You thought Austin had reached peak hotel development? Think again.

You thought Austin had reached peak hotel development? Think again.

Proposed hotel footprint

There has been a bit of chatter recently about the (literally) sky high hotel development in and around downtown Austin.

How much more hotel development can downtown Austin support?  More, it seems.

519 W. Sixth Street

519 W. Sixth Street

The half-acre surface parking lot at 519 W. Sixth Street, adjacent to the IBC Bank Plaza and near the Plaza Lofts condo building, long slated for a hotel but mute on progress is not only still alive, it is growing.

A nascent group of developers are in preliminary stages of design for a 32-story, 250-key hotel with ground floor restaurant, and 5 levels of parking connecting to the adjacent IBC Bank garage. Right now, there’s no drawing laying around to show, but the facts are otherwise confirmed.

Aloft/Element hotel proposal at 7th & Congress

HKS rendering of Aloft/Element hotel proposal at 7th & Congress

There’s speculation that the design would have to be somewhat similar to White Lodging’s 33-story, 410 key, Aloft/Element hotel at 7th & Congress Ave. pictured left because they are similar height and occupy the similarly sized footprint.

As noted above, the IBC Bank site has been the source of water cooler talk for years.

When the IBC Bank Plaza was announced in 2012, it added a bookend to a series of fables about the block. But, like a dangling storyline slated for a sequel, downtown development watchers still waited to hear what would become of the southeast corner of the 6th Street and Nueces Street intersection (also known as “Block 51”).

The popular mythology for some time was that IBC Bank was considering developing a 28-story hotel on site. To have gotten word that a concept for the site, albeit different, is in the works is exciting.

IBC Bank Plaza, while encumbered by a Capitol View Corridor (shakes fist) and a meager 13-stories, is an architecturally beautiful building and the notion of a unique project to compliment its style has a lot of potential. The proposed hotel site isn’t in the Capitol View Corridor.

Proposed hotel footprint

Proposed hotel footprint

There are no clues right now as to whether HKS, the firm that designed IBC Bank Plaza, has a hand in the designs of the corner project but I’m hopeful. IBC Bank’s architectural style and street-level presence is designed to support Austin’s Great Street’s Program through ground-level restaurant, retail and landscaped streetscape.

More to come on this project in coming months hopefully as an area of downtown that was once destitute continues a regeneration.





Social Scene: Wu Chow, Seven Apartments, and Austin Way

Social Scene: Wu Chow, Seven Apartments, and Austin Way

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A couple weeks back, I was invited to a small get-together at Seven Apartments in downtown Austin, one of downtown Austin’s newest towers.  The event was put on by Austin Way magazine in coordination with Seven Apartments and Wu Chow, and the program consisted of tours of the model units and amenities of Seven, followed by a special tasting menu from Wu Chow (serving up genuine Chinese cuisine, and one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in downtown Austin this summer).

The Setting

Gorgeous, of course.  Seven has become one of our favorite downtown apartment buildings (Jude’s original skepticism has come full circle), and several of our clients have recently moved in with rave reviews, too. The event started with champagne in the lobby, followed by tours of the model units, and then we were seated at a well appointed table on the pool deck – complete with stunning views of downtown.

 

The People 

Austin Way is a relatively new social magazine that launched in Austin fall / winter of 2014, but is stepping up its game with several events this summer season.  Not too long before this event at Seven, Austin Way hosted a large-scale dynamite event at Searsucker, and are appearing more and more at many of the “it” events in Austin.

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Wu Chow is brought to you by the same team that owns Swift’s Attic on Congress, C.K. Chin and Stuart Thomajan. C.K. Chin and his team created a decadent, authentic Chinese menu for this tasting party.  The restaurant is set to open any day now, and will be located in the same building as Fixe.

CK Chin

CK Chin, photo compliments of Austin Way

The Food

Really good, bona fide Chinese cooking, served family style.  Don’t even think about comparing it to P.F. Changs.

