About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of REATX 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 serves on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.

DAB: News Roundup

DAB: News Roundup

Bowie Street underpass finally on drawing board

The Bowie Street underpass project, to connect the Market District to the Pfluger Bridge under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, has been in the public domain for almost six years, but stagnant without any real progress.

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

Now it appears engineering plans are finally here!  This is especially welcome news for residents of Gables West and Spring Condos.

Records show a site plan by city infrastructure contractor HDR (although watermarked as “preliminary”) was officially signed off by engineers and submitted to city permitters in mid-August. Past reports anticipated the underpass to wrap construction in 2016, and this is a good sign the ball is moving.

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge


So Long, Cozzoli’s

Cozzoli’s Pizza, a frequent late-night haunt of downtowners at 7th & Congress since 1981, closed its doors for good last month.  Owner Moosa Meschin, who worked behind the counter until the end, posted a farewell well note as he enters retirement.

Hatbox, a haberdashery once located on South Congress, has opened up shop in the space and is a welcome addition to promote an activated N. Congress corridor.

I’ll miss Cozzoli’s comfort food.  This is a loss for everyone in downtown Austin who appreciates the unpretentious.



416 Congress Boutique Hotel back from grave?

It was way back in 2011 that City Council blessed the 416 Congress “sliver hotel” only for the project to stagnate and never get off the ground.

However, the project has just been resubmitted, keeping it in play, and it remains unchanged from the 2011 vision. That plan call for a 26-story, 130-room hotel and restaurant behind a small 120-year-old Congress Avenue building (the entire structure, other than the front façade, will be demolished).

416 Congress - rendering

416 Congress – rendering Dick Clark Architecture


Proposed Kimber Modern Rainey loses the Kimber

The Kimber Modern Rainey hotel, slated to be a 30-room boutique hotel, in the Rainey Street District is at risk after mastermind Kimber Cavendish told local media she is out.

Located near the corner of River St @ East Ave, and with CBD zoning in place it’s an attractive development site.  There’s an indication in the report about the project’s moving forward with a different brand and vision.  Stay tuned.

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

SXSW guru’s company picks up downtown parcel unhindered by Capitol View Corridor

SXSW executive Roland Swenson’s development company — CZ Properties — picked up an acre parcel next to the State Capitol at 1400 Lavaca Street, according to new reports.

The property, which is just under an acre and currently includes a two-story building occupied by the Texas Restaurant Association, could be developed into something much more.

SXSW has remained tight-lipped other than to say it will be overflow office space. But I’d lay a small bet that an announcement will coincide in some way with the SXSW 30th anniversary (next year) if Swenson is planning to develop the spot.

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol


Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Closed Downtown Austin recycling center lot to be developed by 70 Rainey developer

Ecology Action of Texas announced back in June that the downtown recycling center — at 707 East 9th Street — would close at the end of September.

What’s more interesting for some than the center closing is what’s possibly in store.

Travis County records indicate the property was sold in May to an entity called Waller Creek Development LLC.  The company, according to web searches, was formed in April this year, and is managed by James Hefelfinger of Sackman Enterprises.

Sackman Enterprises is also developing the 70 Rainey condos.

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

The East 9th Street property is capped by a Capitol View Corridor, but with Sackman staking a claim in Rainey Street, expect something very interesting to come that is complementary to Waller Creek corridor redevelopment.

Filling station at 10th & Lamar sold by Travis County

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved selling the gas station used to fill county vehicles to a developer.

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

Sam Kumar, founder and president of the construction firm Journeyman, told the Austin-American Statesman he plans to build a small office space and three or four condominium apartments at the property.

Although not a huge project, it’s a welcome addition to liven up the North Lamar corridor downtown. The property has been underutilized since the urban renaissance of downtown Austin, and left in rather dingy status by Travis County.

Block 87 — at Trinity and Seventh — as massive mixed-use development

Very exciting news broke this week, the long-blighted parking lot owned by the Episcopal Church, is being marketing for a bold new vision.

Specifically, the Church is looking for a partner to develop Block 87 as part of a 600,000 square feet tower of office, residential, retail uses, generous parking, and the Archives of The Episcopal Church.

The lot at Trinity and Seventh streets was bought by the Episcopal Church in 2009, and sits across the street from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

The Church first planned a 70,000-square-foot, five-story archive building, a garage and limited ground-floor retail.. However, in 2011, it was reported that Church funds were diverted to assist in global disasters, and the lot has since sat untouched.

Sadly, derelict surface parking lots and adjacent homeless resource centers don’t exactly create welcoming environments downtown.  The community should be extremely supportive and optimistic that this project will get off the ground, sooner than later.


Conceptual rendering of Block 87

Villas on Town Lake HOA contemplates redevelopment

The HOA controlling the two acre site that is home to the Villas on Town Lake condos, located at 80 Red River Street, is availing themselves to proposals from potential buyers.  The 58 unit condo, built in 1982, is situated along Waller Creek.  According to the article, 80% of the ownership would need to approve any proposal.

