The Other Downtown Austin

The Other Downtown Austin

the streets are adorned with lush, green trees

It’s an exciting time to live in and be involved with Downtown Austin.  Major developments being announced, and construction commencing pretty regularly.  Population and commerce increasing exponentially each year.  More places to eat.  More feet on the street. More energy.  Austin, and downtown Austin specifically, garners a lot of local, regional, and even national attention… well, most of downtown gets attention.

See, there’s this “other” downtown.  A hidden-in-plain-sight curiosity.

Let me preface the point.  Take look at a map of downtown Austin.  Visualize downtown as four quadrants, with axes along 6th Street and Congress Avenue.

First, the southeastern quadrant of downtown is home to the monumental Waller Creek redevelopment, has fortunate proximity to most downtown and East Side venues, quick access to the Hike & Bike Trail, several exciting and new hotel developments, including the The Fairmont and the Hotel Van Zandt, and an array of existing and proposed apartment and condo developments.  70 Rainey, for example.

Second, the southwestern quadrant, the media darling of downtown Austin, with heavy economic investment, has a rich mix of residential, office, and recreational uses, and seems to be constantly boasting some sort of development activity.  Major, sexy condo tower projects like the Seaholm, the Greenwater Treatment redevelopment, and the newly announced Independent have put the area on the forefront of media coverage.  Substantial office projects like the recently completed Colorado Tower and the under-construction office tower at 5th and Colorado are also making news.

Third, the northeastern quadrant is bubbling as an “Innovation Zone” – with developments bringing new life to the medical and tech industries, as well as activity related to our state Capitol.  Very recently, Foundation Communities opened it’s affordable housing development: Capital Studios.  This area is also filled, FILLED!!, with blighted parking garages.  Fortunately, Texas State Capitol complex has started getting some attention in recent years.

And, now we’ve arrived at the subject of this post.

Fourth, and finally, the “other” downtown.  The oft overlooked top left corner of downtown.  The tranquil, lush, historically quaint, attorney office dense, northwestern quadrant of downtown!  (Bookmark this: OANA’s terrific historic online tour, block by block)

We simply don’t hear much from this neck of the woods, even though it’s among the most peaceful and pleasant places to live in downtown, with plentiful tree canopy, open parks, myriad law offices, Shoal Creek, ACC, and tasteful restorations.

It’s also some of the most expensive residential property in the City.  Most of the residential in this area is comprised of single family homes, like this, and this, and this one.  Many of these homes have become office uses, generally of the law firm or other office-practice variety (although some other fun stuff is starting to pop up!).

Austin Panic Room

The Austin Panic Room, a fun new concept that just opened in NW downtown Austin.

The reason we don’t hear of these big, shiny, fabulous, skyline changing developments?  Zoning.  It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.

For better or worse, many of the lots in the northwest part of downtown Austin simply aren’t zoned for high-rises.  It’s no simple task to get an area that’s this passionate with historic sentiment and neighborhood protections to simply approve mass zoning changes willy-nilly.  Some of the City’s most prime and walkable downtown real estate is almost completely untapped as far as density goes, with most lots being inhabited with one-story or two-story Victorian style homes.  To be clear, we like it this way, too!

There are a few dense developments in northwest downtown, like the newly constructed apartment tower, Seven.  And, Aspen Heights is under construction.  Also notable, are Westgate and Cambridge Towers, which are along major boulevards.  Typically, in this part of downtown, we expect to see mid-rise developments like 904 West, Park West Condos, and the Nokonah, along with a handful of off-the-radar apartment communities, like the Nueces Flats.

You can be on W 6th Street at midnight, then walk stumble 2-3 blocks north along Nueces and it feels like a different, quieter, world.

No doubt we will continue to read headlines about downtown Austin.  Along the way, it will be interesting to observe how the “other” downtown Austin remains relatively media mute.  Maybe it’s better that way.

-Jude





Two Rainey District Towers Getting New Restaurant Concepts

Two Rainey District Towers Getting New Restaurant Concepts

Rainey-emmer-and-rye-rendering

There’s always tons of activity in the downtown Austin restaurant scene, but we’re particularly excited about new restaurants in the Rainey Street District since this area of downtown is changing and maturing more quickly than other parts of downtown.

With the residential that already exists in the district, and more coming online like Millennium Rainey Apartments, 70 Rainey, and the proposed Waller Park Place, expanded commercial options for this downtown Austin area were imminent, and we’re now seeing day spas, salons, a dry cleaner (!), and more eating options pop up in Rainey.

