New Office Tower On Congress Ave?

909 Congress Ave - massing view showing interplay with view corridors

Jacob Dirr, with the ABJ, is reporting on a new office tower being planned for Congress Ave.

A 16-story, 88,000-square-foot office tower is being planned for the 900 block of Congress Avenue, a site currently occupied by three vacant buildings, according to city documents.

Located directly across from Little City, the derelict structures have been sporting plywood facades for years, and have been a general blight on downtown Austin.  My understanding of these properties was that there was tension amongst the ownership that inhibited combining all three into a develop-able tower, until recently.  According to the article, the developer, Dalton Wallace, will restore the facades as part of the building.

907-911 Congress Ave

From the applicant’s presentation to the Design Commission…

909 Congress is a mixed use office and retail project located mid‐block on the east side of the 900 block of Congress Ave. The site measures 69’ x 160’ and is composed of three lots 907, 909 and 911 Congress, zoned CBD‐H and the allowable FAR is 88,000sf. The project will consist of retail at the ground floor along Congress with one level of parking below grade and seven levels of parking above grade plus eight levels of office space. We will be restoring the three historic two‐story building facades and setting the tower back 10’ above the historic buildings. We will also be respecting the Capital View Corridor along Congress with an additional setback and remain under the Capital Dominance Cone height restriction. The parking access will be from the alley behind the site and will be serviced by two automobile elevators and valet staff. The above ground parking will be screened from view. The building will be located between two larger office buildings at 919 Congress and 823 Congress.

front view of proposed tower

ArtHouse Has Some History

Chris Lynn at Republic of Austin has some cool back story to the renovations taking place at the ArtHouse.

Before it was the boxy ArtHouse, the block at 700 Congress had a couple of other significant iterations. The building, erected in 1851, was the first 3-story brick building in Austin. For 70 years it  was a silver/high-ends goods store, law office and drug store. In 192o, it underwent its first renovation to become the Queen Theater.

I’m struck by the similarity of design that Lerner Shops had with Buttrey’s on W 6th.  The clean mid-century modern architectural lines seem to include: brick facade, three stories, wall of glass on the ground floor, metal awning/canopy.  Cool!

Boutique Hotel Coming to 400 Block of Congress?

416 Congress Ave

The DAA has been working for years to recruit retailers and destinations to Congress Ave.  Operating with a bold vision that Congress Ave can return to its pre-1950s prominence.

Many downtown Austin stakeholders (including this author) are concerned about “bar creep” from 6th Street and the Warehouse district.

Yesterday, the Statesman reported on a possible boutique hotel concept in the 400 block of Congress Ave.  This is a step in the right direction.  A hotel concept that embraces the historical nature of the building.

When done right, boutique hotels provide terrific branding for a city and a district.  It’s hard to imagine SoCo without Hotel San Jose or the Austin Motel.  Historic-ish structures that have been modernized.

One reason a hotel concept like this is so important to a burgeoning district is because boutique hotels are talked about outside of Austin.  They are reviewed and discussed on travel forums and websites like TripAdvisor.

That discussion ends up having a significant role in branding and defining the character of a district.  Years ago, Hotel San Jose helped revitalize SoCo into a destination for visitors. A boutique hotel like this could be another catalyst for Congress Ave.

I’d love to see this happen.

-Jude