Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Neo Jumper

Christmas is in four days, y’all.  If you want to live dangerously – you can try doing your last minute shopping online and cross your fingers that it gets shipped to you in time OR you can go to the mall and get something completely lackluster, but why risk it?

You can pick up unique gifts right here in downtown without biting your nails about when it will arrive.  One of the many benefits of shopping local.

But Amber, you say, I don’t have the time to visit a lot of unfamiliar stores, look through all their wares, and make a decision.  Never you fear – Amber is here! I’ve done a little of the heavy lifting for you, and below provided you a curated list of some cool shops and some cool stuff they’ve got so you can run in, get a special gift, and run out.

REMEMBER – Check the websites for the store hours!  If you are unsure about something, probably also a good idea to call ahead!

My list, of course, is not exhaustive – if you know of a cool downtown / downtown-adjacent shop – feel free to tell us in the comments below!

[Read more...]





Art in Downtown Austin – The Art-o-mat®

Art in Downtown Austin – The Art-o-mat®

art-o-mat-downtown-austin-2

I see this quirky little machine every time I walk in Whole Foods HQ downtown to get a healthy helping of freshly made vegetable juice.  But I’m usually in too much of a hurry to pay much attention to it.  I kinda always knew what it was, just never *really* looked at it.  However, I had a few seconds the other day and I FINALLY took a closer look and was just as charmed as I always thought I would be!

It’s a vending machine for reasonably priced art ($5!)!  Yay!

art-o-mat-downtown-austin

According to their website:

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When the friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®. It was installed along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each.

The show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997. However, owner Cynthia Giles loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently. At that point, it was clear that involvement of other artists was needed if the project was going to continue. Cynthia introduced Clark to a handful of other local artists and the group Artists in Cellophane (AIC) was formed.

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These little machines are all over the nation, with four locations in Austin (they are currently in Whole Foods Global HQ on Lamar, Whole Foods @ Arbor Trails, Whole Foods in Bee Cave, and the Mercury store in the 2nd Street District – Whole Foods @ The Domain is in the works). I LOVE this concept because I think these little pieces of art make great gifts, and are a way better way to spend $5 than on a coke and a couple of candy bars or useless pieces of junk that you may get from other vending machines.

I was so intrigued that I just had to find out more.  So, I got in touch with the owner of the concept, Clark Whittington.  First off, he had only positive things to say about Austin, which is not surprising in the least.  He says that Mercury was the first venue in Austin and they’ve been there about 6 years or so – he says that Mercury has been great to work with.  Whole Foods then contacted him and has since taken the concept under their wing, which he says has taken the concept to a whole new level.

He also told me that, even though the machines are throughout the US, there are several Austin-based artists who have work in the Art-o-mats. Here’s the list of current Austin-based artists:

Deborah Abbott
Marilyn Kirk
Jon Lawrence
Donna Toutin
Gabrielle Toutin

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Clark says that the real mission of the project is to promote artists. They have about 120 machines and about 300 or so participating artists. He describes the concept as the balance of art versus commerce.

I asked him how the concept has grown over the years. How it had started from one machine in a coffee shop in Winston-Salem to 120 machines across the nation. Here’s what he said:

I don’t really contact people because when I do I get treated like I’m selling vinyl siding, so I wait until I hear from people and then go from there. We’re an art project – it’s not the best business model.  It’s really weird how art centers and museums – if I pitch someone – they just start crunching numbers.  Lots of times, businesses like Whole Foods and Mercury understand that there’s more too it than every little nickel and dime.  Art-o-mat is not pretentious – we are reaching out to everyone, everyone is invited to participate.

I just want to share this with the world – with people that do get it.  The last thing I’d want to do is expand in a way that doesn’t mesh with what we’re doing.  We have to be calculated and relaxed with how we do things.  Artists and hosts have to find us on their own.

Logistically, every machine is owned by the studio – not only to control the quality of inventory – but because, at the end of the day, this represents Clark’s livelihood. There are a few collectors that own their machine, but most are on a lease. Then the host buys art from Art-o-mat on invoice, as needed. Clark works with artists to curate and distribute the art for the machines.

