How Many Units Exist Today in Downtown Austin?

Local realtor Jude Galligan published a very useful count of known residences in downtown Austin. His analysis counted -- building by building -- all of the downtown residences he could find. Other than a few Congress Avenue residences and the Johnson family apartment in the Littlefield building, the list is very comprehensive.

The list included 35 buildings with a total of 3,954 units. Of these, 2,380 of these units are condos and 1,574 are rental units. All of them are available for occupancy today although many may not yet be occupied (i.e. The Monarch). As would be expected, 75% of available downtown units are in just 15 buildings:





Rank
Project

# Units

1

360

430

2

Monarch

305

3

Milago

240

4

Gables West Ave

239

5

AMLI on 2nd

231

6

AMLI downtown

220

7

Shore

192

8

Legacy on the Lake

187

9

Towers on Town Lake

183

10

Cambridge Tower

169

11

404 Rio Grande

140

12

300 North Lamar

126

13

Red River Flats

120

14

Greenwood Tower

112

15

Railyard Condos

112


The other buildings included in the count are-- in size order -- 555, the Nokonah, Brown Building, Westgage Towers, Austin City Lofts, Penthouse Condos, Sabine on 5th, Brazos Place, Plaza Lofts, Posada del Rey, Villa on Town Lake, Regency, Avenue Lofts, Brazos Lofts, Littlefield Quarters, 904 West, House Park, Hickory Hill Apartments, 706 West, North Cottage, and the Burke Hendricks House.

AustinTowers is currently tracking another 781 condo units which are currently under construction and expected to be delivered over the next 2 years. A number of large rental project are also currently under development.

For a metropolitan area with nearly 1.6 million residents, there is enough capacity downtown today to house a miniscule .5% of Austin residents. With high land and construction costs, however, downtown units remian out of reach of a large portion of Austin area home buyers.

Interestingly enough, the estimated downtown Austin population of approximately 6,000 residents is substantially lower than the number of Austinites who used to live downtown in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In 1940, when the entire population of Austin was 87,930, approximately 13,000 people representing nearly 15% of the population lived downtown. During this period, residents lived mostly in single family homes and small housing projects. During the later half of the 20th century, Austin’s downtown population steadily declined as commercial, retail, and industrial development displaced downtown housing and as many residents fled for the newly emerging suburbs. The downtown population bottomed out at 3,500 in the 1980s and has been slowly increasing ever since.

While the current downtown building boom is unprecedented, it will not create enough capacity to meet Mayor Wynn’s goal of 25,000 downtown residents.

Austintowers.net now also Austintowers.com

With the help of our sponsors, Austintowers.net is pleased to announce that we have purchased and taken control of the domain Austintowers.com. While Austintowers.net will remain our primary address, you’ll be able to find the just as easily by typing the convenient “.com” equivalent!

Seaholm Redevelopment Inches Forward

One of the most exciting downtown projects is the redevelopment of the decommissioned Seaholm Power plant. The $117.2 million project, a partnership between the city and Southwest Strategies, will result in a 22-story hotel, 60 condo units, and 180,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

This week, the project inched a step closer to beginning construction in 2009 with City approval of a financing scheme to generate revenue for the site preparation and infrastructure enhancements that the site requires. Essentially, the city issued bonds which will be repaid through the incremental property tax revenue generated by the development.

Once complete, the 150,000-square-foot decommissioned power plant will be the centerpiece of the 7.8-acre property across Cesar Chavez Street from Lady Bird Lake. With offices, retail, and at least 3 acres of open space, Seaholm will shift the center of downtown activity to the west. While downtown life used to center around 6th street between Congress and red river, the warehouse district, 2nd street district, and Whole Foods have shifted the balance. With Seaholm, the downtown action will increasingly be centered between Congress, Lamar, 5th, and Town Lake.

The most exciting part of the project is the redevelopment of the Seaholm facility itself. When complete, the art deco structure will include nearly 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. Construction will begin 2009, with the final project scheduled for completion in 2011.



Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:

The city of Austin approved the creation of a tax increment financing reinvestment zone to pay for public improvements for the Seaholm redevelopment project.

The TIF will be within the area bounded on the west by the planned Seaholm Drive, on the south by Cesar Chavez Street, on the east by West Avenue and on the north by Third Street. . .