Skyhouse Apartments is filling a corner on the ground floor with a fun looking concept called Emmer and Rye. We’ve reached out, but don’t know a ton about it (there appears to have been a restaurant in Seattle with the same name that closed a couple years back, but we’re unsure if it’s related).  The only online marketing they seem to currently have is their Instagram account.  We did find some great renderings online from their architect, Kevin Stewart, though:

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Additionally, the Hotel Van Zandt, a boutique hotel concept opening right next to The Shore Condos this summer, is opening a very smartly named Geraldine’s restaurant concept, which will boast undoubtedly stunning lake views as well as good food and fun.

Check out their website (it’s just a landing page, right now) here, and sign up for updates.

Also, check out updated Hotel Van Zandt interior renderings at the Austin Business Journal.

geraldines-austin

 

These concepts will join existing Rainey dining options No Va, El Naranjo, G’raj Mahal, Bangers, Javelina, Salvation Pizza, and Royal Blue Grocery.





Things to do in Downtown Austin – Austin Panic Room

Things to do in Downtown Austin – Austin Panic Room

Austin Panic Room

Are you itching for something a little different – a little outside of the normal weekend routine of brunch, shopping, frisbee golf in Zilker, etc?

Well, have I got a recommendation for you – Austin Panic Room.

It’s one of the funnest group activities that I’ve done in a very long time, and they have recently relocated from East Austin into downtown Austin at 1205 Rio Grande, near ACC and Pease Elementary.

Here’s the scoop:  Austin Panic Room is basically just a big puzzle you solve with your friends (and maybe some strangers) in about an hour.

[Read more…]





5 things Amazon Will deliver to Downtown Austin in 1 hour

5 things Amazon Will deliver to Downtown Austin in 1 hour

Amazon-Prime-Now

Delivery and in-home services in Downtown Austin are getting ridiculous in the most amazing way.  New ideations of these delivery services just… keep… appearing.

And now a giant has arrived in the marketplace. You can now get 1 HOUR DELIVERY of everyday items to your downtown Austin condo or office, through the new Amazon Prime Now App.

You do have to be a member of Amazon Prime, and you have to download the app onto your phone.

Choose your item from the options on the app.  Choose whether you want 1-hour delivery ($7.99/order) or 2-hour delivery at no additional charge.  $15 minimum.  Also, you should probably tip, though they say it isn’t required, but I’m guessing it’s expected by your delivery guy.

Here are five types of items that you can have Amazon deliver to you in 1 hour:

Amazon-Prime-Now

 

1. Nyquil (or other medicines).  Say you are siiiiick and Royal Blue Grocery is a couple of blocks too far away.  Well, heave a courier get you some NyQuil and throw in some Kleenex to hit your minimum.

 

2.  In the midst of a home project and covered in paint or grime?  Order your painter’s tape, picture hooks, and hammer right from your home.

 

3. Throwing a party and forgot some things?  Have an Amazon courier bring over your plates, cups, and napkins (and a couple of snacks) while you prepare for your guests.

 

4. Out of pet food but don’t want to get in downtown rush-hour traffic?  You guessed it, an Amazon courier will bring Fido or Kitty some food and treats.

 

5. A laptop.  Because why not?

Amazon-Prime-Now-downtown-austin-17

 





Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

la-bare-austin-exterior-5

Remember La Bare on Riverside?  Yeah, you do.

If you’re new to Austin, La Bare was a “ladies club” located at 110 E Riverside Drive that advertised male dancer entertainment.  From the get-go, the business was troubled due to an incompatible use with the surrounding neighborhood (even then, when it wasn’t as densely populated with residential developments like The Crescent and others) and eventually re-opened on I-35, where it commenced to unwind.

That first part of that story sounds familiar, as a strip club was recently proposed and faces opposition at 422 Congress.

Just as fascinating as its salacious past are the future possibilities for the site, which is now being listed by commercial brokers Avison Young.

The fact that it’s been vacant for yeeeeaaaaaarssss seems nuts given it’s HIGHLY desirable location (again, a familiar theme in recent news). Why?  We can only speculate, but it likely had to do with figuring out how the adjacent TxDot property will develop.

With a large landowner controlling several adjacent lots in one of the most desirable areas of Austin, we expect that once the planets align we’re going to see a master plan for all of these sites.

Down the street, CWS is mid-construction on a 260-unit luxury apartment complex.

 

la-bare-austin-exterior-for-sale-sign-2-750





Prioritizing Pedestrians Over Parking With Proposed Pocket Patio

Prioritizing Pedestrians Over Parking With Proposed Pocket Patio

provided by dwg

Lot’s of Ps there.

There’s a new plan in place to put a pocket patio in front of the building at 804 Congress (the Bosche-Hogg office building).  This is the vision of building owner David Kahn, and if it happens we think it will be a major step towards activating Congress Avenue north of 8th Street.

Somewhat similar to the extremely successful patio concept first introduced to Congress Avenue by Royal Blue Grocery at 609 Congress in 2012 (a concept that won the ULI 2013 Award of Distinction for Public Impact), and designed by the same firm (dwg), we expect great things for the Bosche-Hogg patio.