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Tasting menu included: Spicy Sichuan Pickles, Sichuan Sesame Peanut Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, Shanghai Egg Rolls, Ginger Soy Marinated Chicken Skewers, Mongolian Beef Skewers, Shrimp Dumplings, Scallion Pancake, Curried Squid Skewers, Sichuan Spicy Grilled Tofu, Pork Shumai, BBQ Lamp Chops, Scallop Shu Mai, Pan Fried Pork Bun, Mapo Tofu, Potstickers, Sesame Fritters, and Fruit Tartlets for dessert.  All served with fabulous wine.  A few pics of the early stuff below.

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All in all, it was a first class event that was made truly special by the folks that put it on – and a fun way to celebrate downtown Austin’s invigorating growth and evolution!

(Note: some of these pictures were taken by me, but others I took from the folks at Seven and Austin Way – thanks for allowing us to share!)





The New Dillo?  Ridescout Route Supplements Transport Options for Downtown Austin Commuters

The New Dillo? Ridescout Route Supplements Transport Options for Downtown Austin Commuters

ridescout-route

Remember the days of the Dillo?  We have fond memories of 2008 and before, when the Dillo service was still trolleying about downtown Austin, helping those in need of a short ride across our little downtown.  And then the Dillo died in October of 2009, and we all quietly mourned the loss.

And then….free, short distance shuttle rides were reborn…in the form of the The Ridescout Route.

The Ridescout Route is simply this:

The RideScout Route is a free, convenient, hop-on / hop-off shuttle that serves the heart of downtown Austin. Conversations with the local community and the City of Austin, supported by MobilityATX data, revealed a need for more reliable east to west transportation options.

Our fixed-route pilot program, in partnership with Electric Cab, solves that need with a series of open-air electric cabs.

The route is currently pretty small (a bit smaller than the Dillo routes of yore), but it’s only a pilot program, and we hope to see expansion if the pilot proves successful.

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The shuttles run every 5-10 minutes on weekdays from 7am-1pm.

Learn more about the Ridescout Route and the Ridescout App here.

[Hat tip to Jace Deloney for sharing!]





Major Rainey Street District Site Sells, Signals Potential For New Tower Development

Major Rainey Street District Site Sells, Signals Potential For New Tower Development

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You can file this under “N” for “Not that surprising,” but news broke the other day about World Class Capital Group’s ‘eventual’ plans to develop a recently acquired site at 50 & 56 East Avenue.  We knew someone was gonna do it, and it might as well be the group already controlling some of the best downtown Austin development sites.

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No timeline has been announced, so we can presume Travis County services are there to stay for a little while longer, at least.

Although the site has partial view encumbrances to the west from Skyhouse Apartments and The Milago condos and to the south by Windsor on the Lake, the site does have several excellent vantage points, which combined with no height limitation we’re sure developers will take full advantage of when the time comes to build.

56_East_Ave_-_Google_Maps

The site was previously owned by Austin Travis County MHMR d/b/a Austin Travis County Integral Care and publicly available documents show a $6.3MM lien against the property from Falcon International Bank, so that’s at least the debt component of the purchase.

2015-06-17-56-East-750-1

The City of Austin currently owns the site across East Avenue (to the east), which is a half green, half poorly paved and mostly unused lot for the time being.





Parks in Downtown Austin

Parks in Downtown Austin

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Humans require some green space.  Gathering spaces that are shared by everyone.  Parks are integral to keeping a vibrant urban cores.

There is research to back it up, too.  Being next to a good public park can enhance property value in urban areas.  One report, Real Value: The Parks Premium, written by John Crompton, professor at  Texas A&M, states:

The real estate market consistently demonstrates that many people are willing to pay a larger amount for a property located close to parks and open space areas…

This particular report is from 2000, and back when it was written, there weren’t many other examples of high-rises near public parks aside from the Nokonah, located not only adjacent to Shoal Creek, but also in the midst of a booming retail / commercial district on Lamar. But now, several downtown Austin condos for sale are located near parks:  The Shore CondosThe Milago condos, the Villas on Town Lake, and 360 Condos are some examples.

Bottom line is that downtown Austin has some great green space, and not only do many of these parks offer programming that all can enjoy, but they are great public, open places that are a wonderful complement to the dense development occurring in downtown Austin. These parks are not only wonderful spots to bring a blanket and a book and simply unwind, but are also part of the complex economic fabric that makes Downtown Austin an in-demand place to live.

