Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Newest Installation of Public Art Project at 2nd and Guadalupe

Reflections on the Brazos by Ryah Christensen (2nd and Brazos)

The Second Street Public Art Master Plan (part of Great Streets), in coordination with the City’s Art in Public Places program, has methodically been placing art in around the district since the mid-2000s, when 7 sidewalk enhancements were commissioned at district intersections to reflect a unified theme.

The City of Austin has a 2% for art ordinance that was established in 1985. Art in Public Places (AIPP) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and Austin was the first municipal public art program in the state of Texas. Under the ordinance, 2% of eligible capital improvement project budgets are allocated for the commission of public art for that site. The projects in The Second Street Public Art Master Plan are under that envelope of funding.

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91 Red River Moving, To Be Preserved

91 Red River Moving, To Be Preserved

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New signals of an inevitable redevelopment of the northeastern corner of Davis Street and Red River.  We noticed yesterday that there was drilling outside of the home and we asked about it.  We were told by a reliable source that the home, constructed in the early 1900’s, is being relocated to a retirement couple in Thorndale, possibly as part of a larger retirement community of historic homes.

Back in August of 2014, 91 and 91 1/2 Red River received demo permits from the City. As the Rainey Street district continues to evolve, we are glad to see these homes preserved.

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Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

Bare-ly Believable La Bare Building

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Remember La Bare on Riverside?  Yeah, you do.

If you’re new to Austin, La Bare was a “ladies club” located at 110 E Riverside Drive that advertised male dancer entertainment.  From the get-go, the business was troubled due to an incompatible use with the surrounding neighborhood (even then, when it wasn’t as densely populated with residential developments like The Crescent and others) and eventually re-opened on I-35, where it commenced to unwind.

That first part of that story sounds familiar, as a strip club was recently proposed and faces opposition at 422 Congress.

Just as fascinating as its salacious past are the future possibilities for the site, which is now being listed by commercial brokers Avison Young.

The fact that it’s been vacant for yeeeeaaaaaarssss seems nuts given it’s HIGHLY desirable location (again, a familiar theme in recent news). Why?  We can only speculate, but it likely had to do with figuring out how the adjacent TxDot property will develop.

With a large landowner controlling several adjacent lots in one of the most desirable areas of Austin, we expect that once the planets align we’re going to see a master plan for all of these sites.

Down the street, CWS is mid-construction on a 260-unit luxury apartment complex.

 

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Downtown Austin Alley Activations – Open House for Rainey Alley

Downtown Austin Alley Activations – Open House for Rainey Alley

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A little over two years ago today, we wrote about a very cool Alley Activation project done by Art Alliance Austin.  In the article, we said that many cities around the world are starting to embrace alleys as more than just loading / unloading and trash dumpster zones.  We think that for certain alleys, the concept of revitalization and activation makes a ton of sense.

One such alley in the Rainey district of downtown Austin is getting a second look, compliments of the City’s recent acquisition of funding to pave what’s currently little more than a dirt passage littered with dumpsters behind all of your favorite Rainey Street bars. The alley goes from River Street to where the construction for the Millenium Rainey apartments begin (Millenium Rainey received an alley vacation so they were able to build right over the alley).

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Rainey Alley today, looking north

Millenium Rainey Dead-ends Rainey Alley

Millenium Rainey dead-ends Rainey Alley

We think this is very exciting for the neighborhood not only in the broad sense of representing “out-of-the-box” thinking to maximize public space within the limited confines of an urban area, but more practically and specific to the location – we think this activation may have the effect of “bringing in” the businesses on East Avenue that currently face I-35, encouraging more serviceable and integrated uses to make them fit into the neighborhood they inhabit, rather than being hunkering warehouses with chain-link fences, or out of place and isolated highway bars like the ill-fated Agora.**

The establishments on East Avenue are technically part of the Rainey Neighborhood, but many couldn’t feel more incongruous with their surroundings.

We encourage those interested in upgrading the alley to come to the Mexican American Cultural Center at 600 River Street on On April 7, from 9am-7pm. The City is inviting the public to come and give input on current uses of the alley and solicit constructive ideas for future uses that also preserve the “essential service functions” of the alley.  Feel free to share constructive ideas in the comments below, too.  We’ll be dropping by the Open House and are happy to share any cool ideas on our readers’ behalves!

