Downtown Austin News & Rumor Roundup

Downtown Austin News & Rumor Roundup

It’s official: Rainey St getting a grocer, pizzeria

Exalted sighs of relief erupted among residents in the Rainey Street District, which includes yours truly, with the recent announcement that we are getting proper food establishments… the kind open before 4pm.

Royal Blue Grocery will add a fifth location to its collection of neighborhood grocery stores with a 2,550 square foot location fronting on Rainey Street at the base of the SkyHouse apartment tower.  Salvation Pizza will open its second Austin location, bringing authentic New Haven style pizza there too.

Don’t get me wrong, the food trucks are great but sometimes you just want a simple morning coffee.

Brazos benches yanked out

If you haven’t noticed yet, there are a few less benches along Brazos Street around 6th Street.  The city took decisive action after businesses and residents in the area banded together to demand a solution to the vagrants camping along there and harassing passers-by.   In all, 23 benches were taken out, cleaned and put in storage to live somewhere else another day.

(Disclosure: I voted in favor of supporting a letter to remove the benches as a board member of DANA)

According to a pretty darn good report from KXAN, “The city’s sit/lie ordinance, where loiterers are asked to move, does not apply to benches. It only applies to planters and sidewalks. One business owner said he was calling police for help about six times a day.”

Dell Medical School prep-construction starts this fall

The University of Texas is losing no time getting to work on its ambitious medical district master plan.

Earlier this week, UT officials spent their evening at City Hall, first getting the Urban Transportation Commission’s blessing to move Red River, then a couple hours later sailing through the Planning Commission.

UT officials told the Planning Commission that they plan to get the road reconstruction and utility relocation started this fall, and that sometime between 2014 and 2015 Red River would be closed to through traffic while work is underway.

Transportation Director Rob Spillar promised at the meeting that the campus would focus on bike and pedestrian ease-of-use, not car-centric plans. (Note to Bill Powers: Careful with those benches!)

Roundup: Cesar Chavez As Freeway, Future of Children’s Museum Site

Roundup: Cesar Chavez As Freeway, Future of Children’s Museum Site

No way, Cesar Chavez as a freeway?  Way.

The thinking back in the ’60s was that Cesar Chevez (née 1st Street, née Water Street) should be an expressway.

Check out this map making the rounds on Twitter, recently. Note that the red dash lines are planned expressway lanes, just like MoPac. (Keep in mind, the waterfront wasn’t what it is today, and Lake Lady Bird had only just formed after the completion of Longhorn Dam in 1960.

Office tower proposed at 5th & Colorado

The ABJ reports the surface-parking-lot-cum-mobile-food-vendor site is slated to be a 9 story office tower, being developed by Lincoln Properties.  What’s not clear is where the 6 stories of parking will go.  Is it a 15 story building?  Is parking below ground?  Nobody seems to know the height.

Plans murky for former Children’s Museum site

I posted recently about a zoning change filed on the block surrounding the 56-story Austonian skyscraper last week, where developers are seeking a change in zoning that would allow them to build taller.

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Downtown News & Rumor Roundup: More Height, Less Crime, Better Wayfinding

Downtown News & Rumor Roundup: More Height, Less Crime, Better Wayfinding

Downtown News & Rumor Roundup: New skyscraper planned?

As a sign of things to come, a zoning change was filed on the block surrounding the 56-story Austonian skyscraper last week seeking a change to allow for more density (read: taller).

According to the zoning request, the surface parking lot along with the land and building that house the Austin Children’s Museum, will be redeveloped as office/retail according to the ABJ.

You may recall, Austin-based World Class Capital Group bought the land in March. It’s too soon to tell whether there are any actual plans for the site, or if they are just seeking to make it sexier to resell. Or they could just be getting a last minute upzoning before the rules of the game change (see below).  Stay tuned.

[Read more…]

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

Rainey Street District hotel breaking ground next month?

If you’ve been around downtown Austin since 2006, you’ve been hearing about the Hotel Van Zandt.

It was a sister development to the Shore Condos, sharing the northern end of the site.  Hotel Van Zandt was initially planned to be a $100 million, 29-story hotel and condo tower.  The scope has been reduced to 16 stories and will include just the hotel component.

We’ve heard all of this before. Developers are now telling the Statesman they plan to get going next month. This is the same thing they told the ABJ in March, which is a sign that it is indeed ready to roll.

Hotel Van Zandt was initially planned to be a $100 million, 29-story hotel and condo tower.  The scope has been reduced to 16 stories and will include just the hotel component.