Downtown has several municipal parks within it’s borders:

Republic Square Park | 422 Guadalupe St. | 1.75 Acres

This is probably downtown Austin’s best known park, sitting adjacent to the Plaza Lofts, and host to a variety of programmed events, including a weekly Farmer’s Market put on by the Sustainable Food Center each Saturday morning from 9am-1pm. The Austin Parks Foundation also hosts Movies in the Park at Republic Square Park.

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Courtesy of Republic Square Facebook Page

Historic Squares Leadership Team, a partnership between the City of Austin, Downtown Austin Alliance, and the Austin Parks Foundation, has recently formed in order to do some capital improvements to the park and foster a future of robust programming and operations management for the green space.

Below is a rendering of the currently preferred Concept Plan for the park’s re-design:

republic-square-park-concept-plan-downtown-austin

Not too very long ago, Jude wrote an op-ed about the proposed Travis County Courthouse, currently proposed to border the park to south.

 

Wooldridge Square | 900 Guadalupe St. | 1.73 Acres

Wooldridge Square has also been getting a fair amount of attention the last couple of years.  This historic site (it was one of the four original downtown Austin parks) has a bandstand / gazebo that is used for events held on the site.

The site had often been called a “magnet for the homeless” and went under extensive renovations in 2013, capped off by a schedule of aggressive re-opening programming, intended to diversity the public use of the space.

Current programming at this site includes Movies in the Park, Yoga in the Park, and Giant Chess.

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Duncan Park | 900 W 9th St. | 5.11 Acres

Duncan Park is one of the coolest parks downtown, in my opinion. The park plays host to a volunteer built and managed BMX bicycle track and the people watching is pretty amazing. I strongly encourage taking a picnic lunch and a book and just camping out for a couple of hours to watch some astounding BMX tricks.

Here’s an amateur video of some of the track.

 

Brush Square | 500 E 12th St. | 1.75 Acres

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Situated near the 5 Fifty-Five condos in downtown Austin, Brush Square is probably best known for hosting the annual O. Henry Pun Off. Check out some past videos from this very punny event.

 

Waterloo Neighborhood Park | 500 E 12th St. | 10 Acres

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Waterloo Park, named after the town that preceded Austin on the same site, borders Waller Creek close to Austin’s downtown. The limestone embankments of the creek are picturesquely entwined with parts of Waller Creek Trail.

The park is currently under construction related to the Waller Creek redevelopment.

Before moving to Auditorium Shores, Fun Fun Fun Fest was held in this park. Wayyyy back in 2009, I wrote a fantastically Fun Fun Fun story using band names from that years’ line-up (this is one of my very favorite posts to have ever authored, by the way).

 

The Austin Recreation Center | 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd. | 5.48 Acres

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AustinParks.org, Photo by Jim Hatch

The center at 1301 Shoal Creek is Austin’s oldest recreation center, and is home to several sports leagues (adult kickball and volleyball).  It also has a skate park / bowl.

 

Palm Park | 711 East 3rd St. | 2 Acres

Quite honestly, I feel that this is downtown Austin’s most disappointing park. It faces into I-35 and doesn’t currently have much to offer. It also has this real gross pool that doesn’t have filtration system (so it has be refilled with each use). Some groups have begun to adopt the space for programming, however (most notably, Waller Creek Conservancy for it’s very successful Waller Park picnic series).

 

Old Bakery and Emporium Park | 1006 Congress Ave

This is really considered more of a museum type space than park, but I love the intimate feel of the outdoor space at 1006 Congress Avenue.

 

The MACC 

Green space at the Mexican American Cultural Center

Green space at the Mexican American Cultural Center

Located in the Rainey Street district of downtown Austin, this “park” is adjacent to Lady Bird lake and used by residents of The Shore Condos, The Milago, and others.  It’s a great resource for condo dwellers in the neighborhood and you can often see folks playing with their pups or their children here.

 

I also consider the Texas State Capitol Grounds to be downtown park land, but that’s, of course, not managed by the City.

Related: Interested in how other types of public spaces interact with the communities that surround them? Check out our semi-related post on urban cemeteries.