Mayor’s Chief of Staff Exits And Why You Should Care

Mayor’s Chief of Staff Exits And Why You Should Care

austin city hall

Casual observers of city hall, at first glance, might take little notice that Mark Nathan, Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s chief of staff, has announced his departure.

But it is a noteworthy event whenever an executive politician’s chief of staff exits. A chief of staff is the one who gets stuff done, while their boss is smiling for the camera. The office of chief of staff and the person holding it become synonymous.

To that point, the mayor said on his own website “Mark has been a driving force behind almost every major initiative we’ve undertaken.”

As a nerdish observer of City Hall, which is one level above casual, I can read into that a few ways, but the simplest is just to look at three things the mayor’s office has pushed in the past 12-16 months: A new downtown hotel, an urban rail system and the United States Grand Prix F1 race. (As for the F1 race, one could say Lee isn’t a “pusher” maybe just an adamant supporter. He was the only council member who wanted to approve the contract about 60 days ago, when his six other colleagues — including Randi Shade on her last day — voted to postpone the vote under threats it could blow the entire deal. That’s telling.) [Read more...]





Hank’s: From Garage to Entrepreneur’s Dream

Hank’s: From Garage to Entrepreneur’s Dream

hanks garage downtown austin

Downtown Austin office workers, visitors, and residents have a new choice when it comes to grabbing a bite and a beer: Hank’s Garage.

Formerly Sister’s Edge II, a lesbian bar, and before that “The Cockpit,” an aptly-named gay bar, Hank’s instead caters to all people of all sexual orientations with a strong thirst for Belgian beer.

They have a whopping 32 beers on tap, such as Duchesse de Bourgogne, which will give Gingerman loyalists a run for their money, and some premium entrees.

Hank’s also offer something to the brunch crowd with a plate of two eggs — served your way — with potatoes and toast for an Abraham or an omelet for a couple extra Georgies.

The guy behind this, Jeffrey Kuhn, spent about three decades in the service industry, dabbling in finance and real estate as well.

Kuhn represents what is great about Austin and downtown. He’s bootstrapped this whole thing himself and spent about a year gutting Sister’s Edge by himself, in the process unearthing  remnants of when the building used to be a legit garage run by a mechanic named “Hank” almost 75 years ago.

Located at 115 San Jacinto (half block north of the Four Seasons), the renovation really dresses up the outside of the building, too. After you stop by, check out these photos of how the place looked as the Cockpit and Sister’s Edge. ¡Ay, caramba!

[Read more...]





A Tale Of Two Hotels

A Tale Of Two Hotels

Hilton hotel rules

Anyone listening in at City Hall might have heard city staff remind city council not to call the new hotel hotels being pitched downtown a “convention hotel.”

If you are wondering why, check out this story I wrote while at the Austin Business Journal in December.  It is curious why this point has been overlooked or ignored by other media outlets.

To plagiarize, well, myself: “The city barred itself nine years ago from designating any other hotel as one of the city’s ‘convention center hotels’ when it agreed to a contract that called for issuing more than $250 million in bonds to build the downtown Austin Hilton, according to public records filed with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, or MSRP. The city reaffirmed that pledge when it refinanced the bonds in 2006.”

The second hotel developers are quick to point out they are not asking for subsidies, like the Marriott project planned on 2nd Street and Congress Avenue is.

But they can’t, according to the contract.

Interestingly, the Statesman reported on June 23 that the second hotel, planned by Austin developers Perry Lorenz and Robert Knight, could be a Hilton.

But according to the same contract I sourced above, the Hilton can’t build another hotel unless they cut through some red tape.

Just goes to show, I guess, a contract with the city is only as good as the litigators you want to enforce it.





Mega Hotel Subsidy Draws Fire From Austin Council

Mega Hotel Subsidy Draws Fire From Austin Council

congress ave hotel

It seems that having Armbrust & Brown attorney Richard Suttle as the representative of the hotel developers I wrote about Monday may be a little too hot for some council members to handle.

On Tuesday morning, Council Members Bill Spelman, Sheryl Cole and Laura Morrison seemed skeptical that his clients need almost $4 million in city breaks to help to build a hotel downtown.

Students of city politics should note that the power base at city council has now shifted from Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Chris Riley — who are losing defeated incumbent Randi Shade — to the other council members, who are gaining Kathie Tovo next month.

[Read more...]





New Mega Hotel Planned, City Waiving $3.8M In Fees

New Mega Hotel Planned, City Waiving $3.8M In Fees

congress ave hotel

News broke Friday that the shelved White Lodging Services Corp. plans for a 1,000-plus hotel at 2nd Street and Congress Avenue are back on the stove.

The news seems to echo what Assistant City Manager Robert Goode told council at a recent hearing: “We are a big city, get over it.”

[Read more...]





Mega Presentation On Urban Rail Tuesday

Mega Presentation On Urban Rail Tuesday

austin rail

NEWS FLASH: According to a source at City Hall, the Austin Transportation Department is slated to give a big presentation June 14 that will be “a substantial briefing” on urban rail and begins to start answering Uncle Lee’s 30 crucial questions and “then some.”

The mayor has pushed a 2012 bond election funding a first leg for a new mode of mass transit in Austin.

[Read more...]





Urban Outfitters Shacking Up At The W Austin Hotel

Urban Outfitters Shacking Up At The W Austin Hotel

Urban Outfitters downtown Austin

The 2nd Street shopping district is likely to get a jolt from patrons still paying off college loans with a new Urban Outfitters clothing store.

As evident by the colorful graffiti, the faux-thrift store (call it ironic?) retailer has plans to move into the ground floor of The W Austin Hotel, which opened in December 2010.

I shop exclusively at Kohl’s, but allegedly Urban Outfitters’ new spot is a big deal because their only other Austin location is not so far away on Guadalupe Street, up near the University of Texas main campus. Perhaps they are targeting the PBS Austin City Limits crowd from shows taped there?

Jokes aside, this is a vindication that downtown Austin is becoming a destination and not in the way of “urban pioneers” loading up on Gatorade and PB&J to venture out of suburbia, like they do in Ohio.

For a number of reasons, Urban Outfitters joins the ranks of business interests investing in downtown Austin.

Cole Broadhead, a principal at Retail Solutions, said the folks at Urban Outfitters “do their homework.”

“Those deals take a long time,” he said. “They do a ton of research.”





Based on information from the Austin Board of REALTORS ® (alternatively, from ACTRIS) for the period through 4/18/14 6:09 AM PDT. Neither the Board nor ACTRIS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. All data is provided “AS IS” and with all faults. Data maintained by the Board or ACTRIS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.

Information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing.

This IDX solution is (c) Diverse Solutions 2014.