Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

This effort could yield some cool results.  The idea is in focus as Art Alliance Austin will feature in April an alley installation adjacent to the Austin Club.

Councilmember Tovo’s office is capturing the attention of downtown stakeholder groups, including Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association and the Downtown Commission, which has spun off a working group, for consideration of a masterplan for downtown Austin’s alleyways.

“Traditionally [alleys] are associated with garbage collection and can be associated with crime,” Tovo says “so, there’s the notion of kind of taking another look at them and really thinking about what kind of potential they might bring to our downtown area.” – KUT News

Repurposing alleys is not a new idea, and many cities around the world have embraced them as valuable real estate.

In fact, the concept for revitalizing downtown alleys has come before Austin City Council at least once before.  Back in 1971, architect David Graeber proposed repurposing the alleys behind 6th Street, from the Driskill Hotel to Waller Creek.

“By establishing cafes, boutiques, business offices and unusual shops, the alley could be a major economic stimulant to the downtown area.  Businesses could face either the alley or 6th Street, or more advantageously, both.” – David Graeber

Austin Architect, David Graeber's "Serendipity Alley" concept from the 1970s.  Daily Texan, September 24, 1971

Austin Architect, David Graeber’s “Serendipity Alley” concept from the 1970s. Daily Texan, September 24, 1971

[Image credit Art Alliance Austin/Creative Action and TBG/Dan Cheetham (Fyoog) and Michelle Tarsney]

Shoal Creek Walk Concept

Shoal Creek Walk Concept

Schlosser Development is proposing a new mixed-use complex in the parking lot to the east of the downtown Austin Whole Foods.  The following renderings and description were recently submitted to the City of Austin Design Commission and will be presented on Monday, December 14th.  The status is currently conceptual.

The Shoal Creek Walk, a proposed development project from Schlosser Development, will be a true mixed-use building complex located at the corner of West Sixth and Bowie Streets in downtown Austin, Texas. The project will closely conform to the constraints of the site which include a capital view corridor over approximately one half of the property and the Shoal Creek floodplain elevation.

These site limitations create a specific and very limited area where building improvements can be made on the site, by restricting both the building height and the overall footprint of any buildings on the site. Within those limitations, two buildings will be situated along Bowie Street, as the eastern portion of the site is within the floodplain. The high-rise building, at 350′ tall, will be located on the north portion of the property with a total of approximately 490,000 sq. ft. of office, retail and residential uses. The low-rise building will be situated at the corner of West Fifth and Bowie Streets, with primarily offices above the first level retail component for a total of about 100,000 sq. ft.

The two buildings together will provide more than 450,000 sq. ft. of office space, which is of a size able to attract a major employer and will likely be built in phases, to allow accommodation of a variety of tenant sizes. This flexibility will greatly enhance the feasibility of the project moving forward. The larger building will also have a residential component of about 90 units located above the office in what will be a narrower, residential footprint. The residential component adds to the feasibility of the larger building and is consistent with the downtown plan preference for vertically integrated structures.

The parking will be entirely within structured parking garages, both above and below grade, possibly with several surface ADA and drop-off parking adjacent to the building. Materials for the building will be of durable quality and wi ll be consistent with the architecture represented in the Market District.

What Will Replace American Youth Works?

Thanks to a tip from Michael and then confirmed yesterday when I saw the doors and windows boarded up, Downtown Austin Blog has learned that American Youth Works has moved out of its warehouse loft space on E 4th.

The building is owned by Austin Charter Schools Inc.  I haven’t read anything suggesting that AYW was preparing for a move, so this wasn’t on my radar.   Please leave any info you have in the comments.

Downtown Austin Federal Courthouse Groundbreaking On September 2nd

According the Statesman, the proposed Federal Courthouse at 5th @ San Antonio begins construction in less than two weeks.  Months ago $116MM of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were allocated to the courthouse and, though seemingly moot, there continues to be strong opinions against the design and location.  I’m looking forward to its completion.  The new workforce occupying the courthouse will bring more economic activity to the retail shops within walking distance.


Gables Pressler

Yesterday, I headed over to the nearly completed Gables Pressler apartments on W 5th Street.  Located just a few blocks east of another new Gables development, 5th Street Commons, Pressler is being marketed as Gables most “green” project in Austin.

5th Street, west of Lamar, has evolved rapidly.  In less than a year we’ve seen the addition of dozens of new retail shops filled with local businesses along with hundreds of new residents and pedestrians improving what had been nothing more than a wide boulevard that connected Mopac to Lamar.

Ad for Presslers Garden, in the 1887 Austin City Directory

Ad for Pressler's Garden, in the 1887 Austin City Directory

Gables Pressler is named after Paul Pressler, proprietor of Pressler’s beer garden originally built where Gables stands today.  The chronicle has a great article on turn of the century beer gardens and goes on to say about Pressler:

“Pressler’s Beer Garden was located between the river and West Pecan Street (Sixth Street) in Old West Austin. Built around a steam brewery started by Paul Pressler in the early 1870s, it operated for more than 30 years before being swallowed by residential development. Situated on what was then the western fringe of the city, its idyllic rural location made it the perfect spot for relaxing under live oaks with a frothy mug of beer. It had a concert hall that regularly hosted touring German singing and theatrical acts. The grounds around the concert hall were landscaped with curving walks, ornamental shrubbery, arbors, and a fountain. The extended grounds also featured a boating ramp, a shooting club, and an alligator pond.

The location is what sells this place – it’s equidistant to West Lynn @ 12th as it is to Whole Foods or the running trails.  There are 168 units made up of studios, 1bd, and 2bd units.  The finishes are nice.  There is an interior courtyard with a pool.  The leasing agent informed me that they are offering three months free on a twelve month lease for all leases which commence by August 31st.

Pricing as of August 4th, 2009 (pdf)

Gables Pressler
507 Pressler St
Austin, Tx 78703