Downtown Thriving as a Live-Work-Play Community

Downtown Thriving as a Live-Work-Play Community

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Artist’s rendering of the office tower now going up at the site of the former Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant in downtown Austin where Google will take more than 200,000-sf. CREDIT: Gensler Austin

Nice story in The Statesman about the vibrant community that continues to grow downtown – not just in terms of nightlife, but also new economy jobs and associated residents:  Austin’s Tech Scene Heats Up Downtown.

It’s worth pointing out however that all this has not “just happened” by itself.

It has been 15+ years in the making with great purpose by the likes of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA), the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), Mayors Kirk Watson, Will Wynn, Lee Leffingwell and their City Councils, the Downtown Austin Plan, and many more driving forces.

Except for weekday lunchtime and weekend nights on East 6th, it was a veritable ghost town when my team first opened an expanded Wild About Music down here in 1995, then started living here in 1999.

There’s still a ton of work to be done around issues of homelessness and vagrancy (two different matters), affordability (having only $50/ft rents and million dollar condos is not sustainable), traffic (a car-free zone?), and that IH-35 east-west barrier.

Dave Sullivan, longtime Austin civic leader during this big growth period, also just told me: “When I joined the City Planning Commission in 1994, software development was a prohibited use Downtown. I remember voting to change that in the late 90s. Seems incredible.

Incredible indeed, Dave.


And a worthy update:  After this story published I received a note from a longtime steward of Downtown Austin’s evolution, Michael Knox, of the City’s Economic Development Department.  He filled in another 10 years of preparation that went into the creation of today’s Downtown before my timeline even picks up.  Mike says:

“I started working on downtown in 1988, when it was part of AustinPlan’s Sector 1.  Of course AustinPlan, the comprehensive plan update to replace Austin Tomorrow, was never adopted.

“In 1989 we (Jose Martinez and I) started working with the Downtown Commission, actively promoting a thing called R/UDAT.  The 1990 R/UDAT application we co-wrote was accepted, and in 1991 we got the R/UDAT team visit and report, followed in 1992 by “A Call to Action: R/UDAT Implementation” that, in 1993 gave birth to the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Austin Downton PID.  These efforts involved hundreds of dedicated Austinites.

“Downtown initiatives were kicked up a notch in 1997 when Kirk Watson became Mayor, and Assistant City Manager Jim Smith (now Aviation Director) and I put together Kirk’s first six downtown initiatives, including the Waller Creek tunnel, Downtown Design Guidelines and the Poleyard and AMLI developments.”

So there you go…another of Downtown Austin’s many unsung heroes.  We thank you, Michael Knox.

~Fred

Chill Out

Chill Out

Leave no stone unturned. Check out how Austin Energy wants to use a sliver of downtown land, next to Gables Park Tower, for a new chilling station.

The site dimensions make the site pretty much unusable for intense development, so it is great to see a municipal use.  AE has engaged Cotera Reed to handle the design.  The project is being presented to the City of Austin Design Commission on the 25th.

Many downtown buildings are connected to the the City’s “chilled water loop”.  One of the existing chilling stations is at 5th & Sabine (that blue tile “box” connected to the ACVB parking garage).

-Jude

potential "skin" of the station

potential “skin” of the station

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

[Read more…]

The Republic Square Park Makeover

The Republic Square Park Makeover

Friends, it took a minute, but we’re finally just months away from the start of a momentous project that promises to further ratchet up the quality of life here in Downtown Austin.

After nearly two decades of fitful effort and planning, work is set to start this June on tremendous upgrades to Republic Square Park.

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Republic Square Park, renovation project

Situated on Guadalupe Street between 4th and 5th streets, you probably know it now as the place where all the buses stop, or the joint with the grass and the trees where you wait in long lines for the shuttle to ACL Fest, or the site with the weekly farmers’ market. By virtue of its central location, the park sees a ton of traffic each day, but its lack of amenities means that it doesn’t get a ton of use.  Right now, Republic Square Park is essentially a verdant plaza of the largely lifeless Federal Courthouse directly to its west, and eye candy for Plaza Lofts to the east.

View into park from Federal Courthouse

View into park from Federal Courthouse

[Read more…]

Where Is All The Micro Housing?

Where Is All The Micro Housing?

The casual suburban view of Downtown Austin real estate is likely limited to the newsworthy towers – hotels, offices, condos.  The tall glassy stuff that has been radically reordering our skyline with a seasonal regularity.  But there’s far more to downtown than just towers.

78701 is arguably Austin’s only truly self-sustaining urban ZIP code, and has a rainbow of housing options to please a variety of tastes. Yes, there are shiny condo towers, but take a closer look, especially in the northwest quadrant of downtown (aka. Original Austin), and you’ll find a rich mix of mid-rises, duplexes, garage apartments, townhomes, victorian homes, a Governor’s Mansion, and more.

surprising to many casual observers, downtown Austin has more than just tall towers

surprising to many casual observers, downtown Austin has more than just tall towers

One conspicuous absence, however, is that increasingly popular urban diadem known as the micro-unit development. [Read more…]

Downtown Austin News Bites

Downtown Austin News Bites

Fareground Austin Making Progress

Fareground Austin – Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

The renovation / remodel of the plaza in front of 111 Congress Avenue, being branded as Fareground Austin,  has been underway since last year, and things seem to chugging right along. The project has received loads of press in all the major news outlets and recently unveiled new renderings and announced an operator of the restaurant concepts that will be housed there.

Fareground Austin has utilized local talent for many aspects of the project, including dwg, Michael Hsu Architecture, lookthinkmake, and ELM Restaurant Group, among others.

Parkway Properties took full ownership of 111 Congress and San Jacinto Center last year and both properties have received / are receiving exterior improvements.

New Co-Working Space at San Jacinto Center

Rendering courtesy of Techspace's Facebook Page

Techspace coworking in downtown Austin

Another big player in the co-working vertical comes to the CBD.  We’ve written about other spaces before, and TechSpace seems to fit right in with the crowd, offering 28,0000 sf of flex co-working in a modern setting – perfect for small business enterprise.

New Juice Shop at 603 Brazos

Juicing _ Flickr - Photo Sharing

Courtesy Flickr: bertholf, https://goo.gl/zr4y0a

A permit is currently under review for a new juice shop to take over 820 sf of ground floor space at 603 Brazos (across from The Driskill and also referred to as 200 E 6th).  The concept will be named JUDO.  No other information as of now, but we’re definitely in support of the general concept!

Application Filed for Demolition of Austin City Music Hall

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Third + Shoal tower to replace Austin Music Hall

It’s looking to be imminent: Austin Music Hall is out, and Third + Shoal is in.  The demolition permit was filed a couple of weeks ago, and is still pending, but Third + Shoal is pushing forward and putting out some nice marketing.  Check out the “preview book” by clicking on the image above.

Rainey Street District Gets Dry-Cleaning Service

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New downtown Austin dry cleaner

As Rainey continues to grow, so do the neighborhood services options!  Recently, a neighborhood dry-cleaning service opened, One-Click Cleaners.  Welcome to the neighborhood, One-Click Cleaners, and we’re looking forward to seeing more resident-centric operators come to Rainey!