This patio, which will benefit all the pedestrians walking along Austin’s “main street” will also have the effect of eliminating 4 city parking places.  We think this is a small price to pay for better pedestrian experience.

The City of Austin seems to agree:

Downtown Austin is comprised of more than 1,050 acres, the streets add up to 34.5% of downtown and parks and open space only consist of 12.3% of the entire area. In any city, the places between buildings need to be designed for people; well-designed, people-friendly places can beautify our city. A typical metered parking space downtown Austin will serve around 6 vehicles a day, while a parklet can serve hundreds who desire safe, attractive and welcoming public space.

The reality is, there are plenty of parking spaces downtown and the reason that there is a perceived lack of parking has only to do with the underutilization of existing parking garages – many of which remain largely empty for long periods of time.

A 2013 article from Community Impact sites:

According to city staff, in 2012, the average occupancy rate of existing off-street parking was 26 percent, with peak occupancy reaching about 67 percent. Two reasons Riley pointed out for the underused parking include garages that are not open to the public and drivers having difficulty in finding available parking.

We think Congress Avenue is the perfect place for this sort of concept to thrive.   Congress Avenue is downtown’s gem and making it more beautiful benefits the entire city.  Especially in the northern part of Congress, which needs more “non-Capitol Complex” pedestrian life breathed into it. Downtown Austin condos like Brazos Place should be extra supportive of these upgrades to their little corner of the neighborhood. We hope to see more of these concepts pop up.

Parklet-map

 





Art in Downtown Austin – ArtProm by Big Ass Canvas

Art in Downtown Austin – ArtProm by Big Ass Canvas

BAC pano

We’ve been fortunate to experience and host the work of several Austin artists, notably Hallie Rae Ward and Truth have dedicated space in the REATX office.

We’re always on the lookout for new additions, and were thrilled to discover a temporary gallery space that’s just opened in the 2nd Street district.  It’s being called ArtProm, is located at 208 Colorado, and is the brainchild of Travis Huse of Big Ass Canvas.

You’ve likely seen Travis’ work around Austin.  For one thing, he’s done the garage murals for the AMLI on 2nd Street district (if you are driving southbound on Guadalupe, you’ll see it on your right as you pass 3rd Street).  Residents of The Shore Condos may also recognize his work in our parking garage elevator bay at P1.

In our opinion, Austin is in dire need of more gallery experiences, particularly of the street art variety, and ArtProm delivers in similar fashion to SpraTX.

They’ll be around for the next couple of months, and we highly recommend stopping in and checking it out.  Art will rotate as it sells.

Additionally, Travis would also be excited to help coordinate using the space for private parties and the like. He wants to get people in the gallery and viewing the art.   If you have a guest list and need a cool space for your event – just reach out to him through his Big Ass Canvas site.

ArtProm is the best gallery addition to downtown Austin, since the Peoples Gallery started at City Hall.





Handful of This Week’s Downtown Austin Events (and one on the East Side)

Handful of This Week’s Downtown Austin Events (and one on the East Side)

"Flow" installation, Design Workshop

DANA Urban Core Happy Hour
Sunday, November 16, 2014 – 2pm-4pm
Hotel Ella

RSVP Required.

hotel-ella

DANA members and guests are invited to enjoy the hospitality of the recently revamped Hotel Ella.

On the menu:

  • Truffle Risotto Cakes
    Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli
    Chorizo stuffed bacon wrapped dates with piquillo pepper sauce
    Antipasta Buffet Bar with imported cheese, house cured meats, preserved local fruits, and peppered flatbread with assorted crackers

+ complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails!

Creek Show, Light Night
Thursday, November 13, 2014 – Sunset ’til Late
Waller Creek (between 5th street and 7th street)

Event website.

"Flow" installation, Design Workshop

“Flow” installation, Design Workshop

As the sun sets on Waller Creek, five site-specific light installations will be revealed. These installations, all created by Austin-based architects and landscape architects, will illuminate Waller Creek in new and exciting ways. See the designs, hear local music and learn more about the future of Waller Creek.

East Austin Studio Tour
2 Weekends: November 15-16, November 22-23 – 11am-6pm
Various locations

Event website.

hallie

Big Medium presents the 13th East Austin Studio Tour! EAST is a free, annual, self-guided art event occurring over two weekends in November, providing the public with an opportunity to meet the makers: the local artists and artisans who leave a lasting imprint on Austin’s vibrant, dynamic culture. Tour-goers are invited to discover new artistic talent, see working studios, learn about artists’ tools, techniques, and inspirations, and explore unique exhibition spaces and local businesses.

One of the artists we love to support, Hallie Rae Ward, will be showcasing her work at Createscape Coworking.  Check it out!