Archives for September 2013

Where Could You Put A Permanent Public Market In Downtown Austin?

Where Could You Put A Permanent Public Market In Downtown Austin?

The Downtown Austin Alliance is hosting a meeting this Wednesday (you can RSVP here) to discuss whether downtown Austin is ripe for a public market. They’ll also be bringing in a public market expert from a group called the Project for Public Spaces to discuss them with us.

I’m no expert but to me public markets are different than farmer’s markets. They should operate every day, often have options to sit-n-eat, and enjoy a cosmopolitan experience. Above all, a public market should be a “place,” a “destination,” and unique experience that melds cultures where you would take in-laws visiting from out of town.

Where would it go?

There are only a few sites downtown that could host a large public market.  Fortunately, most of these sites desperately need more activation.

Below are four site options in order of best opportunity!  (Hat tip to mi amigo, Jake Dirr, who helped brainstorm with me on this)

1) Convention Center Parking Garage ground floor (600 E 4th St): The ground floor of this city-owned parking garage is set up for retail, but fell victim to years of litigation regarding the original property owner, Harry Whittington.  It’s adjacent to transit, and surrounded by parking.  The ground floor could be gutted to create an indoor bazaar and market.  Because this option is climate controlled, it offers a year-round option, where as open aired public markets will suffer considerably in the 100-plus degree heat.

Vacant space below city parking garage

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Kimber Modern Is Coming To Downtown Austin – And It Looks Incredible

Kimber Modern Is Coming To Downtown Austin – And It Looks Incredible

If you have ever looked for parking behind the Continental Club on South Congress, you may have been surprised to see the Kimber Modern hotel quietly tucked along the back street.

The Kimber, with it’s clean, manicured building lines, has become a favorite destination for people visiting Austin, or even Austinites taking a staycation.

Though the notion of a Kimber Modern in the Rainey District has been percolating for a while now, the principals have been very tight lipped.

For the first time, we have an original rendering of the project that we can share, and can confirm that it will be called, simply, “Kimber Modern Rainey.”

Here’s what we know… 

– 30 hotel rooms (approx.)
– Four above grade floors
– One floor of underground parking
– Street level lobby, bar, pool, and restaurant open to the public
– Three floors of rooms
– Designed by Burton Baldridge
– Will be operated by Kimber Modern Team
– Co-Developed and built by Acero Construction

In almost poetic contrast to some of the recent cookie-cutter development in and around downtown, the Kimber Modern Rainey will be one of a kind.

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district


It’s always refreshing to see a development putting forth a bold design vision.  Despite how much downtown Austin has evolved, many of us feel a bit let down by safe “beige box” aesthetic of several new buildings.  Hat tip to Burton Baldridge on the design.

Site as it is today

Site as it is today


The site for the chic bed & breakfast’s 2nd location will be on East Ave (near the corner of River St), sharing an alley with the core of Rainey Street.  Made up of two adjacent lots: 62 & 64 East Ave, it will welcome people into the neighborhood.

Site of Kimber Modern Rainey

Site of Kimber Modern Rainey


I’m excited that owner Kimber Cavendish and Vicki Faust are bringing this kind of quality, home-grown hospitality into the Rainey Street area, four years after they launched their South Congress base.

Notably, the South Congress location picked as on of 13 winners (out of 227 entries) in 2012 to receive the Texas Society of Architects Design Awards from a total of 227 entries.

The Kimber joins Hotel Van Zandt in the neighborhood, which finally erupted into construction earlier this year after years of smoke. Just outside the ‘hood the mega-luxury, mega-size Fairmont is also looking to get underway soon.

Plans Evolve For Rainey Street’s Waller Center

Plans Evolve For Rainey Street’s Waller Center

Here are the latest revisions to the 3 acre Waller Center plan – an ambitious project that stretches along the east bank of Waller Creek, from E Cesar Chavez to Davis Street.

The updated renderings (below) give a more comprehensive vision for the massing of three distinct towers, and how they could be best be oriented.  According to the ABJ‘s interview with development firm, The Sutton Company, their target is to submit plans to the City of Austin for approval by late November


Here’s what we know about the goals of the project:

  • Tower A is a 21 story office building
  • Tower B is a 46 story residential tower
  • Tower C is a 38 story mixed use Tower
  • Target FAR is 10:1
  • 26,000 ft retail (possibly grocery store)

Checkout the images below.

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Downtown Austin News & Rumor Roundup

Downtown Austin News & Rumor Roundup

Wooldridge Park is open again 

Wooldridge Park – the basin-like lawn and gazebo at 9th & Guadalupe – opened this past week after a year-long upgrade with drought-tolerant turf grass, a new irrigation system and electrical upgrades including high-efficiency LED light fixtures.

The upgrade was made possible, by in-large, due to the selfless and dogged determination of DAB friend Michael McGill, a city council staffer in Sheryl Cole’s office and a founder of Friends of Woolridge Square.

If you see Mike in the ‘hood, and you value downtown Austin, please take a moment to tell him: “Thank you.”

That aside, the question everyone is asking is if the park will revert back into a hangout for homeless people, as it was pre-upgrade. I have a hard time believing that the people who invested so much time and energy into upgrading this place will allow it to revert back into a Hooverville.

I’ll keep tabs on this and update everyone in a few months!

New Kids on the (Downtown) Block

Downtown Austin’s largest property holder – Thomas Properties – just let go of it’s book of commercial properties… sort of.

Orlando-based Parkway Properties Inc. acquired Thomas, in what is described as a “merger,” but it remains to be seen how the acquisition will impact downtown Austin, as Thomas Properties’ influence runs deep around here.

The ABJ did a bang-up job detailing the properties impacted and digging into the local reaction.

Children’s museum shutters downtown

The Austin Children’s Museum closed its doors earlier this month, as it prepares to rebrand and relocate to new, custom-built, space out in Mueller.

First opened in 1983, the museum moved to its 2nd Street location in 1997.  Since that time, 2nd Street has grown into a thriving live/work/play strip of downtown.  I think that the bright green, children-themed façade of the museum helped lend an air of comfort to people exploring downtown from the suburbs, which helped revitalize downtown.  So, it’s departure is a loss for downtown.

The ABJ previously reported that the building would be leased, but I’ll be interested to see if it is razed for another skyscraper instead.

The Whitley Apartment Building Is For Sale

The Whitley Apartment Building Is For Sale

Downtown Austin’s most recently completed apartment building is for sale according to commercial real estate company CBRE’s website.

The timing is interesting because the Whitley just welcomed its first tenants only a few months ago.  And, we were very excited when Royal Blue Grocery was announced as an anchor bodega-grocery store.

Construction of the Whitley was first announced back in September 2011, and would replace the former Whitley Paper warehouse that occupied a half-block at the northeast corner of 3rd & Brazos Street (just south of the Railyard condos).

Since the building’s completion, they have already achieved 66% occupancy, according to the info on CBRE’s website.   That’s nearly 176 apartments rented in just a few months!!!

-266 units (66% leased)
-16 stories
-12,000 ft of ground level retail space (100% leased)
-333 structured parking spaces
-Price is to be determined by market


View of the Whitley from southwest corner of 3rd & Brazos