Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

Higher & Better Use For Downtown Alleys

austin_alley_project

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]





UT student housing, not condos, coming to 17 & Guadalupe

UT student housing, not condos, coming to 17 & Guadalupe

17&Guad birdseye

About a month ago, the Downtown Austin Blog had a post hinting at the redevelopment of the abandoned, sad-looking Arby’s at 17th and Guadalupe, received with some skepticism.

Guess what? It’s going to be developed into an 80-unit student housing apartment complex and they want to do it fast.

About a quarter of the block at 1715 Guadalupe has been an abandoned fast food restaurant with its onsite parking use for contract parking. Recently, it has been sold to a developer for mid-rise student housing, with below grade parking.

Here’s the catch: The construction schedule requires work to begin by March 15, in order for the project to be ready for UT student move-in this August. The entire project area will have underground parking, which will required about two months of demolition, excavation and grading work.

It will be interesting to see if this still becomes student housing if the project deadlines cannot be met. Initially, this lot was going to be redeveloped into downtown mixed-use and someone literally scratched out “condos and retail” on the site plan application and wrote “apartments”.

UT had record freshman enrollment this past year, and if the market said lending was easier for that use, then that’s how the chips fall.

There’s likely to be universal consensus that a mid-rise student complex will be great for adding some life back into that part of town, and be especially good for the adjacent Dive Bar and Arturo’s coffee shop.

But, like cutting into an overcooked, yet still tasty steak, the current plan leaves bit sadness about what could have been.

Street-level retail and condo owners, which would have been vested in the community, would have been much juicier than student housing. Not to mention: the site is zoned for DMU-CURE and not in the Capitol View Corridor, which means density could have been packed in there.

We’ll also not that unlike other apartment projects percolating around the core, this one – because it is student housing – is unlikely to be converted into condos at a later date.

On the other hand, having student housing bleeding into downtown does it’s own unique part to keep the core vibrant, and really adds a level of affordability and youthfulness to downtown, which a luxury high-rise condo tower would not.





Hotel Van Zandt To Begin Construction This Summer #foolmetwice

Hotel Van Zandt To Begin Construction This Summer #foolmetwice

render by WDG

If you’ve been around downtown Austin since 2006, you’ve been hearing about the Hotel Van Zandt.  It was a sister development to the Shore Condos, sharing the northern end of the site.  Hotel Van Zandt was initially planned to be a $100 million, 29-story hotel and condo tower.  The scope has been reduced to 16 stories and will include just the hotel component.

“Greg Clay, chief investment officer for JMI Realty, which is developing the Hotel Van Zandt, said his company has applied for building permits and expects to break ground by June on the 16-story, 327-room hotel. It which will be operated by Kimpton Hotels, a San Francisco company, which specializes in chic boutique hotels.

Though JMI has owned the site at Red River and Davis streets since 2006, the project had been stalled by the recession and other factors, but now it’s back on track.” – Austin Business Journal

I’m eager to see this hotel built.  We’ve heard this story before, though I’ve heard enough scuttlebutt this time to be optimistic we really will see dirt start turning.

-Jude

[above rendering by WDG Architecture]

hotel-van-zandt-site





Remainder of Austonian Block Sold

Remainder of Austonian Block Sold

wccg-austonian-block

The remainder of the downtown block surrounding the Austonian has been purchased from the Nalle family by World Class Capital Group.  There are no immediate plans for the site.

“The site that was purchased — about 1.3 acres — is bounded by Congress Avenue and Second, Third and Colorado streets. It includes a surface parking lot along with the land and building that house the Austin Children’s Museum, which will be relocating to the Mueller development in Northeast Austin, and Compass Learning.” – Statesman

WCCG has acquired several premiere downtown sites over the past couple of years, including Katz Deli, Spaghetti Warehouse, and the warehouse at 97 Trinity (across Cesar Chavez from the Convention Center).