Statesman has more

New Travis County courthouse up for debate


The ongoing debate for whether or not Travis County will enter into a deal for a public-private partnership to build a new courthouse downtown could be coming to a head.

Recently, the Statesman profiled some of the issues associated with the project, and on Tuesday the Commissioner Court talked to the finalists for the deal: URS and Broaddus and Associates.

The court did not take a vote when it discussed it at a hearing this past Tuesday, but is taking the issue back up this Tuesday.

The new courthouse could rise 17 stories next to Republic Square. Earlier this year, commissioners decided they will hold a bond election to finance the courthouse, but no date is certain.

If the deal ever falls through, or the public does not approve the bonds, it would put a lot that is not encumbered by capitol view limits back into the private market.

Statesman has more

Austin is a finalist to host the X Games

ESPN announced that Austin is one of four finalists to host the 2014, 2015 and 2016 X Games. The games would be held at the Circuit of the Americas, but without a doubt, we can expect something related downtown. If – of course – Austin ends up taking the cake.

For the record, I think it will.

Austin is competing with Chicago, Detroit, and Charlotte, N.C. I think both COTA and Gov. Perry will roll out the red carpet and offer just as competative package of any tax breaks the other cities and states can offer. From a ticketing and marketing perspective, the folks at ESPN must know that Austin is going to have the best draw among the kids and also know that marketing machines like Nike and Samsung already have the ground troops and past experience to tackle Austin from a marketing perspective, due to SXSW.

ESPN is sending envoys here next month and expects to pick a winner this summer.

KXAN has more

The saga of an expensive parking garage coming to a close?

For you readers who are devotees of downtown palace intrigue, the saga of Whittington v. City of Austin could finally be coming to a close.

The case started almost a decade ago, in relation to the public-private partnership the city got into to build the Hilton next to the convention center. The city seized Harry’s downtown lot and he sued them for it.

After a series of trials, the case made it all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court, which sided with the city.

Got to give it to the man, he knows how to dig in and raise hell. Although, he must have asked himself several times over the past few years: What would that lot have been worth today if the city hadn’t tied it up in litigation 10 years ago?

Maybe now, they will put all of that vacant retail space, which wraps the ground level of the garage, to good use.

ABJ has more

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

Downtown News and Rumor Round-up

There’s a number of interesting items relating to downtown in the news recently. With so much going on these days, along with the demise of Google Reader, we’re going to try something new at DAB: an end of the week wrap-up of what’s been in the news related to downtown. If you are like me, it is hard sometimes, to keep up with everything, especially during personally busy weeks.

Do me a huge favor and be sure to leave a comment if this is helpful and if you’d like to see this as a regular feature.

Rainey Street Ramps Up (again!)

Two new projects have filed site plans for new construction within the Rainey Street neighborhood district.

The vacant lot across the street from the Mexican American Cultural Center at 70 Rainey filed paperwork to build a mixed-use sky scraper consisting of a restaurant, residential units, and parking.

Down the street, the North Shore Lofts are moving forward with a multi-family building at the corner of the north shore and I-35, that will bring 44 class A multifamily units to the site.

Austin Towers has more

Capitol Kibosh

Texas lawmakers moved again earlier this week to make good on their sabre-rattling to freeze any development plans around the Capitol Complex.

A senate committee passed SB 894, by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), making unsolicited proposals for development of the area north of the Capitol grounds illegal.

This effectively kills plans for the planetarium and high rise development.

The bill will also force potential developers to pitch their development plans before the Legislature every two years.

Notably, this bill has more than 20 sponsors and is also being supported by Kirk Watson.

KUT News has more

W Hotel for sale?

The Austin American-Statesman got its hands on a marketing brochure that says the W Hotel, also known as Block 21 and the home of the ACL Live studio is for sale.

The tower also includes 159 condominiums that aren’t part of the sale. To date 131 of the condos have been sold or are under contract, at an average price of more than $600 a square foot, according to the offering brochure. Jones Lang LaSalle’s Hotels & Hospitality Group is marketing the property.

Statesman has more

Travis County altering development plans?

County commissioners are considering another $38.5 million building downtown in early April at the corner of West 11th and San Antonio streets. The county previously received a proposal for a $60 million building on the same site.

In December, the county purchased the land for $7.25 million. It includes part of the Texas PTA offices and a parking lot.

Statesman has more

To view or not to view

While not downtown, we’re noting that neighbors are opposing the Taco Cabana development.

Bridges’ Homeowner Association has petitioned the City to deny a zoning request there.

Austin city planner Jerry Rusthoven told KVUE: “City code does not protect people’s views. That came up recently in another case downtown.”

KVUE has more on the dispute and Austin Towers has the details on the development