Austin: Panel Backs Changes in Residential Tower Design
Featured Illustration (above): Conceptual rendering of the gallery plaza and entries to the residential and retail sections of the planned residential high-rise at West 17th and Guadalupe streets. Courtesy: Rhode: Partners
by Edmond Ortiz
Austin (Travis County)–The introduction of a 28th floor; the addition of a permanent canopy to improve pedestrian traffic; enhancement of a planned art space–these and other modifications helped a proposed high-rise condominium at West 17th and Guadalupe streets gain support from the city’s Design Commission on Aug. 26.
It was just two months ago when the commission rejected Rhode: Partners‘ previous design for the 117-unit residential tower. Back then, the commission found the design lacking the elements necessary for the project to comply with the city’s urban design guidelines, which would help the developers to get a density bonus.
Particularly, commissioners wanted the developers, New York-based Reger Holdings LLC, to commit to making the street-level walkways around the building more friendly to pedestrians, especially with more than 5,200 square feet of retail and art gallery space planned for the ground floor. Read more about the previous design proposal and June commission meeting here.
The project team returned to the commission with a design that now involves a 28th story although the developers have not made clear what that floor will contain. The original proposal called for 27 stories.
The building will still stack more residential units atop a parking podium that starts above the ground floor. A residential amenity deck, including a swimming pool, acts as a break in between the residential units and the parking garage.
One of the big changes in the design is that the project team decided to make permanent a canopy above the residential section lobby and retail space to strengthen the pedestrian realm.
The canopy also is designed to break up the mass of glass that surrounds the retail portion. The canopy had been only optional in a previous design.
An updated site plan for the planned high-rise condominium at West 17th and Guadalupe streets. Changes/additions are noted in red. The project is adding a 28th story, too. Image: Rhode Partners
Additionally, the project will provide shade trees along both streets, as well as benches and bike storage, providing public amenities in an underutilized area of downtown.
The architecture firm also redesigned the art area, making it more like a mini-plaza with room for a wooden sculptural bench to be built by a local artist/furniture maker.
According to other project updates provided to the Design Commission, 75% of the existing office building on site will be reused or recycled after demolition. Also, street light poles around the building will include a secondary smaller scale overhead pedestrian pathway light, natural local stone is now incorporated into the facade, and all main entrances are amplified in the design.
“There’s a more holistic approach and a real effort to create these spaces that are friendly for public engagement,” lead project architect Brockett Davidson told the commission.
Conceptual rendering of the residential entry and gallery space for the planned 28-story condominium at West 17th and Guadalupe streets. Image: Rhode: Partners
Some commission members agreed the previous design had many positives but needed just the right mix of modifications to make it an even more inviting high-rise for visitors and tenants.
“This one kind of knocks it out of the park,” Commissioner Evan Taniguchi said. “You took our comments and actually made a really nice pedestrian experience, I think, on all sides of the building.”
The Design Commission also recommended that Reger Holdings look at ways to partner with local artists to lease the gallery space. Additionally, the commission recommended the project owner consider decoupling the parking spaces from the apartment units as a separate rental option.
With these and other changes, the Design Commission agreed the project now complies with design guidelines in order to receive a floor area ratio of 15:1 through the density bonus program.
The city is currently reviewing the site plan. According to project documents on file with the city, the building is supposed to open in 2021.
Conceptual rendering of the gallery space and retail entrance for the planned 28-story condominium at West 17th and Guadalupe streets. Image: Rhode: Partners
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.