counter to all the work they did to create the second street district. This should have been put in one of the lots (which plenty are available) that do not conflict with capital corridor views.

    The only redeeming point in this is the city said there would not be a jail on site, which is of little consolation.

  5. Counterthought says

    What a disaster. What a failure of leadership at AMOA too. To not have capitalized, after all these years, on what could’ve been an international space for Austin is truly depressing.

    Just ugh. Poor Republic square.

    And to add insult to injury, I’m guessing that block is easily worth double. What’s going on here?

  6. This is bad news for that block. A County building would bring some office workers, but it will undoubtedly be a lackluster building and the site will sit vacant for many more years. A privately developed, mixed use development would be a much better use for that site. How is it the County has $21.8 million lying around, and why do they need this site??? They just bought an office tower up the street. This seems like a strange deal. Something is fishy.

    • Indeed, Travis County is not an ideal neighbor, at least based on the types of buildings we’re used to getting. The price is a red herring, though. I said the same thing with the parking lot at Red River & Cesar Chavez when the city backed out of. Sure it’s a big sum of money, but it’s not outrageous given the entitlements and potential utility of the entire block. Heck, people will pay $10MM for a single home on Lake Travis.

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