Archives for June 2013

Rainey Street’s Hotel Van Zandt Begins Site Work

Rainey Street’s Hotel Van Zandt Begins Site Work

It’s for real this time.  Planned in 2006 as a sister development to the Shore Condos, which shares the southern part of the site, the Hotel Van Zandt was originally going to be a $100 million, 29-story hotel and condo tower.  The scope of the development was reduced to 16 stories and will include just the hotel.

JMI, the developer of the hotel, told the ABJ in March that June was their target month to break ground.  Bulldozers began clearing the site this morning.

Here are target dates for the construction:

  • Start date: July 2, 2013
  • Subterranean excavation now through November 2013
  • Install tower crane in October of 2013
  • Concrete structural frame of hotel: Up to ground level in January 2014
  • Pool deck level poured in March 2014
  • Building tops out at level 16 in July 2014
  • Construction Completion in March 2015
hotelvanzandt-begins construction

bulldozer begins clearing the site of Hotel Van Zandt

hotelvanzandt-begins construction2

bulldozer begins clearing the site of Hotel Van Zandt

render by WDG

Hotel Van Zandt render by WDG

Downtown News & Rumor Roundup: Central Library, Bike Share, Fairmont Updates

Downtown News & Rumor Roundup: Central Library, Bike Share, Fairmont Updates

Bike Share: Not Until End Of Year

Bike share is late, but better late than never. After KUT News and the Statesman both did spotlights on the fact that Bike Share had all but dropped off the map in Austin, City Council approved approved a contract last week with B-Cycle to purchase the equipment needed to operate the Austin bike share system.

Included in this purchase will be approximately 400 bicycles, 600 docks, 40 kiosks, and other miscellaneous accessories including the hardware and software to operate the system.

The Public Works Department promises that next month it will release an online location-suggesting tool that will enable citizens to choose where they would like a kiosk to be located, and vote for already chosen locations. Stations will be on average two or three blocks apart. The stations will be located in close proximity to local attractions, transit stations and other popular destinations.

The City aims to have the bike share program operable by late 2013.

See the press release here


Fairmont ground breaking imminent?

The 10,000 square foot surface level parking lot across from the convention center will soon be gone.  Though not an official “groundbreaking,” crews will never the less break ground soon at 101 Red River St, the site of the planned Fairmont Hotel, which will anchor the lower Waller Creek District (btw, the design plan was approved by council).

Permits were just granted for the crews to begin to tear up the concrete there, so don’t be surprised if you see activity out there. (But also don’t confuse it with general construction, which is slated for October)

fairmont-birdseye (1)

Seaholm Central Library Construction Started

This was covered to death around town, thanks to a pretty aggressive PR push from city hall. Construction has started, and will go through Fall 2015. I’m not going to belabor you with the details.  They are all in this PDF presentation.

Instead, I’m just going to show you this little comparison photo of development along the north shore, west of City Hall…



Drones Over Austin – Beautiful or Creepy?

The video below shows off some incredible camera work capturing Austin’s beautiful scenery.

Still, I can’t help but wonder when, in the wrong hands, drone tech will cross adversely into the private lives of city residents.

Until then, this is awesome.

(h/t to Robert Youens for the link)

Waller Creek design up-to-bat for council approval

Waller Creek design up-to-bat for council approval

An inspired master plan design for Waller Creek is inching closer to reality.  It’s on the agenda for City Council this Thursday.  It is a big step in a project I am a big fan of, and will be another transformative measure to propel Austin into the next 100 years.

You may vaguely remember news from six months ago, or so, about city council approving a plan for Waller Creek.  What actually happened is City Council approved the design team, from a national competition, but not their design plan.

Here is a PDF of the design plan. (use this backup link if that doesn’t work).  If you are super interested, you can watch a presentation made to city council last week like I did. (skip to 11:00 to bypass city council doldrums.)

The plan is rather broad for council to be approving wholesale, but it appears linked to getting donors who are comfortable cutting big checks.

Highlights of the plan:

  1. Build an outdoor concert stage — called the Poppy — at Waterlook Park just south of where the new Dell Medical Hospital will be built..
  2. Connect a bunch of trails and mini-bridges over the creek, connecting the Rainey Street District into the greater downtown area.
  3. Remove/replace the Austin Police Department headquarters.
  4. Build a pontoon bridge connecting to the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, which will swing from 12 O’Clock position – connecting the shores – to a 9 O’Clock position in order to open the water for boats.

If you’ve read this far, and are like “What the heck is Waller Creek?” here is a crude cheat sheet:

  1. There is a creek in downtown Austin, on the west side of I-35 stretching from the river (lake) to UT-Austin campus, which is prone to flooding when it rains.  So the properties surrounding it represent a large economic development opportunity.
  2. The city is spending large sums of money, which no one disagrees with, to dig a huge tunnel deep underground, which will act as a drain for the floodwater, thus making it cool to redevelop the creek area.
  3. A new conservancy was formed for stewardship and to raise money for grade level improvements, and held a national competition, and a firm based in Brooklyn, NYC won.
  4. The design firm, the conservancy and the city are signing a legal agreement to more or less turn the Waller Creek District over to the conservancy, with the usual city checks and balances, etc.
  5. This project is coinciding with the new Dell Medical School and adjacent development near the Erwin Center, along with a vaguely outlined “innovation district” along the east side of the State Capitol Complex.
DAB EXCLUSIVE: First Look at Broadstone On The Lake (former RunTex store)

DAB EXCLUSIVE: First Look at Broadstone On The Lake (former RunTex store)

Cities evolve.  Few quite as visibly as Austin over the past couple of decades.

We’ve got the first look at what’s coming to the site of the former RunTex store at S. 1st and Riverside Drive.  Demo permits were approved last month, and fencing has been erected around the site.

In its place, a six-story cousin (some might say “clone”) of The Crescent apartments – just down the street – is planned, called “Broadstone on the Lake.” It will feature 119 affordable units and 207 market rate ones, for a grand total of 326 apartments, according to city records.

The building is being designed by Kelly Grossman Architects, who designed the Hill Country Galleria, The Crescent and 404 Rio Grande.

Broadstone on the Lake rendering3

Broadstone on the Lake, Elevation Drawings

I’m not going to lie. While I’m thrilled about packing in some more density into the core, I’m pretty “meh” about the whole faux-urban motif of the design.  Some might say that level of design is better suited for a series of outlet malls in San Marcos.  But, let’s remember that the Broadstone apartment housing brand, much like the Millennium apartment housing brand coming to Rainey Street, is a national chain of apartment complexes, and it is what it is.

Thankfully, The Catherine – a 19-story, $68 million, 300-unit residential tower beginning to be constructed next door – has some design panache.  Formerly nick-named “StreetLights at Barton Springs” that building is next iteration of the Aquaterra condominium project, which fell victim to the lending withdraw of the 2008 recession.

(Also, also… the Hyatt Town Lake is removing a substantial amount of surface parking, and building a seven-story parking garage and ballroom behind the Sherry Matthews building. Austin Towers profiled the development there this past February.)

A note about RunTex

Although RunTex was a tenant and was going to get booted anyway, the poetic tragedy of the demolition coinciding with the apparent troubles of the RunTex business and brand is too dramatic to not mention here.

RunTex was founded 25 years ago, and as a fellow entrepreneur who knows about blood and sweat in pursuit of a dream, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for all the people whose lives are intertwined with the bricks and pavement about to be wiped from the earth there.

It is important, though, to note that I used the word “evolve” in the first sentence of this post.  Change isn’t easy, but the development of the site is a natural and healthy evolution for downtown Austin.