Development in Austin Keeps Going Onward and Upward (and Upward)
Featured Illustration: Google will completely occupy the Block 185 tower, one of several skyscrapers changing Austin’s skyline. Image: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
By Edmond Ortiz
Austin (Travis County)–The capital of the Lone Star State is in the middle of a construction boom. Austin is No. 2 in the United States for overall office construction with 8 million-plus square feet of new office space being built inside the city, with more than half of that in downtown.
The Downtown Austin Alliance noted in November that while residential and hotel projects continue to dominate downtown, there’s been a significant increase in commercial office projects, specifically along Colorado Street that are creating a new urban office district.
But as property values and demand for developable land continue to soar, especially in the center of town, large blocks of leasable space get harder to find. So, some developers are going bigger and higher to create new prime commercial space, as well as housing.
6 x Guadalupe is poised to become the tallest occupied structure in Austin, amid a local skyscraper-building boom. Image: Gensler
Entering a new year and decade, Austin and its skyline are being transformed by skyscrapers.
It almost seems like city planners and elected officials are presiding over a race to see who can stack floor faster and higher across downtown.
Here’s a glance at some notable emerging or planned high-rise projects:
6 x Guadalupe will in a couple of years assume the title of Austin’s tallest building, overtaking The Independent, the 58-story, “Jenga”-like condominium tower that reigns on 301 West Ave.
Lincoln Property Co. and Kairoi Residential are developing the 66-story office and residential skyscraper at Sixth and Guadalupe streets.
6 x Guadalupe will provide 349 apartment units, nearly 590,000 square feet of office space, and 11,675 square feet of ground-floor retail space along with residential amenity decks to the central business district.
Representatives from Lincoln Property tout 6 x Guadalupe as “transformative” and “an experience” for urban dwellers.
“This tower includes an integrated, stacked microcosm of uses and joins multifamily, office and luxury retail. It not only transforms the city’s skyline, but the experience for building tenants and Austin residents at the street level,” the Lincoln Property website states about the project.
“The Texas Capitol view corridor shapes the buildable area of the tower, including the outdoor amenities that take in the view of surrounding lakes and hills. At every change of the program stack, the building terraces move back in response to program and massing, providing transformative outdoor spaces for the office and residences.”
JE Dunn Construction Group is set to begin construction on 6 x Guadalupe during the first quarter of this new year, working off designs by Gensler.
Lincoln Property has another skyscraper in the works, partnering with Phoenix Property Co. to develop The Republic, a 48-story office high-rise with ground-floor retail at 401 W. Fourth St. This project is still winding its way through the city review process. Duda Paine is the project architect.
Lincoln Property Co. plans to develop The Republic, a 48-story office tower, at 401 W. Fourth St. Image: Duda Paine
Not to be outdone, Ryan Cos. has filed plans for a yet-unnamed 60-story office and apartment high-rise in the 300 block of West Sixth Street.
Preliminary plans call for the design to incorporate the BBVA bank branch that currently sits on the property.
The Rainey Street District has changed from a primarily single-family-home neighborhood into an extension of downtown, filled with bars, restaurants, hotels and high-end residential developments.
It’s also quickly becoming a hub for some of the city’s newest skyscrapers.
The city’s Development Services Department is reviewing plans for Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors’90-92 Rainey, a 53-story residential and hotel high-rise.
Details have yet to be finalized, but 90-92 Rainey could incorporate two existing bars on the property, Bungalow and Container Bar.
The project has yet to pick up a construction contractor. Construction is not expected to begin here until at least 2021.
The city is still reviewing plans for The Travis, a pair of towers that Dallas developer Genesis Real Estate Group hopes to build at 80 Red River St., off Rainey Street.
Current plans call for The Travis to involve 1.23 million total square feet, with one tower containing apartments for rent, and the other featuring for-sale condominiums, a hotel and ground-floor retail/dining space. This project has yet to have a construction contractor.
Genesis Real Estate Group plans to establish The Travis, a twin tower complex with for-sale condos, apartments for rent, hotel rooms, and street-level retail and restaurant space, in the Rainey Street district. Image: GDA Architects
A 322-condo, 49-story tower, 44 East, is in the early stages of construction off Rainey Street. Flintco LLC is building 44 East for the developer, Intracorp Projects, with designs from project partner firms Page Southerland Page and Michael Hsu Office.
Rogers-O’Brien Construction Co. is building The Quincy, a 30-story apartment and office tower, at 91-93 Red River St. Endeavor Real Estate Group and MetLife Investment Management are partnering to develop The Quincy.
The tower, which will have 10,545 square feet of retail space, 78,000 square feet of office space and 347 apartments, is expected to be completed in spring 2021.
One of the more unique additions to Austin’s skyline is the Block 185 tower that DPR Construction is building near Nueces and Cesar Chavez streets for Trammell Crow Co.
The 35-story, 723,000-square-foot high-rise features a sail-like design from Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and will be completely leased by Google Inc.
Hanover Co. plans to develop and construct the 44-story Hanover Republic Square at Fifth and Lavaca streets. The high-rise will contain 310 apartments, ground-level retail/restaurant space, and residential amenity levels.
The design from architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz will incorporate two existing structures, Roosevelt Room bar and The Eleanor event space. A construction contractor has yet to be named.
All of these projects are just the tip of the iceberg. In its latest “state of downtown” report, Downtown Austin Alliance explains that demand for center city development remains strong despite the apparent limit on supply in the office, residential and hotel markets.
A map from Downtown Austin Alliance’s 2019 State of Downtown report shows the upsurge in development around the central business district. Image: Downtown Austin Alliance
“With such a strong market demand for development in the urban core, adding supply will produce a number of benefits including increased activity and economic output,” the alliance states in its report.
Given Austin’s standing as one of the nation’s top five fastest-growing cities, and considering the city’s push to revise its complex land development code, developers see the urban core still ripe with opportunity to keep going upward and onward.
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.