 





More Downtown Austin Apartment & Condo Projects Emerging

More Downtown Austin Apartment & Condo Projects Emerging

north_shore_lofts_austin2

It seems like almost every direction we look around downtown Austin, construction cranes are deployed, helping concrete and steel skeletons reach to the sky.  Notably the JW Marriott hotel, across from the Austonian, has three cranes in place and will soon take shape.  But that’s just the newly visible construction: in and around downtown Austin there’s upwards of 8 million square feet of construction planned or underway.

Sometimes we forget to look outside of the downtown core.  Still, there on the far wings of downtown Austin, even more construction is (literally) on the horizon and DAB is here to give you a first look.

North Shore Lofts
More Rainey Street District development is on the way, joining the Sutton Towers, Austin Skyhouse and the (perpetually-stalled) Hotel Van Zandt. Not much is known at this point, but a new multifamily development is planned on a vacant plot of land on the north shore, next to the Holiday Inn right by I-35.

If built, the views of Lady Bird Lake would be incredible (and protected).

This site, addressed 16 North I-35, was rezoned from downtown mixed-use (DMU) to central business district (CBD) in 2005, and at the time was owned by Tom Calhoon, of Calhoon Properties.

Coming Soon: "North Shore Lofts"

Coming Soon: “North Shore Lofts”

West Campus Apartments
Don’t be fooled by the name, this project, at 17th and Guadalupe is not actually in “West Campus“, and is also planned to have condos.  Since as long as I can remember, this area near the Dog and Duck Pub, is one of the most run-down areas remaining in downtown, with a lot of properties sitting idly in disrepair.

Last time this site was anything productive it was an Arby’s.

Hopefully, this project will spur additional redevelopment of the low-density legacy buildings all around here. A few blocks north, the UT School of Business is building a new center next to the Player’s Club, which will also expand the AT&T Conference center, which might help energize the area, too.

-Jude

1715 gdlp current

Coming Soon: “West Campus Apartments”





BREAKING: Sales Of New Downtown Austin Condos Average More Than $1,000,000

BREAKING: Sales Of New Downtown Austin Condos Average More Than $1,000,000

downtown-austin-condo-pricing-data-2012

For the first time, the average sales price of a new condo in downtown Austin is more than $1,000,000.

It’s not news that residences cost more than $1,000,000.  It is news when we’re talking about averages!  To be clear, we are focusing on new construction only, not resales (which have also had a banner year, and we’ll cover that in a future post.)

In 2012, the Austonian, Four Seasons Residences, W Hotel Residences, and Spring Condos (which in 2012 closed out their sales), accounted for 124 sales.

According to builder reports assembled by Capitol Market Research for new construction condos sold during the past 12 months:

  • average price = $1,061,682
  • average size = 1,701 ft.
  • number new condos sold = 124

The data is provided to us monthly as an aggregate of the above four buildings.  Anonymizing individual building sales was the only way to convince the developers to share their sales data.  To qualify the average price, we can approximate a median price using the 12 monthly aggregate records we have.

  • median monthly average price = $1,044,181 (min $777,813 to max $1,687,857)

The refrain which began in 2010 continues: there are no new downtown Austin condos being built.  Nor have we seen any new site plans for downtown condos.  Inventories continue to decrease (by 124 units in 2012) and residences are selling quickly at prices close to the asking price.  An ancillary effect of this shrinking inventory is rising prices for resales.

By my estimation, when compared against TCAD records, only 115 new construction units remain.  If interest rates remain low, the downtown Austin real estate market is on a trajectory to complete sales of new construction condos in 2013.

I’ll continue to provide detailed analysis of 2012 results over the coming weeks, including resales and analysis of building-by-building performance.

-Jude





This Hotel Looks Just Like That Hotel

This Hotel Looks Just Like That Hotel

Where have I seen this rendering before?

It’s deja vu all over again!

White Lodging is losing no time getting to work on their third active hotel construction project in downtown Austin.

In late December, about three months after news leaked about the deal, planners filed a site plan and based on other documents filed at the city a clearer picture is emerging about the 300-room luxury hotel at 5th & San Jacinto, abutting the 6th Street Entertainment District.

According to city documents, the project will climb to about 20 floors, with a roof terrace, totaling 215,000 square feet.

