Proposed Federal Court House Discussion

Over at Austin Contrarian we can find some interesting thoughts on the [poor] location of the proposed Federal Court House. Specifically, I give it up to Miggy for this simple, yet significant, observation:

“Taking a one-block by one-block square of valuable downtown land largely unencumbered by the capital view corridors off the tax rolls permanently doesn’t help Austin at all. This is where density should be targeted and this building is far from helping that goal. Also to say that the bunker-on-three-sides structure is pedestrian unfriendly would be an understatement.”

Also, Miggy brings up another concern about moving the post office to Red River.

“On a final note – the moving of the Post Office to over near Club de Ville and Red River makes no sense to me either. How many office workers will find that location convenient? And how will that dead retail streetfront (or worse-yet – similar suburban parking lot and drive-thru) help the still nascent Red River entertainment district which is already threatened by any number of other forces. I don’t know what the reasoning was but just based on my surface knowledge – they should have kept in the bottom of the Ovation building as planned.”

Andrews Urban and the Post Office own the block of land across from Stubbs. The post office was going to move there in order for Andrews Urban/Novare to build Ovation where the current post office is located. IMHO, Ovation has ZERO chance of being built within the next five years, so hopefully Miggy’s point is moot.

Day five, becoming a model urban neighborhood: what does Downtown Austin need?

Each day this week I am serving up one item, with non-politically correct candor, that Downtown Austin needs to become a model of re-urbanization, as I see it.

Politicians love to talk, form task forces, and spend time doing everything except for making decisions as they are needed.  So, this is an appeal to Downtown Austin stakeholders that know how to get things done:  the residents, developers, retailers, and land owners.

Improved landmark protection, design standards, and enforcement

This is an average landmarked building on East Sixth Street.  Here is another – note the beautiful brick archwork accented by a plywood sign!  The building owners, tenants, and the city should be embarrassed.  So much of Austin’s history exists in those buildings.  Any building that has a landmark plaque should be respected and preserved.

The city may say “we don’t regulate ugly”.  They should.  The city must better leverage the Historical Landmark Commission and Heritage Society to protect the facades, awnings, and cleanliness of our historic buildings..  Unless the city begins to affect positive change, we will continue to see the warehouse district disappear and East Sixth Street deteriorate.  It appears that voluntary compliance by landlords to maintain an expected (or expressed) standard doesn’t work and the city must begin to enforce regulations.

BTW, the owners of landmarked buildings get significant tax breaks.

Becoming a model urban neighborhood: what does Downtown Austin need?

Becoming a model urban neighborhood: what does Downtown Austin need?

Each day this week I am serving up one item, with non-politically correct candor, that Downtown Austin needs to become a model of re-urbanization, as I see it.

Politicians love to talk, form task forces, and spend time doing everything except for making decisions as they are needed.  So, this is an appeal to Downtown Austin stakeholders that know how to get things done:  the residents, developers, retailers, and land owners.

I want a Super Target on Congress Ave.

Yes, it’s known as a big box store and is identified with sprawl.  It doesn’t need to be that way! Retailers like H-E-B and WalMart are sophisticated enough to design stores that work as urban infill or adaptive reuse projects.  A large destination store that has groceries and products that people need [and can afford] on a regular basis would be amazingly successful.

Remember that rendering produced by Stratus for the Seaholm redevelopment which depicted a multi-story H-E-B?  That was inspired.

Downtown Austin landlords with retail space should begin to focus less on luxury goods and more on “liveability” goods.  I don’t want to see more boutiques.  I don’t want to see more salons.  I don’t want to see more bars/lounges.  These are all fine, except they serve a very limited audience.  The next wave of successful retail in Downtown Austin will be for products that people need and can afford to purchase.

Stratus's rendering for HEB at Seaholm

Stratus's rendering for HEB at Seaholm

Spring [almost] tops out

Spring [almost] tops out

Spring tops out at 42 stories

Spring almost topped out at 42 stories

According to an email I received this morning from the developer, Spring condominiums will complete it’s vertical construction soon and is on pace to be ready for move in by this summer.  Word on the street is Spring has more than 60% of the units under contract.

From the announcement…

“Expect to see a tree on the top of Spring Condominium soon.  The tree is a tradition, symbolizing a building has reached the top floor of its construction.  Spring’s glass envelope will also soon be complete.  Once the painters have completed the exterior color coating, most of the tower’s exterior elements will be complete.

Interior work continues with installations of finishes reaching level 25.  Over 400 workers are on-site working simultaneously on all aspects of the construction of Spring.  From work on the structure to installations of glass windows and walls, flooring, tile, cabinetry, electrical and mechanical to the finalization of the pool deck and lobby design, Spring’s team is combining efforts to complete the building by Summer 2009.