Another Boutique Hotel Planned For Congress Ave?

Another Boutique Hotel Planned For Congress Ave?

8th& Cong

It appears developers are pursuing a boutique hotel at the 800 block of Congress Avenue, in addition to one planned at the 400 block. We thought that once before, but this time different people are involved and it looks more certain.

The hotel, planned in the Bosche-Hogg Building — a historic building at Congress Avenue and Eighth Street plagued by low occupancy and bought out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy — will have 210 rooms and 120,000 square feet of office space, according to my intel. [Read more…]

No Tower of Babylonic Courthouse Until 2015?

No Tower of Babylonic Courthouse Until 2015?

travis county courthouse site 2015

There is a presumption that buildings in downtown Austin financed with public money have a better shot of getting off the ground quicker than private ones.

That was the case among many hopefuls, perhaps, when Travis County purchased the former Austin Museum of Art block to build a skyscraper courthouse.

But Travis County Purchasing officer Cyd Grimes busted that myth in a recent article by InFactDaily, telling the subscriber political newsletter the project won’t break ground for three or four years.

“A lot of people have been pushing this (public-private partnership),” she said. “I’m not convinced that it’s going to be cheaper, better, or faster. I think if we went and borrowed the money and did either a Construction Manager at Risk, or a Design-Build, we would be quicker down the road.”

[Read more…]

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.