Judges Hill Neighborhood in Downtown Austin Applies to Become Local Historic District

Judges Hill Neighborhood in Downtown Austin Applies to Become Local Historic District

judges-hill-historic-district

We recently received notice that the Judges Hill Neighborhood Association, representing the area of downtown Austin between W 15th and W 18th and West Avenue and San Gabriel has applied for a rezoning to a Local Historic District.

Per the notice:

Local historic districts were created by the City Council as a tool to preserve the historic character of the city’s older neighborhoods by introducing design standards for additions and changes to existing buildings and for new construction within the district.  Designation of a neighborhood as a local historic district helps ensure that new construction within the district is compatible with the character of the area.  Local historic district designation does not prohibit change or new construction, but rather sets design parameters based upon historical precedents while encouraging conservation and energy efficiency.

Here’s a link to the notice, in its entirety. (note, in the second to last paragraph on the first page, it mentions “Hyde Park Local Historic District.”  We are assuming this is a typo and that the Hyde Park notice was used as a template for this notice).

A Local Historic District is not to be confused with a National Register Historic District:

local-historic-district-vs-national-register

 

If everything goes as planned, Judges Hill Historic District will join Castle Hill, Harthan Street, and Hyde Park as LHD’s.

If you live in Judges Hill and want more info – we came across this website that has a PLETHORA of info (we’re not sure how often it’s updated, though – so read with caution).





Families in Downtown Austin Condos

Families in Downtown Austin Condos

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Sometimes when I’m chatting with a peer of mine about where they’d like to live, I ask them if they would consider downtown.  A common response to that question is “Well, I have (or want to have) kids….so….” as though that’s the consideration keeping them from a condo. I guess when people think of the demographic of downtown Austin (and, I guess, downtowns in general), they think that high-rises are for singles, young couples, or empty nesters – most folks don’t feel like condo buildings are places where families do or should dwell.

Well, believe it or not, there are lots of families living in downtown Austin that are bucking the stereotype.  I’ve had the chance of over the last several months to interview a few families living in downtown Austin [Read more…]





Craft Cocktail Bar in Downtown Austin: CU-29

Craft Cocktail Bar in Downtown Austin: CU-29

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Named after the touches of Copper decorating the interior of the bar, CU-29 is the latest craft cocktail bar to hit the downtown Austin scene.  Located near Brazos Place Condos and across the street from the Omni, this little gem is a great place to order a fancy cocktail after a long day at work. Prices run from about $10 (and up) per drink AND people who live or work downtown ALWAYS get 20% off!

[Read more…]





9th Annual Downtown Living Tour – May 19th, 2013 – Reserve Your Tickets

9th Annual Downtown Living Tour – May 19th, 2013 – Reserve Your Tickets

DLT 2013 Header

The 9th Annual Downtown Living Tour is a couple of weeks away.  Produced by the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), the tour is a great way to tour downtown living, at your own pace, all in one day!

Get your DLT tickets now

This year, although the tour will still be self-guided, the tour will also have shuttle service to facilitate access to each tour stop (nice!), and will showcase the following buildings:

  1. The Whitley Apartments
  2. The Shore Condos
  3. Park West Residences
  4. 360 Condos
  5. Avenue Lofts (one of the few Art Deco buildings downtown)
  6. The Four Seasons Residences -RECEPTION – (VIP only, and only open from 4pm-5pm)
  7. Brazos Lofts (check out the history, formerly Capital Chevrolet)
  8. Towers of Town Lake (Penthouse, VIP only, only open from 1-4pm)
  9. Capital Studios (to-be-built Foundations Communities project designed by Dick Clark Architecture)
  10. LBJ’s apartment at JJ Pickle Building (VIP only, only open from 1-4pm)
  11. More stops to be announced!

There are some stops of particular note, primarily the official office suite of President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the JJ Pickle Building, an office suite he used during his presidency and the site of such landmark meetings as the Cold War discussions on December 6, 1966, which culminated in the first agreement with the Soviet Union to limit nuclear weapons, known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT).

The JJ Pickle building itself is part of a two-block complex of Federal Buildings in downtown Austin, and was designed by Texas Firms  Page-Southerland-Page and Brooks & Barr, and is textbook 1960s high-rise design.

Here are a few exclusive pictures of the interior of the office suite, which is remarkably intact.

The LBJ Suite is only open to VIP ticket holders, and there a very limited amount of VIP tickets – so we would recommend…

Get your DLT tickets now

 





More Downtown Austin Apartment & Condo Projects Emerging

More Downtown Austin Apartment & Condo Projects Emerging

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It seems like almost every direction we look around downtown Austin, construction cranes are deployed, helping concrete and steel skeletons reach to the sky.  Notably the JW Marriott hotel, across from the Austonian, has three cranes in place and will soon take shape.  But that’s just the newly visible construction: in and around downtown Austin there’s upwards of 8 million square feet of construction planned or underway.

Sometimes we forget to look outside of the downtown core.  Still, there on the far wings of downtown Austin, even more construction is (literally) on the horizon and DAB is here to give you a first look.

North Shore Lofts
More Rainey Street District development is on the way, joining the Sutton Towers, Austin Skyhouse and the (perpetually-stalled) Hotel Van Zandt. Not much is known at this point, but a new multifamily development is planned on a vacant plot of land on the north shore, next to the Holiday Inn right by I-35.

If built, the views of Lady Bird Lake would be incredible (and protected).

This site, addressed 16 North I-35, was rezoned from downtown mixed-use (DMU) to central business district (CBD) in 2005, and at the time was owned by Tom Calhoon, of Calhoon Properties.

