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.
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.
Although I know this is an old article, I just recently ran across it on a search. Just FYI pfvs is not the architect of record for the Westin. We only supplied a rendering at the developers request. And to add to the more lackadaisical comment regarding Atlanta architecture, you should get out more.perhaps the author here should have done a little fact checking before writing completely errant information.
Tommy Ates says
Jude, are you still on the COA Downtown Commission?
Austin deserves original, avant-garde designs which maximize available floor space on all sides, esp. giving zoning use options for retail, restaurant,bar, and (dare I say it) live music club and/or dance floor.
The photo of the two future hotels looking just alike is very bothersome. Is there anything the Downtown Commission, Planning Commission, or Design Commission could recommend to the City Council or the developer for them to re-evaluate their plans? Are these commissions aware of the preliminary plans?
We are losing a number of good opportunities for great design downtown. Not to mention, there should also be a balance of available new office space to support increased daytime retail and restaurant usage. I fear we are in another ‘speculation real estate phase’ with hotels right before another real estate bust.
Jude Galligan says
Preach on, Tommy. I agree. It’s so difficult to develop in Austin’s legal environment (navigating land use issues, fees), developers take the design path of least resistance and we end up with these beige boxes.
Unless a project requires a substantive variance or is seeking a zoning change they will not come before the Downtown Commission. If a project can be built “by right” there is little opportunity for design input.
Jude Galligan says
Looks like it will be a Westin…
“Should we expect more thoughtful design from architects and developers? Absolutely.” So true! Yes, Austin is growing like crazy but, hopefully all projects will reflect our desire to be a leader in forward thinking, technology and modern architecture. I’m so afraid these “off the cuff” designs are eventually going to set us back and impair the beauty of our future downtown.
Dammit, White Lodging. They keep doing this. They design some lazy piece of crap and then are all surprised when there’s a backlash. Why not just design something worthy of Austin at the outset? Maybe it’s that their architects just don’t know Austin that well. They’re thinking we’re Atlanta or something.
Hotel Le puke.
Plaza Lofts didn’t have any choice with that flat, blank wall. It is built to the mid-block property line, and the developer had to plan for possibility that the adjacent property will some day be redeveloped. Just because that property has been declared part of the “Warehouse District” does not mean that it will never be redeveloped.
The Plaza Lofts could allow someone to paint a mural on that blank wall, but I don’t see any other architectural choice.
Jude Galligan says
Chris, this hotel is built to mid-block along 5th Street – abutting the old Coppertank. A mural like you’re suggesting for Plaza Lofts was one of the suggestions made to White Lodging for either/both the north and east walls of the hotel.