9th Annual Downtown Living Tour – May 19th, 2013 – Reserve Your Tickets

9th Annual Downtown Living Tour – May 19th, 2013 – Reserve Your Tickets

DLT 2013 Header

The 9th Annual Downtown Living Tour is a couple of weeks away.  Produced by the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), the tour is a great way to tour downtown living, at your own pace, all in one day!

Get your DLT tickets now

This year, although the tour will still be self-guided, the tour will also have shuttle service to facilitate access to each tour stop (nice!), and will showcase the following buildings:

  1. The Whitley Apartments
  2. The Shore Condos
  3. Park West Residences
  4. 360 Condos
  5. Avenue Lofts (one of the few Art Deco buildings downtown)
  6. The Four Seasons Residences -RECEPTION – (VIP only, and only open from 4pm-5pm)
  7. Brazos Lofts (check out the history, formerly Capital Chevrolet)
  8. Towers of Town Lake (Penthouse, VIP only, only open from 1-4pm)
  9. Capital Studios (to-be-built Foundations Communities project designed by Dick Clark Architecture)
  10. LBJ’s apartment at JJ Pickle Building (VIP only, only open from 1-4pm)
  11. More stops to be announced!

There are some stops of particular note, primarily the official office suite of President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the JJ Pickle Building, an office suite he used during his presidency and the site of such landmark meetings as the Cold War discussions on December 6, 1966, which culminated in the first agreement with the Soviet Union to limit nuclear weapons, known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT).

The JJ Pickle building itself is part of a two-block complex of Federal Buildings in downtown Austin, and was designed by Texas Firms  Page-Southerland-Page and Brooks & Barr, and is textbook 1960s high-rise design.

Here are a few exclusive pictures of the interior of the office suite, which is remarkably intact.

The LBJ Suite is only open to VIP ticket holders, and there a very limited amount of VIP tickets – so we would recommend…

Get your DLT tickets now

 





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).