Cities evolve. Few quite as visibly as Austin over the past couple of decades.
We’ve got the first look at what’s coming to the site of the former RunTex store at S. 1st and Riverside Drive. Demo permits were approved last month, and fencing has been erected around the site.
In its place, a six-story cousin (some might say “clone”) of The Crescent apartments – just down the street – is planned, called “Broadstone on the Lake.” It will feature 119 affordable units and 207 market rate ones, for a grand total of 326 apartments, according to city records.
The building is being designed by Kelly Grossman Architects, who designed the Hill Country Galleria, The Crescent and 404 Rio Grande.
I’m not going to lie. While I’m thrilled about packing in some more density into the core, I’m pretty “meh” about the whole faux-urban motif of the design. Some might say that level of design is better suited for a series of outlet malls in San Marcos. But, let’s remember that the Broadstone apartment housing brand, much like the Millennium apartment housing brand coming to Rainey Street, is a national chain of apartment complexes, and it is what it is.
Thankfully, The Catherine – a 19-story, $68 million, 300-unit residential tower beginning to be constructed next door – has some design panache. Formerly nick-named “StreetLights at Barton Springs” that building is next iteration of the Aquaterra condominium project, which fell victim to the lending withdraw of the 2008 recession.
(Also, also… the Hyatt Town Lake is removing a substantial amount of surface parking, and building a seven-story parking garage and ballroom behind the Sherry Matthews building. Austin Towers profiled the development there this past February.)
A note about RunTex
Although RunTex was a tenant and was going to get booted anyway, the poetic tragedy of the demolition coinciding with the apparent troubles of the RunTex business and brand is too dramatic to not mention here.
RunTex was founded 25 years ago, and as a fellow entrepreneur who knows about blood and sweat in pursuit of a dream, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for all the people whose lives are intertwined with the bricks and pavement about to be wiped from the earth there.
It is important, though, to note that I used the word “evolve” in the first sentence of this post. Change isn’t easy, but the development of the site is a natural and healthy evolution for downtown Austin.
Downtown Dweller says
Why is construction on this project at a standstill? Agree that the architectural merits of the building are slim, but it looks far worse with just a couple of slabs with cinderblock elevator shafts jutting above. Did the developer run out of money? Design flaw?
A. Non Amous says
If we want housing to be cheaper, we have two options. 1. Our population has to substantially decrease. That’ll make things a lot cheaper. Real estate in Detroit is fantastically affordable. But it seems to come with some societal side effects. Or, 2. We can increase supply. This can happen in the form of high density urban build, or low density suburban sprawl. If this project could’ve been 15 stories and 900 units, it would’ve helped lower overall rents even more.
I understand the business angle of why residential developers are hesitant to put in ground floor retail, but it’s a huge missed opportunity for the city that that won’t apparently be part of this project. As population density increases in the area just south of the lake, this project will be even more of a pedestrian dead zone.
Why, why, I ask you that all the new apartment builds, condos, whatever are all so ugly??? Can someone actually build one that has some flair, joy to look at? Boring, boring. You seen one you have seen them all. Shame on this folks! Shame on the city counsel for not owning up this these cookie cutter blocks of an eye sore.
East Riversider says
I think Lance Hunter hit all the right points. For all those concerned about being cookie cutter, overbuild and high rents. The cookie cutter design actually helps provide 1/3 of the new apartments at affordable rates close to downtown. Not every building can be unique or Austin Weird.
When I picked up running again as an adult, I purchased my first set of running shoes at RunTex. It is sad to see them go but as Jude states so well, the city is evolving. Like the food trailers on South Congress, the business operator at the location, did not own the propertery where they ran their business and both properties have long been slated for new development by the owner of the property. I lived in Boulder, Colorado before Austin where they decided to cut off new and re-development and created a belt of green space around the city. Now, if you are lucky, you can get an afffordable generic 70s track ranch style home for a half million dollars! While rents are rising, because demand is outstripping supply, Austin is evolving with balance. If anything, we need to evolve faster to keep rents and property prices from rising any more rapdingly.
They didn’t actually win a variance with that pathetic turd, did they?
Michael Raiford says
Couldn’t agree more about architecture. You, of course, put it well: I will just say: Ugh—ly. National brand or not. Too bad they aren’t smart enough to make their particular for markets. As much as I find much of Novare’s buidings “cookie cutter” (360 is cool, but much of their work post 360 has become more generic) , at least they know where to put their buildings that have a particualr vibe and fit a particular market.
That’s an iconic corner, right next to the trail. National apartment chains should have never been allowed in there. Whatever. Housing overbuilding is going to ruin what made this city desirable in the first place.
Developers cannot and will not stop building until things are overbuilt. That’s going to happen sooner rather than later. The signs are already visible with development groups from far flung places racing into the Austin market. We are the new Vegas/Phoenix/Inland Empire.
We can hope they overbuild. But upward pressure on rents and mortgages in 78741 say to me that we’re not even close yet.
I’m just glad this RunTex isn’t going to be a pawn shop.
Lance Hunter says
Overbuilding happens when there’s a housing bubble. Housing bubbles happen when people are moving to an area (or buying housing in an area) primarily because of the housing value rather than any inherent feature of the area itself.
If you look at the reasons people are moving to Austin, housing value is pretty low on the list. It’s the job market, the art scene, the lower cost of living compared to California and/or New York (while not having to suffer being in a town as Red as the rest of Texas).
So people are going to move here whether they build more units or not. The idea that putting a stop to the construction will somehow cause Austin to be frozen in amber, perfectly preserved in whatever era of this town you happen to remember most fondly, is foolish. People will still move here, and if we don’t build more it’s just going to push rents so high that it will do a lot more damage than any new buildings could possibly cause. The Californians and New Yorkers won’t mind rents getting a whole lot higher than they are now (they’d still be cheaper than CA/NY), but the local artists and musicians are going to have a lot harder time if a crappy 1-bedroom in 78745 costs twice what it does now.
The options are to either stop all the construction and cause rents to spiral even higher all over town (causing the issue I just mentioned for artists and others who are able to live in the somewhat-cheaper zip codes), move the construction to the suburbs (making traffic a lot worse and doing damage to the local environment), or we have follow the path we have now.
What is the definition of “overbuild?” Just asking because I have been to very few cities with LESS open/fallow land than Austin (even around the core). Even compared to cities within the low-density U.S. Austin’s density weighted by census tract is very low, unless you consider the vast majority of cities “overbuilt” and consider Sunbelt sprawls such as Mobile or Atlanta as “well-built.”
At least in Austin, overbuilding generally refers to supply far outstripping demand. It happened in the late 80s (Savings and Loan crisis) and led to incredibly cheap rents on residential and commercial properties that I personally believe led to the incredible fertile artistic community in Austin.
I don’t think most people here use it to refer to amount of development per acre.
Lance Hunter says
Well, at least they didn’t try to throw “SoCo” into the name (a feature that should always be seen as a giant red flag). It’s certainly closer to the SoCo area than most of the complexes that have it in their name.
The RunTex situation is definitely sad, and it’s something we’re going to see more of in the coming years. Austin “institutions” (aka: any business that was open when you first moved to Austin) not able to keep up with the more competitive (and expensive) nature of business in the city today. Then again, this has been going on since at least the late 90s. Fortunately, Austin is vibrant enough that new (and often more interesting) businesses are constantly opening and becoming the city’s new institutions.