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

 





Downtown Austin Aloft & Element Hotel Proposal for Congress Ave

Downtown Austin Aloft & Element Hotel Proposal for Congress Ave

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At last night’s Downtown Commission meeting, we heard from White Lodging on their proposed 33 story, 353 foot, 410 key, dual-branded Aloft/Element hotel at 7th & Congress Ave.

They paid more attention to engaging Congress Ave this time, compared to what they did originally with the JW.  The rhythm of the columns, al fresco dining, and dramatic doorway from Congress are hat tips to connecting with the street scape.

The development is seeking a zoning variance related to step-backs and loading docks, which the DC voted to recommend to City Council provided that: 1) accommodation be made to the adjacent Hideout Theatre, which shares a party wall with the proposed development, 2) keeping the shared alley and sidewalks clear, 3) The South facing wall has no windows since the adjacent property could eventually be developed. There is a light well, but additional architectural consideration should be paid to this wall since this will be the most visible face of the building.

7thandCongressWhiteLodgingAloftElementHotelrender1

One interesting feature of this proposal is there will be zero parking spaces (excluding ADA requirements) and only three valet spots.  This isn’t the first Congress Ave hotel concept to propose no onsite parking.

I’m a believer in reducing parking to increase demand for public transit and reduce reliance upon cars.  It’s a rip-the-band-aid-off and get through the pain approach.  But, only three valet spots for such a large building?  Haha, lets watch this play out!  White Lodging knows a thing or two about operating successful hotels and how to park them.  The free market will determine the wisdom of this decision.   If they make it work it will be a huge signal to other developers about what is possible.

7thandCongressWhiteLodgingAloftHotel4

Overall, I’m impressed with the proposal. It’s reflective of a city that’s grown up (not growing up) and it’s important that we support projects that bring density to narrow lots.

Tall and slender, if built, this would be the first new skyscraper on Congress Ave since … well… White Lodging’s other hotel currently under construction, the 1000 room JW Marriott.

-Jude

7thandCongressWhiteLodgingAloftElementHotelrender2





Girls Night Out – Things to Do in Downtown Austin

Girls Night Out – Things to Do in Downtown Austin

Me and some of my lady friends enjoying culture at The Contemporary.

Note: This evening’s itinerary also works for date night!

I like to do a group outing with girlfriends once every week or two, but sometimes we get into a rut – where we are doing the same things, going to the same places, etc.  So, for 2014, I’ve made a commitment to try and mix things up a little (nothing too crazy) and try to do something a little different each time we get together.  Last night was our first night since the holiday madness, and me and gals decided to hit up the northern edge of Congress near the Capitol – frankly, a seeming no man’s land in the evenings.

Me and some of my lady friends enjoying culture at The Contemporary.

Me and some of my lady friends at the beginning of girls night.  At The Contemporary.

Stop 1 – 6pm: The Contemporary – The Jones Center at 7th and Congress

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An artistic shot of the staircase at The Contemporary – The Jones Center. Photo by Lindsey Strobel.

For a steal at $5, you can get in to The Contemporary – Jones Center, and view the exhibitions on site (apparently, your receipt gets you [Read more…]





Plan To Revitalize 6th & Congress Announced, Underwhelms Everyone

Plan To Revitalize 6th & Congress Announced, Underwhelms Everyone

5thandcongressave

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.

-Jude





Remainder of Austonian Block Sold

Remainder of Austonian Block Sold

wccg-austonian-block

The remainder of the downtown block surrounding the Austonian has been purchased from the Nalle family by World Class Capital Group.  There are no immediate plans for the site.

“The site that was purchased — about 1.3 acres — is bounded by Congress Avenue and Second, Third and Colorado streets. It includes a surface parking lot along with the land and building that house the Austin Children’s Museum, which will be relocating to the Mueller development in Northeast Austin, and Compass Learning.” – Statesman

WCCG has acquired several premiere downtown sites over the past couple of years, including Katz Deli, Spaghetti Warehouse, and the warehouse at 97 Trinity (across Cesar Chavez from the Convention Center).

 





The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

capmetro-austin-congress-ave

One of the things that always seemed curious to me is how and why Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) occupied prime square footage on a heavily trafficked part of Congress Avenue, next to Annie’s. For many years, Cap Metro occupied the first and third floor of this three-story building.

Well its lease expires this coming April, and it seems the landlord is raising the rent. As a result, Capital Metro is moving into 209 W 9th Street (southwest corner of Colorado and 9th), which is owned by Harry Whittington.  There, the transit agency is signing a 5-year $3.3 million lease on 18,800 square feet.  This will allow the consolidation of two call centers – one currently housed at the 323 Congress Ave.

For years, the good energy of clear windows (“fenestration” for my fellow wonks) and ambience of Annie’s seemed to kind of get sucked way by the dark, looming, uninviting storefront of Capital Metro next door.

So what’s next for 323 Congress?

The entire building is 21,900 square feet, and  features open floor layouts, ample lighting and excellent visibility to Congress Ave.  According to this undated flyer from Weitzman, it appears to be listed for sale “between $2.5 million and $7.3 million.”  Or, it could be for lease $24-36/ft/yr by Cielo Realty Partners, as it’s shown on Loopnet.

I’ll be surprised if this languishes too long.  Office vacancies downtown have recently fallen below 12%, according to this Dec. 11 Austin Tenant Advisors press release, which compares well to other major cities such as Atlanta which reports a 24% vacancy rate. Average lease rates for all classes are averaging around $30/square in the downtown area while landlords of Class A office properties are quoting $38/square foot, or higher.

This, in part, is being driven by a number of web/computing-based companies setting up shop downtown, which is about as a good of a thing as a city could ever hope would happen to its downtown office space.  We can expect a higher and better use of our ground level retail, however.

FYI urban transit commuter: The transit store, where folks pick up passes, pocket maps and the lost & found, is also moving to the new location on 9th Street.





Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

cvs

Probably not the most urgent of news, but I got really excited about it none-the-less.

The pharmacy at CVS on 5th street, the only pharmacy in downtown Austin proper (the now closed Live Oak Pharmacy used to the closest next best thing), is now, finally, open on weekends!

For those living in downtown Austin condos like the Austonian or the Brazos Lofts, especially…your prescription filling life just got a lot easier.

And, just to be clear, this is NOT a plug for CVS, simply a plug for convenience.





2012 Downtown Living Tour – Showcasing Downtown Austin

2012 Downtown Living Tour – Showcasing Downtown Austin

DLTlogo

Next Sunday, April 22, 2012, from 11am-5pm, is the 2012 Downtown Living Tour.  The Tour is a showcase of homes located in Downtown Austin, and is put on by the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (it’s DANA’s only fundraiser, and helps keep the organization chugging throughout the rest of the year).  A portion of proceeds this year will also go to The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).

The 2012 Downtown Living Tour has [Read more…]