. . . Under state law, a tax increment reinvestment zone contributes property taxes from the increase in real property value within the district toward the project’s public improvements. The public infrastructure and power plant rehabilitation will be primarily funded by issuing debt that will be repaid from the tax increment revenue. The TIF has a 30-year duration.

360 Listings Now on Austin Towers

If you are shopping for a downtown condo but are averse to visiting sales offices or speaking with realtors, 360 has been a very frustrating project. They have refused to list units on their website, have avoided the MLS, and generally made it difficult for buyers to engage. With a supposed waiting list of more than 200 buyers for 430 sold out units, many prospective buyers decided it was a waste of time to even call.

Even with residents moving in and with some likely to sell, restrictive covenants have prevented buyers from selling their units. As a result, the 360 mystery has remained intact.

Now,with the project finally complete and the waiting list long ago evaporated, the sales office is finally listing units on the MLS. As always, we have added 360 to our Listings page. Currently, there are 9 listings for units in 360 ranging from $250K for an 812 square foot 1/1 on the 20th floor to $528K for a 1,308 square foot 2/2 unit on the 35th floor. While all units include 10 foot ceilings, oak flooring, 24-hour concierge, and a shared pool and fitness center, some units include upgraded appliances and features.

View the 360 listings here.

Here are additional images from the listings:






Our Hosting Provider Was Hacked

While our website has been working perfectly well, If you tried to access Austin Towers through a major search engine over the last few days, you were probably surprised to be redirected to a random site. We were surprised as well. It turns out that our hosting provider was hacked: some sneak changed a single file on every domain that automatically redirected searches from yahoo, google, and others to their site.

We apologize for the problem and are working with our hosting provider to prevent it from ever happening again. For the technically curious, here is a thread on the web about the attack. For everyone else, the good news is the problem has been fixed and AustinTowers is back to normal.

La Vista on Lavaca is Back: to Proceed With Construction

La Vista on Lavaca, an eight-story residential mixed-use tower consisting of 19 condominiums on the top four floors, a three-floor Executive Business Center, and first floor restaurant, is set to emerge from its construction freeze after months of inactivity.

After running into financial problems, the project was halted during a rare mid-construction freeze. Typically, projects do not break ground until they have lined-up enough sales to receive financing to support the entire construction process. The developers of La Vista on Lavaca -- which billed the project as “Downtown Living for Grown-up Texans” -- began construction after receiving a building permit and a street closure permit last April. They renewed the street closure permit once in November but failed to renew it at it’s recent anniversary. With the interest accumulating quickly and contracts that typically require developers to meet tight deadlines, mid-construction stoppages are extremely rare. Typically, stoppages only occur when projects run out of money or when the developer and key contractors win-up in a legal dispute.

In the latest move, one of the founding partners has sold the shares of another partner to a syndicate of three new investors. With fresh capital injected into the project, La Vista on Lavaca is set to resume construction in January.





Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:

A $30 million condominium project near the University of Texas that’s been delayed for eight years has new partners that plan to move it forward again.Mary Guerrero-McDonald, one of the original partners in the project, says she has sold a portion of the LaVista on Lavaca condominium project for an undisclosed amount to three new partners: Mac Pike, a partner in the Sutton Co.; Austin real estate developer Jimmy Nassour; and a third undisclosed partner.Guerrero-McDonald had previously partnered with Gene Fondren, a lobbyist for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association who suffered a stroke. Guerrero-McDonald says she sold Fondren’s portion to the three new investors, and says she will remain involved as a partner.Pike declined to say how much Sutton and the two investors paid for the project, but says construction should start again in early January.


BartonPlace Construction Update

Austin Towers checked-in with BartonPlace this week and learned that construction continues to progress on schedule. BartonPlace is a 6-building, 6-story condo project with 270 total units located on Barton Springs Road near Zilker Park.

As of this week, the developers have completed the garage structure, courtyard, and first floor of the two southernmost buildings. In mid-November, construction will begin on the next two buildings. At this pace, the first two buildings will be complete at the end of 2009. According to the developers, buyers in those buildings are making palette selections during the month of November 2008.



BartonPlace still has 1,2, and 3 bedroom units available starting in the high $200’s. Some units can be seen on the Austin Towers listing page.