Clark says they are in need of artists, especially Texas artists.  If you, or someone you know, has an interest in either hosting a machine or providing art for the machine – you can visit Art-o-mat’s contact page on their website. He seems to be pretty responsive.  Want to see some amazing samples of the type of art work in the machines? Visit their Flickr page.





FLOR coming to Downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District March 7, 2013.

FLOR coming to Downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District March 7, 2013.

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Looks like FLOR will be opening in downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District (209 W 2nd to be exact, where Mercury Design Studio was – they’ve now moved 2 doors down).

They’ll be opening a day before SXSW 2013 starts, just in time for the crazy crowds.  We suspect they’ll do well in the area with DWR and Mercury Design Studio nearby – as well as several high-end downtown austin condos and apartment buildings, and look forward to doing a little shopping there ourselves.

 

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Brass House to Open in Downtown Austin Convention Center District This Friday

Brass House to Open in Downtown Austin Convention Center District This Friday

brass-house

The little 100 block of San Jacinto has seen a little turn-over recently.  Hank’s Garage, which had been vacant for some time, was recently taken over by a concept called El Ceviche Grill, and the bar that was Skinny’s Ballroom – which closed not too long ago (and we here at DAB were pretty sad, we had been rooting for them) – has a new concept coming in called Brass House (website looks to be in progress).

I’ve been surprised at the lack of success at some of the places in the general area, considering the hotel & convention traffic coupled with nearby high-rises such as The Four Season’s Residences, The Austonian, and the Rainey Trio of The Shore Condos, The Milago, and Towers of Town Lake.  Perhaps sky-high rent and massive competition have been too much for many of these small operators.

Either way, I’m intrigued by Brass House.  Describing itself on its Facebook page as a Jazz House, Wine Bar, and Gastropub concept, the finish-out looks in keeping with catering to a higher-end clientele and they are touting that food such as “Dolmas, hummus, pickles, paninis, salads, charcuterie boards” will be “All made from scratch in house or bought from a local family owned source….”.

Here’s a picture of some of the decor that captures the general vibe of the place.

Brass House is supposed to open this Friday, February 8, at 4pm.  I’ll likely walk by to check it out and I’ll be sure to update this post with my thoughts!





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.





Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

cvs

Probably not the most urgent of news, but I got really excited about it none-the-less.

The pharmacy at CVS on 5th street, the only pharmacy in downtown Austin proper (the now closed Live Oak Pharmacy used to the closest next best thing), is now, finally, open on weekends!

For those living in downtown Austin condos like the Austonian or the Brazos Lofts, especially…your prescription filling life just got a lot easier.

And, just to be clear, this is NOT a plug for CVS, simply a plug for convenience.





Hotels in Downtown Austin: Girls’ Night at the Omni Downtown

Hotels in Downtown Austin: Girls’ Night at the Omni Downtown

omni logo

I already live, work, and play in downtown Austin, which means that I know a lot about this area.  However, one element that I’m not really that familiar with is the hotels in downtown Austin.

Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary stay at the Omni downtown.  I decided to take advantage of the free stay and do a mini stay-cation with a couple of fun girlfriends.  I figured this would be a different way to get to know the city, and have [Read more...]





The Best Pedicure in Austin (that I’ve had so far….)

The Best Pedicure in Austin (that I’ve had so far….)

Hiatus Spa Austin

This past Sunday, I had the best manicure / pedicure that I’ve ever had.  I had the service at Hiatus Spa + Retreat, a spa concept headquartered in Dallas, but with a location on the ground floor of the Gables on West 5th – just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Downtown Austin.

The whole experience there is top-notch from beginning to end, actually – but the actual service is just different enough from the other places that I think it deserves to be called the best.

There are two things that make it different than any other manicure / pedicure I’ve every had.  The first thing is [Read more...]





Based on information from the Austin Board of REALTORS ® (alternatively, from ACTRIS) for the period through 10/23/14 12:27 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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