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!

New bowling alley coming to downtown Austin

New bowling alley coming to downtown Austin

Bowling alley coming to downtown Austin

I hold the belief that the Big Lebowski made bowling cool in America again.  It is certainly a cool thing to do in Austin, with the Highball, and lest we forget Saengerrunde Hall has been keepin’ it real since 1879!

Now, a new bowling alley is on tap for downtown Austin at the former Miller Blueprint building at 501 W. Sixth Street. Public records seem to tie this effort to the team behind the Goodnight, the adults-only gaming venue on Anderson Lane. If true, a downtown Goodnight should do very well on West Sixth.

The two-story building – abandoned since Miller Blueprinting relocated – is slated to be redeveloped into a four-story mutli-use building with a restaurant, cocktail lounge, event space and 9,500 square foot bowling alley.

The project will also bring Great Street improvements, which makes it a win/win/win for downtown Austin. The timeline is to-be-determined, but paperwork is flying at the city’s planning office, which indicates this project is far beyond conception and well into execution.

Seaholm Intake redesign delayed indefinitely

After spending $110,000 on two design competitions, baiting the Austin public into thinking they actually have a voice, and formally adopting a design the city Parks Department is flushing the Seaholm Redesign progress down the toilet.

There are few examples to epitomize the military acronym of a SNAFU, but this is one of them.

Seaholm Intake on Lady Bird Lake

Seaholm Intake on Lady Bird Lake

In 2013, there was a Seaholm Intake design competition and in September last year, the city fooled us into thinking there was two finalist designs. The winning design, by Stratus, was officially adopted in October and envisioned metallic spiral corkscrewing through the facility, along with canopy roof, would create an iconic landmark that future generations would associate with Austin.

But, hold the phone! Preservation Austin then got up-in-arms that given that the building is on the National Register of Historic Places the adopted design would fly in the face of rules that only minimal changes take place.

How the Parks Department missed this point is beyond me, but they announced they are hitting reset on the whole endeavor.

Planning Commission votes to reduce One Two East proposal

One Two East proposal at 12th & I-35

One Two East proposal at 12th & I-35

In it’s-downtown-enough-for-us-to-care news, the Austin Planning Commission has voted 7-3-1 to only partially allow the proposed zoning change for One Two East that would boost the building height to 180 feet from the 150 allowed.  Basically, they voted to cap one of the two twoers at 150 feet and allow the other to go to 180 feet as requested.

Exactly how the move will impact the highly controversial project is to be determined, and it heads to Austin City Council in April, according to an Austin Monitor report.

In my opinion, nixing the zoning request on moral principles is faulty logic.

BRACK ATTACK!!  Brackenridge Hospital Master Plan is just a plan (for now)

BRACK ATTACK!! Brackenridge Hospital Master Plan is just a plan (for now)

At the end of January, the master plan to redevelop the 14.3-acre Brackenridge Hospital campus in the northeast quadrant of downtown Austin got the go-ahead from Central Health board. The plan envisions up to four new skyscrapers, an open air market, housing, basically everything to run a small town.

There is a lot of fanfare about the master plan, with the grandfathers of downtown Austin development lining up to give quotes to the Statesman about the magnitude of the site.  But if the lesson of major public-private redevelopment (see: Seaholm, Greenwater) is anything, it is that the story rarely goes the way you have in mind.

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These multi-faceted medical developments can start to melt together. Which one of these medical developments Central Health? The purple one, south of 15th.

These medical developments are MAJOR redevelopment efforts in Austin.  It is not just another tower.  This medical district will feel like a self-contained small city.  I think it is important to give a basic breakdown of what’s going down, so here’s what will be happening in the next 12-24 months at the site:

  • The new a new medical school, research building and teaching hospital under construction at Red River and 15th Street is opening, thus Brackenridge will be shuttering.
  • Central Health will seek proposals from developers to redevelop the property, probably tease the public with some of the proposed renderings from the suitors, and ultimately choose a company to negotiate a Master Development Agreement or some other arrangement. (Although I should caution: Such deals are precarious until the ink has dried on signatures and prone to unexpected delays. Expect the unexpected.)
  • Wrecking balls will start to swing, and the buildings that make up the campus will be demolished.
Phase 1

Phase 1, 2017-2025

The approved master plan stretches all the way out 2035 in multiple phases. So those sexy renderings of an open air market, and beautiful skyscrapers? Well, we might all be locked into a global war with AI robots by then, so I’m not even going to touch anything past Phase 1, which stretches from 2017 to 2025.

So if you live downtown, or are buying downtown, here is what to expect, according to the plan for Phase 1:

  • The nine-story University Medical Center Brackenridge Hospital Tower stays operational through 2017, then it is demolished to make way for a public market/plaza.
  • The single story building to its south is obsolete and is wiped from the Earth.
  • The three-story office building and helipad are demolished to allow for the realignment of Red River Street through the Brackenridge Campus.
  • The nine-story, 1,400 car space garage stays put because it is a revenue generator and will continue to be.
  • In total, this demolition will allow two new development blocks to be created as soon as possible, as well as the first phase of new streets, public open spaces, and infrastructure that define them. Also envisioned during this phase is the construction of a building that would be attached to – or line – the west façade of the Main Garage.
Maybe this by 2035

Maybe this by 2035. Renderings by Gensler

Again, Phase 1 is what is manageable right now. What does Phase 2 and 3 have for us?

Phase 2 (2025-2030)

  • The Original City Hospital Block: The Clinical Education Center (CEC)
  • Block 166: The CEC Parking Garage
  • Block 167: The North Wing of the Hospital Tower

Phase 3 (2030-2035)

  • The “Main” Parking Garage at Block 168

Yes, even in 2035, parking garages might still command the center stage of real estate development.  Sigh.  Here is a link to the master plan (pdf).

-Jude