The development regulations for properties within the Austin Waterfront Overlay, which this site is part of, are historically contentious and could impact what is feasible.

Your opinion matters: Seaholm Intake survey open until September 13

Your opinion matters: Seaholm Intake survey open until September 13

[Jump directly to the survey]

Construction is expected to wrap this winter for the Seaholm condos, with buyers who scored two years ago moving in shortly thereafter.  Some of you will remember way back in 2010 when former Austin City Council Member Chris Riley first publicly broached redeveloping the “other Seaholm — the derelict intake facility on Lady Bird Lake connected to the former Seaholm Power Plant.

Then, in 2013, there was a Seaholm Intake design competition.  Today, I’m really excited that the Parks and Recreation Department has announced two final, refined redevelopment proposals, and opened up a survey to hear from the public.


The top team will be awarded a Master Development agreement for a public-private partnership.  So, I really encourage Parks to publish the survey data.  Curiously, neither of the two final designs hark back to the former “top designs” released in 2013. But that is not to say that the two new final proposals are not merely more refined versions of the 2013 pitches, after structural and civil engineers got in the game.

Proposal 1: Intake at Lady Bird Lake

The first proposal seems very ambitious, striking and breathtaking. It would in reality redevelop the building into an entirely new structure. The metallic spiral corkscrewing through the facility, along with canopy roof, would create an iconic landmark that future generations would associate with Austin.

It would probably cost a pretty penny, but if the city could partially monopolize this space for special events, then I could forsee this being an attractive option.

I’m weighing it a “C” for pragmatic likelihood of getting off the ground.

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Proposal 2: A Place For The City

Compared to the other proposal, this feels like a very bland, unexciting project on the surface. But in terms of time to implement and overall cost, it seems very pragmatic. The exterior gets a face life and the interior basically becomes and exhibit hall and event venue, which is also monetizable.

I’m weighing it an “A” for pragmatic likelihood of getting off the ground.

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Convention Center Sprawl Gets Real

Convention Center Sprawl Gets Real

Last year we began tracking the City’s push to expand the Austin Convention Center.  Which is all well and good until they expressed interest in doing it by swallowing downtown blocks.

The City Council Economic Opportunity Committee is slated to receive an update on the Convention Center’s expansion plan on Monday Aug. 24 — according to the draft agenda

I and others will be interested to see if the briefing adds any clarity to City’s public plan to buy one of the last prime redevelopment sites along Cesar Chavez (Block 8) for the expansion. The real estate, in the southern shadow of the Four Seasons Residences west of the Convention Center, has no height restrictions.


News broke in July that White Lodging had acquired a land lease on the same property and proposed to build a hotel on the site. However, the development news — which appears to have been “placed” by White Lodging PR — is sparse on details.

How the two projects would actually marry seems very complex.  It would be a sophisticated negotiating move by White Lodging to make this play to entice the City Council to really put their foot on the gas and fast track a Convention Center expansion.

The CEO of White Lodging was quoted in the local paper as saying the company’s looks “forward to working collaboratively with the city to ensure this project complements, and hopefully expedites, the proposed convention center expansion.”

Anyone who has ever bought or sold a car or a puppy knows how to put the heat on by lobbing in another interested buyer/seller — even if they are half imaginary. I encourage our City Council to consider that their policy choices on this matter will forever impact the future of downtown Austin.

As my friend Marshall put it:


City of Austin putting downtown real estate on the market

City of Austin putting downtown real estate on the market

I haven’t seen this hit the mainstream news yet, but a large 1.6-acre lot, with prime frontage along Waller Creek corridor and a potentially buried I-35 is on the market.  But, it’s future is uncertain.

The lot, at 408 North IH-35 between 4th and 5th Streets, is owned by the City of Austin. The city acquired it in 2010 as a staging area for Waller Creek Tunnel project.

City Lot Birds Eye

According to city records, staff said they will bring a viable bidder forward to Mayor and Council by the end of the year.  Current City procedure requires the approval by City Council of any sales of a fee-simple parcel after staff has successfully identified a willing and able purchaser. Under standard procedure, City Council is not involved in the development of bid criteria for proposers.

There is a rumor among downtown aficionados that the Austin Fire Department has been eyeing the parcel ever since the city bought it, as place to relocate the firehouse at Brush Square Park.

Despite being limited by a Capitol View Corridor in terms of how tall it could be, it could be tall enough for me to believe that a fire station would be a bone-headed, shortsighted use of the land!

Through tax increment financing (TIF), Austin has bonded out millions to pull a long corridor of downtown out of the Waller Creek floodplain, and won public approval to develop the Sabine Street Promenade – which runs adjacent to the lot for sale.

Further, the importance of a world-class project moving into this slot crystallizes when taken into context of the still-enduring vision by the community to cut and cap I-35. In June, TxDOT officially got behind the idea of depressing I-35 about 25 feet below the frontage road level throughout its downtown Austin stretch, from south of Cesar Chavez Street to north of 15th Street.


I’ll be keeping an eye on this site, and am at least excited that the RFP process required by the City should help make sure that whatever project lands here contributes to the Waller Creek evolution.