The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

One of the things that always seemed curious to me is how and why Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) occupied prime square footage on a heavily trafficked part of Congress Avenue, next to Annie’s. For many years, Cap Metro occupied the first and third floor of this three-story building.

Well its lease expires this coming April, and it seems the landlord is raising the rent. As a result, Capital Metro is moving into 209 W 9th Street (southwest corner of Colorado and 9th), which is owned by Harry Whittington.  There, the transit agency is signing a 5-year $3.3 million lease on 18,800 square feet.  This will allow the consolidation of two call centers – one currently housed at the 323 Congress Ave.

For years, the good energy of clear windows (“fenestration” for my fellow wonks) and ambience of Annie’s seemed to kind of get sucked way by the dark, looming, uninviting storefront of Capital Metro next door.

So what’s next for 323 Congress?

The entire building is 21,900 square feet, and  features open floor layouts, ample lighting and excellent visibility to Congress Ave.  According to this undated flyer from Weitzman, it appears to be listed for sale “between $2.5 million and $7.3 million.”  Or, it could be for lease $24-36/ft/yr by Cielo Realty Partners, as it’s shown on Loopnet.

I’ll be surprised if this languishes too long.  Office vacancies downtown have recently fallen below 12%, according to this Dec. 11 Austin Tenant Advisors press release, which compares well to other major cities such as Atlanta which reports a 24% vacancy rate. Average lease rates for all classes are averaging around $30/square in the downtown area while landlords of Class A office properties are quoting $38/square foot, or higher.

This, in part, is being driven by a number of web/computing-based companies setting up shop downtown, which is about as a good of a thing as a city could ever hope would happen to its downtown office space.  We can expect a higher and better use of our ground level retail, however.

FYI urban transit commuter: The transit store, where folks pick up passes, pocket maps and the lost & found, is also moving to the new location on 9th Street.

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. Hello. I work at this Capital Metro office. An open records request can be submitted from the Capital Metro website if you really want to know how much the rent was. It’s a really old building and the interior needs some work to make bring it up to date. I’m going to miss working there but 9th and Lavaca isn’t too far away and is near the Library and Wooldrich Park.

  2. Whenever I walk by the Texas Lottery Commission on 6th, I have similar thoughts.

  3. RE: how & why CapMetro came to occupy that space: Let’s remember that it wasn’t too long ago when Congress Ave was not the vibrant place it is today. My understanding is that CapMetro was asked to have such a space on Congress several years ago so there would be any retail activity at all in that stretch of the Avenue. Now, thanks to the succesfull efforts of DAA and others, Congress is revitalized, and the transit store is certainly not the most active possible use for that space. I submit this should be viewed as success by planners and downtown advocates, in which Capital Metro played a small part.

  4. Any idea how much Cap Metro was spending at this location on Congress? In a way, it seems like they were spending too much with a location on Congress. But there is also lots of Cap Metro traffic on Congress, and it’s easy to get to, so that is a good place for Cap Metro to have a store.

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