If you haven’t yet read this week’s edition of The Austin Chronicle – and seen the amazing front page photo/rendering – please check it out at once here! Stupendous reporting by Senior News Editor, Michael King, of breaking news regarding a multi-billion dollar plan to build a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the middle of Lady Bird Lake, coupled with the new Light Rail line running straight through the center of the stadium as the train crosses the river.
Casual observers of city hall, at first glance, might take little notice that Mark Nathan, Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s chief of staff, has announced his departure.
But it is a noteworthy event whenever an executive politician’s chief of staff exits. A chief of staff is the one who gets stuff done, while their boss is smiling for the camera. The office of chief of staff and the person holding it become synonymous.
To that point, the mayor said on his own website “Mark has been a driving force behind almost every major initiative we’ve undertaken.”
As a nerdish observer of City Hall, which is one level above casual, I can read into that a few ways, but the simplest is just to look at three things the mayor’s office has pushed in the past 12-16 months: A new downtown hotel, an urban rail system and the United States Grand Prix F1 race. (As for the F1 race, one could say Lee isn’t a “pusher” maybe just an adamant supporter. He was the only council member who wanted to approve the contract about 60 days ago, when his six other colleagues — including Randi Shade on her last day — voted to postpone the vote under threats it could blow the entire deal. That’s telling.) [Read more…]
NEWS FLASH: According to a source at City Hall, the Austin Transportation Department is slated to give a big presentation June 14 that will be “a substantial briefing” on urban rail and begins to start answering Uncle Lee’s 30 crucial questions and “then some.”
The mayor has pushed a 2012 bond election funding a first leg for a new mode of mass transit in Austin.
There were more bike thefts reported in the heart of downtown Austin during the first five months of 2011, compared to 2010, according to city police records I compiled. However, reports are down in the South Congress area.
I know this because I decided to do my best Council Member Chris Riley impression — sans silver hair — and work on reducing my car usage in favor of pedal power to commute to the Capitol area. I bought a bike over the weekend, did some research and promptly shelled out another $200 for accessories, aimed mostly at anti-theft.
Yesterday, DAB commenter Chop Chop reminded us that Aquaterra isn’t dead. Back in February the ABJ’s Jacob Dirr had word from Rhode Partners that the project, long forgotten, was gaining new traction.
Sure enough, we found the permits.
Liz Rau, an architect with Rhode Partners filed a new permit application on April 6th. Simultaneously, general contractor Lyda Swinerton pulled permits for plumbing, electrical, mechanical. The original and approved 20 story (163 unit) site plan expired on April 20th, so it’s possible we could see some changes.
With over $1B in debt, the developer, Crescent Resources, went through a bankruptcy in 2009. From what we can glean from the news, the lenders took over the company. With limited residential product coming to market, and construction crews looking for projects, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a project announced soon, and it might be Aquaterra [possibly rebranded].
Located at 210 Barton Springs Rd, next to the Hyatt, Aquaterra would have one of the best views of downtown Austin in the city. Back in 2007, when the Aquaterra sales center was firing on all cylinders, they were seeing reservations for more than $500psf. With the existing tier one buildings coming online, that would be a difficult price point to compete near over the next couple of years.
AMLI is rumored to have signed a lease with an operator for a 3-4 screen movie theater to take the space above Malaga and Z Pizza. We’re told the theater will serve food and drinks (including liquor), and the menu would consist of items from restaurants located in the 2nd Street district. It’s clear from the photo above that the space isn’t very deep, and it’s possible that part of the venue would extend over the sidewalk.
We don’t know who the operator is, but we do know it’s not local favorite Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. The addition of a destination venue like this, and the wrap-up of the W-Hotel’s construction will be a breath of fresh air for neighboring retail on the 400 block of W 2nd Street.
Downtown Austin’s 2nd Street District retailers have been hit hard with the economic downturn, and the venues on 400 block have struggled to keep up with the foot traffic found just two blocks over where Jos, Estilo, and DWR are located. Many pedestrians end up not walking beyond the W Hotel construction site.
I love to see effective guerrilla marketing in action.
Earlier this month it seemed as if every Austinite on twitter was sharing rumors that hip-hop fashionista Kanye West purchased the top floor of the Austonian. Skeptical, as is my nature, I was doubtful – I had just toured the top floors. The Austonian is the furthest you’ll get from a proper “Austin loft“. The rumor propagated with Kanye’s lyric “New crib-LOFT IN- where its at-AUSTIN-where is that-Texas!!!”
I was scratching my head, and thinking “really?”. Pushing down my gullible pride, I bashfully confirmed with the Austonian. The rumor, of course, is 100% false, but it resulted in discussion and intrigue. This was cunning guerrilla marketing.
Think about it. Eventually, perhaps this year, a buyer will emerge for the Austonian penthouse. There are a handful of buyers that have their eye on this space, but are biding their time, waiting to see if the fierce competition among the luxury towers will further soften prices across the board. These towers are already negotiating, very discretely, behind closed doors. But, for the buyer that has their eye on a product with no substitutes, one day soon, they could wake up to real news that what they desire is no longer available.
Below, I’m reposting a comment I shared in another thread
Jude Galligan wrote:
The current market for these buildings [Spring, W, Four Seasons, Austonian] works like this: There are buyers right now paying for a specific view, or floorplan, or the flexibility of combining units. We’re negotiating hard, and seeing deals with 10-15% discounts from asking. More or less depending on the specific space and the buyer’s desire for customizations. At this level, buyers often just want a shell space and the ability to bring their architect into the discussion. There are other buyers waiting patiently for better negotiating posture in a softer market – they are less concerned about having a specific space.
Until each building receives a certificate of occupancy, and we can observe the velocity of closings on the existing contracts, it’s challenging to gauge a market for a product that Austin is unfamiliar with (i.e. luxury urban condos).
I don’t expect they will sell out before they open, unless they soften their prices in a blanket fashion come springtime. However, I don’t expect you will see auctions (with the possible exception of the attainably priced Sabine) as the financing for the Austonian, W, and Spring give them a couple of years from construction completion before they need to repay the debt.
Reltated posts about penthouse living:
As we’re traveling this week, below is what’s happening in downtown Austin.
1) ROMA’s density bonus proposal (a must read pdf) is getting lots of attention, especially the conversation surrounding the Warehouse District. Thanks to Miggy, M1EK, and Roger for the informed commentary.
Update: I encourage DAB readers take few minutes to familiarize themselves with ROMA’s proposal. Page 21 highlights gradually sloping height limits from neighborhood to core. The Warehouse District recommendations are a small component of a larger thought process. Equal attention could be paid to the 3:1 FAR recommendation for the Market District along Lamar. Philosophically, the entire proposal is still a “tax” on density in downtown Austin, which seems backwards to me.
3) J Blacks’ menu gets some respect from Maggie’s Austin.
4) ThunderCloud will soon serve subs below 360.