Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Christmas is in four days, y’all.  If you want to live dangerously – you can try doing your last minute shopping online and cross your fingers that it gets shipped to you in time OR you can go to the mall and get something completely lackluster, but why risk it?

You can pick up unique gifts right here in downtown without biting your nails about when it will arrive.  One of the many benefits of shopping local.

But Amber, you say, I don’t have the time to visit a lot of unfamiliar stores, look through all their wares, and make a decision.  Never you fear – Amber is here! I’ve done a little of the heavy lifting for you, and below provided you a curated list of some cool shops and some cool stuff they’ve got so you can run in, get a special gift, and run out.

REMEMBER – Check the websites for the store hours!  If you are unsure about something, probably also a good idea to call ahead!

My list, of course, is not exhaustive – if you know of a cool downtown / downtown-adjacent shop – feel free to tell us in the comments below!

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Craft Cocktail Bar in Downtown Austin: CU-29

Craft Cocktail Bar in Downtown Austin: CU-29

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!

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Plan To Revitalize 6th & Congress Announced, Underwhelms Everyone

Plan To Revitalize 6th & Congress Announced, Underwhelms Everyone

Stream Realty Partners has a contract to acquire the downtown block bounded by Congress, Fifth, Sixth and Brazos streets, according to the Austin American-Statesman.  Here are the details on what’s planned:

  • The deal consists of five parcels totaling 2.3 acres at the southeast corner of Congress and Sixth, plus a half-block directly east on Fifth Street between Brazos and San Jacinto Boulevard.
  • Stream Realty is acquiring the portfolio in a partnership with Wanxiang America Real Estate Group and Diversified Real Estate Capital. Heitman LLC is providing financing.
  • The site includes the 26-story Bank of America tower. Stream will continue to operate the 256,911-square-foot tower, which is 90 percent leased, as an office building and leave as is.
  • Vacant 501 Congress building will be remodeled by 2014 into a contemporary five-story building with 112,000 square feet of first-class office space and a rooftop deck.
  • Existing valet parking garage will be torn down and replaced by 2014 with an eight-story parking garage with 300 spaces and street-level retail space
  • The site also includes the nine-story Littlefield parking garage with 535 spaces, plus 24 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space. By the end of this year, Stream plans to renovate the apartments as well as the retail space, which has been vacant.
  • The half block site on East Fifth Street between Brazos and San Jacinto, which is home to a Bank of America drive through, will be sold for an unknown development.

6th Cong plan

Much of this site is entitled with 25:1 FAR, so it’s a disappointment to see an absence of big plans.

Still, it will be better than the vacant buildings currently occupying the 5th Street block between Congress and Brazos.  It’s hard to notice these days, given the amount of foot traffic that passes by this block creating an illusion of activity, but this is a major dead zone within the core.

The glass is half-full, though, and of the changes coming to this block, we’re most excited about street level retail being added where that valet garage is now. So much of the urban experience takes place at eye level within the street-scape.

The street belongs to everyone, whether you are a visiting hipster from Tulsa, Oklahoma in town for ACL, a Bastrop native walking to a lunch appointment, a UT student looking for love on Sixth St. or a family from Bee Caves enjoying downtown on the weekend. Having active storefronts makes downtown feel welcoming and alive, and having them lit at night adds an air of comfort and safety that an inhuman, dark parking garage does not.

This is an exciting time to be watching and writing about downtown Austin. The rate of change and investment is unprecedented and is an incredible maturation of the policy strong Austin mayors like (state Sen.) Kirk Watson and Will Wynn put in place.


This Hotel Looks Just Like That Hotel

This Hotel Looks Just Like That Hotel

It’s deja vu all over again!

White Lodging is losing no time getting to work on their third active hotel construction project in downtown Austin.

In late December, about three months after news leaked about the deal, planners filed a site plan and based on other documents filed at the city a clearer picture is emerging about the 300-room luxury hotel at 5th & San Jacinto, abutting the 6th Street Entertainment District.

According to city documents, the project will climb to about 20 floors, with a roof terrace, totaling 215,000 square feet.

Atlanta-based PFVS Architects Inc. are the architects of record.  PFVS already has a few hotels in Austin with their stamp on them, including the Westin at the Domain and the Marriot South Austin, off of I-35.  PFVS is also designing White Lodging’s other two current downtown projects.  White Lodging broke ground on a JW Marriott convention hotel valued at $300 million across from the Austonian last year, which is expected to open in 2015, and is working on a 296-room Hyatt Place under construction at 3rd & San Jacinto, expected to open this year. (Note: White Lodging also runs the Residence Inn next to the Convention Center.)

What is a bit surprising is how eerily similar drawings of PFVS’s Hyatt Place project, on 3rd and San Jacinto, appears to the renderings submitted to the city for the other hotel on 5th and San Jacinto, two blocks north. They are both about 300 rooms, and though the final products will probably be different, on the drawing board there is no denying they look quite similar.

Where have I seen this rendering before?


The 5th Street project comes to us from no other than Harry Whittington, who in this case created a joint venture with REI Real Estate Services LLC in Carmel, Ind., and White Lodging.

Whittington told the Austin Business Journal that after being courted by many developers his family concluded that building a hotel with the veteran hospitality developers was the route to pursue. (Whittington owned the lot for a whopping 45 years and is not in the business of selling his land.)

The site had entitlements for an 8:1 floor to area ratio, and zoning was successfully changed to provide a 13:1 FAR.

Something else lacking in the design are renderings that show the the building with a 6th Street POV – arguably the most important perspective for this hotel to blend into the neighborhood fabric.  Will it be a giant Plaza Lofts style flat blank wall looming over 6th Street?  I know the developer has heard these concerns, but we are left wondering about the results.

Should we expect more thoughtful design from architects and developers?  Absolutely.

Is this hotel better than the suface lot it’s going to replace?  Absolutely.