Austin: The Republic Gets Commission Blessing on Height Increase Request
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis County) — The Design Commission on Monday voted in favor of The Republic tower project, stating the plans are substantially compliant.
The developers of the office tower that gets its name from Republic Square, a public park across 4th Street from the project site, are seeking to exceed the floor-to-area limit.
Lincoln Property Company and Phoenix Property Company had earlier agreed to redesign the building and did so by sacrificing a large portion of the ground level, moving the building 60 feet from the curb to create a public amenity they hoped would be valuable enough to city decision makers to increase the height from 38 floors to 46 floors.
The Republic tower, its neighbors and the public transit connections. Courtesy: Austin public records.
The redesign puts most of the the ground level in the public realm. There is an outdoor public space of 26,400 square feet that has the effect of expanding Republic Square. And except for space dedicated for mechanical equipment, storage and a lobby, much of the enclosed ground floor–more than 17,000 square feet–is dedicated to retail and restaurant uses.
“It was important to us to maximize the retail as much as we can at the ground floor,” said Turan Duda of Duda|Paine Architects. He said their focus was on finding ways to make the building an extension of what is already in place. In addition to the street-side plaza, there will be open terraces above the parking garage and at the top of the office levels.
Illustration of the terrace above the parking garage. Courtesy: Austin public records.
Chris Jackson of TBG Partners landscape architects firm explained out the plaza was designed to provide a variety of uses. A jewel box style bar/restaurant venue with outdoor seating is proposed as part of the northwest corner of the plaza.
Next to that, there will be a circular central green space with seating, a water feature and a visual connection to Republic Square. Trees would be planted to the north and south but not on center. The east plaza section would be more interactive and contemplative, with art and seating. Between east and central, would be a drop-off corridor leading to the lobby.
Site plan for The Republic’s plaza and green street spaces. Courtesy: Austin public records.
A few commissioners commented that since 4th Street divides the two open spaces, it isn’t really one park. However, the developers were open to the possibility of closing the street temporarily for special events.
In sacrificing ground space for a plaza, the architects drafted a building that went from 586 feet to 709 feet and added 200,000 square feet of office space and two levels of parking.
Ground Surface Area: 1.77 acres or 77,227 square feet
Floor to Area limit: 8-to-1 or 617,816 square feet
Requested Bonus: 11.92-to-1 or 920,500 square feet
Because of environmental issues, real estate attorney Richard Suttle said it was not possible to go with underground parking.
Concerns were raised about the loss of the existing surface parking lot. Commissioners suggested that any lease agreement with the future tenants require at least 300 spaces be set aside for the public, but the developers made no promises, insisting that would be up to the tenant mix.
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.