Coming Soon: "North Shore Lofts"

Coming Soon: “North Shore Lofts”

West Campus Apartments
Don’t be fooled by the name, this project, at 17th and Guadalupe is not actually in “West Campus“, and is also planned to have condos.  Since as long as I can remember, this area near the Dog and Duck Pub, is one of the most run-down areas remaining in downtown, with a lot of properties sitting idly in disrepair.

Last time this site was anything productive it was an Arby’s.

Hopefully, this project will spur additional redevelopment of the low-density legacy buildings all around here. A few blocks north, the UT School of Business is building a new center next to the Player’s Club, which will also expand the AT&T Conference center, which might help energize the area, too.

-Jude

1715 gdlp current

Coming Soon: “West Campus Apartments”





FLOR coming to Downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District March 7, 2013.

FLOR coming to Downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District March 7, 2013.

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Looks like FLOR will be opening in downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District (209 W 2nd to be exact, where Mercury Design Studio was – they’ve now moved 2 doors down).

They’ll be opening a day before SXSW 2013 starts, just in time for the crazy crowds.  We suspect they’ll do well in the area with DWR and Mercury Design Studio nearby – as well as several high-end downtown austin condos and apartment buildings, and look forward to doing a little shopping there ourselves.

 

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Brass House to Open in Downtown Austin Convention Center District This Friday

Brass House to Open in Downtown Austin Convention Center District This Friday

brass-house

The little 100 block of San Jacinto has seen a little turn-over recently.  Hank’s Garage, which had been vacant for some time, was recently taken over by a concept called El Ceviche Grill, and the bar that was Skinny’s Ballroom – which closed not too long ago (and we here at DAB were pretty sad, we had been rooting for them) – has a new concept coming in called Brass House (website looks to be in progress).

I’ve been surprised at the lack of success at some of the places in the general area, considering the hotel & convention traffic coupled with nearby high-rises such as The Four Season’s Residences, The Austonian, and the Rainey Trio of The Shore Condos, The Milago, and Towers of Town Lake.  Perhaps sky-high rent and massive competition have been too much for many of these small operators.

Either way, I’m intrigued by Brass House.  Describing itself on its Facebook page as a Jazz House, Wine Bar, and Gastropub concept, the finish-out looks in keeping with catering to a higher-end clientele and they are touting that food such as “Dolmas, hummus, pickles, paninis, salads, charcuterie boards” will be “All made from scratch in house or bought from a local family owned source….”.

Here’s a picture of some of the decor that captures the general vibe of the place.

Brass House is supposed to open this Friday, February 8, at 4pm.  I’ll likely walk by to check it out and I’ll be sure to update this post with my thoughts!





Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

The Railyards Unit 235

The Railyard condos are unique.  The two low-rise buildings sit on two of the best sites in downtown Austin, and have usually been more affordable than the newer, sexier high-rises.  Part of the appeal is location: situated across from the Austin Convention Center, 100 feet from the MetroRail, one block from Congress Avenue, three blocks from competing luxury towers, the Austonian and Four Seasons.  The Railyard has enviable proximity to most anything in downtown Austin.

Remember last year’s NIMBY fury over Austin’s Short Term Rental ordinance (pdf)?

You would be in good company if you assumed that all of downtown Austin’s condos and apartments were making money on STRs.

You would be wrong, though.  

Downtown condos have home owners associations (HOAs).  HOAs have rules, and in downtown Austin those rules are usually antagonistic to short term rentals.  Breaking those rules could result in a $1000 per day fine by the HOAs.  Despite the fact that the STR ordinance does not regulate apartments and condominiums, last year’s fight with the City of Austin to regulate STRs wasn’t going to impact most of us living in downtown because of these HOA rules. [UPDATE: rules have been revised to cap STR permits in CBD multi-family buildings at 25%]

The Railyard condos are very, very unique.

This past November, just a month after Austin’s new Short Term Rental ordinance took effect, an enterprising Railyard owner recognized the Railyard’s bylaws did not forbid short term rentals and put together a fund to purchase several units.

The investment rationale is simple: opening up your condo as a vacation-rental-by-owner (aka. VRBO) during SXSW, ACL, F1 (just to name just the big opportunities, not to mention conventions) can yield more rent during those events than the total rent from a typical 12 month lease!  Same for Railyard owner-occupants who can lease their place out for a few nights, take a vacation, and make a couple thousand bucks.

The economics of Railyard ownership shifted overnight. Word quickly spread to the owners and a handful of Austin Realtors.  In the previous year (Nov 2011 – Nov 2012), 1bd/1ba units at the Railyard condos were trading at an average of $285/foot, and units with at least 2bd/2ba units were trading at an average of $275/foot. [UPDATE: one year after posting this article, the last recorded MLS sale at Railyard was a building record $415/foot]

Going forward, expect sale prices at the Railyard condos to be 20-25% more than last year, reflecting the new economics of embracing downtown short term rentals.  Owner-occupants are getting in on the action, too.

Offering the flexibility to lease your condo on a short term basis is a privilege that makes the Railyard unique among downtown condos.   This privilege has significant value.

STRs can be a win-win for owners and associations.  The key is balance and monitoring the impact on residents.

The Railyard HOA is smart to approach STRs with reasonableness and attach fees to the process.  These extra fees will help fund their operations, building improvements, and keep HOA dues low for homeowners.  Homeowners, who are also able to capitalize on their property.

I’ll stop short of advocating that all downtown buildings should permit STRs – I don’t agree with that.  However, there are several buildings that should be paying attention to what the Railyard is doing.  It seems reasonable for more HOAs to experiment with loosening their STR rules, monitor the process, use the money for building improvements, and course correct as needed.

-Jude

[updated 06/01/2014: It has been discovered that Brazos Place Condos at 8th Street & Brazos Street is doing something similar by permitting one-month minimum lease terms.]