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.