More info here.

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**Legacy leather bar Chain Drive is currently residing in part of the structure at 84 East Avenue today.  It was formerly tucked away and hidden in plain sight on Willow Street off of Red River before being pushed out – likely due to parcel consolidation for the Waller Park Place / Waller Center.  Even though it’s not a bar we personally visit, we’d actually like to see it stay around for posterity, if nothing else.





Get your Fixe for Southern Comfort Food in Downtown Austin

Get your Fixe for Southern Comfort Food in Downtown Austin

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Southern style restaurants are not a new concept for downtown Austin.  With great restaurants like Olamie, Bess Bistro, and Moonshine, I would say the bar is set fairly high in this particular arena.

Fixe, the newcomer on the scene, recently opened in the very slick, very new IBC Bank Building, right across 5th street from the Federal Courthouse complex, and is a hop, skip, and a jump away from downtown Austin condo towers like Plaza Lofts and the 360 Condos.

Given the lack of historical character on the building’s exterior, I was setting my expectations low, prepping myself for an upscale, but watered-down experience – a business-lunch destination, with a general lack of gumption.

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Downtown Austin News Bites

Downtown Austin News Bites

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Signs of Progress for Waller Park Place

An application to re-subdivide the lots at 92-98 Red River, 504-505 Willow St., and 503 and 511 E Cesar Chavez was filed recently.  We’re eager to see Waller Park Place break ground.  This is notable as the largest private development ever proposed in downtown Austin, and when complete will be bring more daytime activity for the burgeoning Rainey Street District.

Bed & Breakfast Proposed for 1304 Rio Grande

A bed & breakfast concept could potentially breathe a little new life into a district of downtown mostly filled with older homes hosting small offices. Very little info exists on the project right now, but we’ll update you as we get additional details.

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A Walk in the Clouds in Downtown Austin

No, this isn’t the 2015 Downtown Austin Blog Prom Theme.  It’s another way of saying that downtown Austin is getting another really cool sky bridge concept, a la Fairmont to the Austin Convention Center.

Rendering of skybridge that will connect Fairmont to Austin Convention Center

Rendering of skybridge that will connect Fairmont to Austin Convention Center

This time, the “aerial right-of-way encroachment” (sky bridge is catchier, admittedly), is being proposed between West 5th and West 6th Street on Bowie street, and will connect slick new Bowie Apartments  Shoal Creek Walk (Class A office and ground floor retail, by Schlosser Development) to Whole Foods Headquarters, a development that has just started site work.

Per developer, this was REQUIRED by city code, since at least one of the buildings it will be connecting are in the flood plain.  An additional escape route was required to avoid a fire hazard. It’s our understanding that this concept is a go – as the time for objections has passed, and it’s a safety requirement.  We think it’s kind of neat.

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Millenium Rainey Restaurant Space Available for $36/sf NNN

Speaking of Rainey Street Happenings, the marketing for the commercial space at Millenium Rainey Apartments is in full force.  CBRE is marketing the property – take a look at the marketing packet they created:

(Click on the images for a larger view)

First Crane for Aspen Heights Apartments at 8th and Nueces

It’s alive!  Aspen Heights Apartments moving forward with construction, as evidenced by the massive crane recently erected on the site.

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“Adult-Oriented” Use proposed for 422 Congress

“Adult-Oriented” Use proposed for 422 Congress

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Congress Avenue – the Main Street of Texas – is about to “make it rain!”

An “adult oriented use” has been proposed for the site at 422 Congress Ave.  Lanai and other various cocktail lounges inhabit / have inhabited the space previously.

The city permitting office states: “The applicant is proposing a conditional use application for an adult oriented business” and the business is referred to as a “nightclub” in parts of the application for permit.

The legal term “adult-oriented business” means an adult arcade, adult bookstore, adult cabaret, adult lounge, adult novelty shop, adult service business, or adult theater.  Link to Austin’s land development code.  I think most observers would agree that “adult oriented business” is clearly a euphemism for strip-club.

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from Google maps

This would be a first for downtown Austin, at least this century.

More to come.





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.

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