Massive 30-Acre Riverside Development to Proceed

Grayco partners of Houston has been assembling a mammoth parcel of land on Riverside drive -- just East of I-35 -- for a development that was originally planned to encompass 50 acres, as many as 2,150 apartments and condos, and as much as 450,000 square feet of commercial space.

Despite the financial crisis which has depressed development in Austin and across the country, Grayco this week announced it’s intentions to proceed with large scale development of the site. Under the revised plans, Grayco will replace a 30-year-old 1,000-unit apartment complex with as many as 1,380 new Apartments, condominiums and townhomes that will be priced from the low $200s with rents for the apartments starting at $1,100 per month. The new project will encompass 30 acres and will also include as much as 97,000 square feet of retail, commercial, and restaurant space. The project is slated to begin construction in early 2009.

The most notable element of this project is its scale: Grayco’s plan seems to be to create an entire district, a whole new neighborhood to attract residents to this emerging near-downtown market. While the final plans have not been released -- and the developers have hinted that the final proposal may be less urban -- the scale of the project is certain to remain large.

For those who have been anxiously watching the broad redevelopment of downtown Austin and worrying about the effects of the current crisis, this project reminds us of the strong long-term fundamentals of the downtown market. For developers who take a long-term perspective, the market remains attractive. With strong population growth, limited downtown housing, and a sizable population of people who want to live downtown, long-term demand should be strong for reasonably priced condo and rental units.

Renderings of Grayco’s Riverside Project as Originally Planned
Grayco Austin Condo Rental Project Riverside Lakeshore

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The economic downturn hasn't derailed plans for the biggest redevelopment project proposed along East Riverside Drive.

But talk among city leaders about the possibility of running light-rail service from downtown to the airport has caused the developer to postpone planning for a portion of the project.

Houston-based Grayco Partners is moving forward with most of its proposed 30-acre project between Riverside and South Lakeshore Boulevard, where it plans to replace blocks of aging apartments and retail strip centers with a dense district of townhouses, condominiums and higher-end retail.

But the developer has decided to remove nearly 10 acres along Riverside from its initial rezoning request to the city to see if the proposed rail line championed by Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Brewster McCracken will become a reality.

City leaders have encouraged dense development around rail stations along the commuter rail line scheduled to open next year.

They think so-called transit-oriented development can accommodate large numbers of people without adding substantially more traffic to the city's congested streets. They also hope that these mixed-use developments will generate more tax revenue for the city while costing less to service than more spread-out, single-use development.

A rail line along Riverside would be more ambitious than the initial commuter rail line because it wouldn't run along existing tracks.

ROMA Design Group, a consultant hired by the city to develop a downtown plan that includes transportation, has recommended running a line from the old Mueller airport property through the University of Texas and downtown and then out Riverside Drive to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

ROMA estimates the 15.3-mile line would cost $550 million to $614 million to build and $21 million to $23 million a year to operate. . . .

Grayco initially sought approval to build as much as 450,000 square feet of retail. Most of that would be built near and along Riverside Drive. With that property excluded from the current rezoning request, Grayco is seeking to build about 97,000 square feet of commercial, retail and restaurant space, along with up to 1,380 residential units.

Grayco's attorney Steve Drenner said a rail station near the property wouldn't necessarily result in greater density near Riverside, but the developer didn't want to move forward with the costly and time-consuming planning of that portion of the property without knowing what city leaders would want to see built there.

"We don't know whether the city would want us to be a transit-oriented development or what type of retail mix use they might want to see along there," Drenner said. "Rather than try to guess at it and convince the city that was the appropriate way to go we thought we'd take that out of the zoning case."

McCracken said Grayco has discussed two versions of that portion of the project with him, and the developer was leaning toward a more traditional suburban design in the absence of rail service.

Drenner said the slowdown in the real estate market had nothing to do with the decision and shouldn't affect Grayco's goal to begin construction in 2009 because the developer planned to build the townhouses and condos along and near Lakeshore Boulevard first.

"We didn't have to have a decision about the frontage in order to proceed with first phases," Drenner said.

But Grayco has decided to indefinitely postpone buying 20 additional acres from Cypress Real Estate Advisors. That property, just east of Grayco's land, will be allowed to have 1,000 attached residential units.