Archives for April 2013

Sayonara, downtown Arby’s shell

Sayonara, downtown Arby’s shell

When I posted earlier this year that a student housing project was slated for the intersection of 17th and Guadalupe – a site haunted by an abandoned Arby’s – some folks were less than sure it would happen.

The catch was that the developer needs to build underground parking and the new building in time for the August UT move-in.

Today, I bring you evidence that the project is indeed moving forward, and with gusto.

As you can see, the Arby’s building there has been wiped from the face of the earth. On April 8, a permit was also issued for excavation to begin, so expect that soon. If you headed around there, a quick heads up that the construction crews are going to use the south side of 18th Street for construction of building an the sidewalk will be closed.

No word yet on what the building will look like, by the way.

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

Fairmont hotel spurs nearby land deals

The dirt parking lot across the street south of the Fairmont hotel site, plus with the Iron Works BBQ auxiliary parking lot (due south of Iron Works BBQ) are both under contract, which hints at future development.

Plans are not being disclosed, but one buyer group is reported to be local and the second is from California. Robert Knight and Perry Lorenz own the land are are also selling a lot at Red River and Fourth Street.

The Austin Business Journal has more

Austin Towers has more on the Fairmont

Contract map

Downtown a major draw for new residents

The Austin American-Statesman parsed some census data and confirmed that downtown is a major destination for the hoards of people migrating to Austin.

Downtown Austin had the highest percentage of Austin residents who had lived in another state one year earlier. About 1 in 10 of downtown’s population moved from another state.

A commenter to the story, said: “The first thing the agent showed us when we moved here was Steiner Ranch. We asked her to turn the car around and leave. Steiner is exactly the kind of place you find in Anytown, USA. Why bother to move here? We opted for downtown. DT is Austin.”

Statesman has more

Downtown businesses launch car-reduction program

The Austin City Council approved a measure to help fund a pilot program for downtown business tenants to encourage their employees to get to work without a car.

This could include bike parking, employee subsidies for car sharing or transit passes, alternative work schedules or workplaces with locker and shower facilities. (Still waiting on bike share, City Hall people. What gives with the hold up?)

Businesses will have to apply to participate in the pilot project. Applications will be accepted through April 30, and the program will be activated between May and June. For more information visit the program website.

KUT News has more

Local Texas lawmakers take on Congress Ave. development

Bills filed by State Sen. Kirk Watson and State Rep. Donna Howard would make the stepback standards that the city currently enforces in the area into a state law. It is being reported that the Downtown Austin Alliance supports the bill.

The Austin Contrarian blog posted a critique, which drew a full-fledged response from Sen. Watson.

The Austin Business Journal has more

Rumors Surround Medical School Downtown

Rumors Surround Medical School Downtown

The Austin American-Statesman ran a front page story today teasing a bio-tech innovation district downtown around the new Dell Medical School. (That the story ran one day after The Mohawk issued an April Fools press release lamenting the demise of cool Red River is pretty funny.)

Mohawk shenanigans aside, the Statesman story didn’t really say much new, but it did put ink to paper on a handful of rumors that have been floating around and I had heard, which I’d like to capture for you here.

1) There is universal consensus is that the teaching hospital will be built by Seton’s Brackenridge Hospital. No one with a six-figure salary will confirm it unequivocally, but the key suspect location for the hospital is the parking lot on the south side of the Erwin Center. This site is known as the “Elephant Lot” and is so named for the elephants who call it home when the circus comes to town.

2) The medical school is being proposed to exist atop the site where the tennis courts are now, which is UT land. The medical school will be housed in two buildings: an administrative and classroom space and a research area. Recently, UT hired Boston planning and design firm Sasaki Associates Inc. – which is currently developing an update to the UT-Austin campus master plan – to also develop a medical district master plan.

3) Some people are talking about tearing down the Erwin Center eventually to make room for more medical stuff. Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen. Where UT would house indoor sports and where older people would go to replay their high school rock years is undetermined. This would perhaps be laid out when UT unveils its updated master plan. At a recent regent’s meeting, President Bill Powers said it was almost ready. (That was before all the drama unfolded and his job appeared in peril, so unveiling the master plan is probably on the back burner for now.)

4) Brackenridge, the current hospital, would not be demolished. Instead the majority of the facility will be re-purposed into things like meetings spaces. A simulated treatment center, used to train nursing students from colleges all over the area, would remain in use at Brackenridge.

5) Something I had not heard before is talk of “straightening out Red River Street, whose current path includes an westward bulge where it intersects with East 15th,” as noted by the Statesman. How this would be paid for is not mentioned and I presume it would be a heavy Public Works project that would have to come out of another city bond measure to fund the job. We’re talking major engineering, not the kind of construction we see for Great Streets downtown.

6) The Statesman also quoted the Mayor as saying that the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital and the Travis County medical examiner’s office, both of which occupy city-owned land under leases, could be re-purposed.

7) Two things not mentioned in the Statesman story: The medical arts master plan impact on the Waller Creek taxing district, or the impact of Urban Rail on this plan (if it ever goes to a vote and is passed).

8) It must also be said: A medical arts district downtown will continue to drive housing demand in the core for a variety of reasons. For that reason alone, I am for it.