Austin (Travis County) — The development team for the 17th & Guadalupe residential tower couldn’t get a recommendation of compliance with the urban development guidelines.
The Design Commission, at its June 24 session Monday, did not assemble enough votes to gives its approval. Their recommendation is needed to obtain a density bonus that would expand the floor area ration from 5:1 to 15:1. The density bonus–at 66.7% of the total living area or 124,087 SF–is necessary to get the square footage to the proposed 27-story height.
Although commissioners raised several issues, the key sticking point preventing the compilation of a majority was the lack of commitment on a canopy shade structure in the sidewalk pedestrian realm. The residential tower includes 5,200 square feet of retail at ground level.
Brockett Davidson, design leader with Rhode Partners, included a canopy in the design as an option of the prospective future retail tenant. The commissioners argued it should be a permanent fixture and not a feature left to the discretion of a commercial renter.
The ground floor and landscape plan for 17th & Guadalupe. Courtesy: Rhode Partners.
Commissioner Evan Taniguchi said, “We’re looking at the pedestrian experience, trying to make it safer, trying to make it more enjoyable. If you have to do a few things to the architecture like put a canopy on a building, I think that goes a long way in increasing that experience that we’re looking for.
Courtesy: Rhode Partners.
“We think it’s a nice looking building, but it’s impractical if it doesn’t provide shade for people that are walking by. And to be a tenant decision does not work for me. It has to be a permanent part of this building,” he said, adding that the canopy should not have even been included in the presentation if it was just an option.
The commissioners were taking into consideration that the retail would face the west side afternoon sun, but Davidson disagreed with their assessment.
“To the extent that we’ve done the solar studies and we’re pretty well blocked in here with the surrounding architecture, and of course there’s the help from the trees (included in the landscape plan), I feel like it’s a little mitigated compared to if you were in a more open environment. So I’m not sure that I see it as critical as an item as being made today,” Davidson said.
The tower is to be located at 1615 Guadalupe Street in the downtown northwest sector sometimes referred to as North By. There is a 2- and 3-story office building (William Gammon Insurance) built in the 1980s that will have to be demolished along with a surface parking lot facing the corner of the block. Davidson’s solar study comment takes into account that the project site is across Guadalupe Street for a 7-story University of Texas school building. It is also cater-corner from where Travis County is building its new courthouse tower, and adjacent to a hotel tower being planned on the same block by another developer.
Trent Rush, senior principal at Hitchcock Design Group is the landscape architect assisting Rhode Partners on the streetscape.
Concept renderings of the 17th Street and Guadalupe Street pedestrian realm. Courtesy: Rhode Partners.
The base will be an above-ground eight-level parking garage with 194 spaces and a ninth floor amenity deck with pool, clubhouse, fitness center and other features. The residential component would occupy floors 10 to 27. The typical floor plate proposed has seven units each. There are two penthouse levels (26-27) with double height ceilings and five units each.
The residential square footage requested is 150,000 square feet for 117 units. The total square footage, including amenity deck, retail, lobby and back-of-house functions, but not parking, is 186,113 SF. This is on a very small lot, just 12,409 SF.
The developer, Reger Holdings LLC of West Seneca, New York, anticipated starting construction by the 4th quarter of 2019, but the Design Commission’s decision puts pressure on the developer and design team to reconsider a few aspects of their concept. Other issues raised was the number of parking spaces, which some on the commission would like to see reduced in order to get more of the future tenants to use public transit; and they wanted a stronger assurance from the developer that the proposed art gallery be realized, or commit to a public art space in its absence.
Davidson said the owner is a lover of Art Deco, well aware that the project site is within an art district, and was very interested in an art gallery at street level being part of the project from its inception.
North elevation of 17th & Guadalupe. Courtesy: Rhode Partners.
Reger Holdings is also the developer behind EastVillage, a 425-acre mixed-use residential community being planned in far northeast Austin off East Parmer Lane and Samsung Boulevard, across from the Samsung Austin Semiconductor corporate campus. The EastVillage masterplan, unveiled by the developer in March, describes a commercial center along Parmer that includes three hotels, a supermarket, theater and local restaurants assembled around a 1.5-acre village green.
EastVillage would also have 2,200 apartment units, 450 single family homes, an amphitheater, 150-acre park, a 5-mile hike-n-bike trail and 20,000-square-foot pond.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.