Atlanta-based PFVS Architects Inc. are the architects of record.  PFVS already has a few hotels in Austin with their stamp on them, including the Westin at the Domain and the Marriot South Austin, off of I-35.  PFVS is also designing White Lodging’s other two current downtown projects.  White Lodging broke ground on a JW Marriott convention hotel valued at $300 million across from the Austonian last year, which is expected to open in 2015, and is working on a 296-room Hyatt Place under construction at 3rd & San Jacinto, expected to open this year. (Note: White Lodging also runs the Residence Inn next to the Convention Center.)

What is a bit surprising is how eerily similar drawings of PFVS’s Hyatt Place project, on 3rd and San Jacinto, appears to the renderings submitted to the city for the other hotel on 5th and San Jacinto, two blocks north. They are both about 300 rooms, and though the final products will probably be different, on the drawing board there is no denying they look quite similar.

Where have I seen this rendering before?

 

The 5th Street project comes to us from no other than Harry Whittington, who in this case created a joint venture with REI Real Estate Services LLC in Carmel, Ind., and White Lodging.

Whittington told the Austin Business Journal that after being courted by many developers his family concluded that building a hotel with the veteran hospitality developers was the route to pursue. (Whittington owned the lot for a whopping 45 years and is not in the business of selling his land.)

The site had entitlements for an 8:1 floor to area ratio, and zoning was successfully changed to provide a 13:1 FAR.

Something else lacking in the design are renderings that show the the building with a 6th Street POV – arguably the most important perspective for this hotel to blend into the neighborhood fabric.  Will it be a giant Plaza Lofts style flat blank wall looming over 6th Street?  I know the developer has heard these concerns, but we are left wondering about the results.

Should we expect more thoughtful design from architects and developers?  Absolutely.

Is this hotel better than the suface lot it’s going to replace?  Absolutely.

 





The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

The Highest And Best Use of Congress Ave Retail Store Frontage Is Not CapMetro

capmetro-austin-congress-ave

One of the things that always seemed curious to me is how and why Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) occupied prime square footage on a heavily trafficked part of Congress Avenue, next to Annie’s. For many years, Cap Metro occupied the first and third floor of this three-story building.

Well its lease expires this coming April, and it seems the landlord is raising the rent. As a result, Capital Metro is moving into 209 W 9th Street (southwest corner of Colorado and 9th), which is owned by Harry Whittington.  There, the transit agency is signing a 5-year $3.3 million lease on 18,800 square feet.  This will allow the consolidation of two call centers – one currently housed at the 323 Congress Ave.

For years, the good energy of clear windows (“fenestration” for my fellow wonks) and ambience of Annie’s seemed to kind of get sucked way by the dark, looming, uninviting storefront of Capital Metro next door.

So what’s next for 323 Congress?

The entire building is 21,900 square feet, and  features open floor layouts, ample lighting and excellent visibility to Congress Ave.  According to this undated flyer from Weitzman, it appears to be listed for sale “between $2.5 million and $7.3 million.”  Or, it could be for lease $24-36/ft/yr by Cielo Realty Partners, as it’s shown on Loopnet.

I’ll be surprised if this languishes too long.  Office vacancies downtown have recently fallen below 12%, according to this Dec. 11 Austin Tenant Advisors press release, which compares well to other major cities such as Atlanta which reports a 24% vacancy rate. Average lease rates for all classes are averaging around $30/square in the downtown area while landlords of Class A office properties are quoting $38/square foot, or higher.

This, in part, is being driven by a number of web/computing-based companies setting up shop downtown, which is about as a good of a thing as a city could ever hope would happen to its downtown office space.  We can expect a higher and better use of our ground level retail, however.

FYI urban transit commuter: The transit store, where folks pick up passes, pocket maps and the lost & found, is also moving to the new location on 9th Street.





Based on information from the Austin Board of REALTORS ® (alternatively, from ACTRIS) for the period through 10/25/14 12:47 AM PDT. Neither the Board nor ACTRIS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. All data is provided “AS IS” and with all faults. Data maintained by the Board or ACTRIS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.

Information being provided is for consumers’ personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing.

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