Starwood "Hotel 1" Concept Proposed for Warehouse District

It's been a long time since a new building was announced downtown. Today, Starwood announced plans to build a new 17-story concept hotel called Hotel 1 (Hotel One? One? 1? Hotel1?) on the southwest corner of 5th and Colorado across Colorado from Kenichi.

The new eco-luxury concept will feature 250 - 275 rooms and will be developed by Woodbine, the Dallas hotel developer that built the Hyatt Lost Pines just outside Austin and the Hyatt Hill Country and Westin Las Cantera in San Antonio.

The 210+ foot building will require a zoning change to allow for additional density. In the past, the City has council has typically approved these requests for non-lake front downtown properties in an effort to drive additional downtown density. The warehouse district, however, is an important low-rise neighborhood that will likely require a more careful review of the project.

The new project is one of the first Hotel 1 hotels to be developed in what will become a new Starwood franchise (Starwood operates W, Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, St. Regis, and a few other brands). Previous Hotel 1 projects have been announced for Washington DC, Seattle, and other markets. Recent reports, however, suggest that these other projects may now be on hold.

While every hotel will likely be uniquely designed, renderings of the planned 11-story Washington DC Hotel 1 provide hints of how they may develop the 5th and Colorado site:

Renderings of the Washington DC Hotel 1
Hotel One Rendering

This is the first hotel project to be announced in downtown Austin in two years. During that time, a number of major hotel projects have been put on hold including the much dreaded Congress Avenue Marriott (originally proposed as three hotels), the 290 room Hotel Van Zandt and a planned Westin in the warehouse district.

Project Updates: Spring, Four Seasons, 360

In spite of the difficult economy, the major downtown Austin condo projects continue to move toward completion. Lots of news updates this week:

- Tomorrow, Spring will celebrate its topping off. The 42-story building on 3rd and Bowie just east of Lamar has reached the top and is on track for completion in July. The 246 unit tower will be the first project delivered in 2009. According to the developers, an impressive 55% of units have already been pre-sold. With units starting around $300k, Spring is the most affordable downtown skyscraper currently under construction.

- 360, which was completed last year, has now officially sold 99% of its 430 units, making the project effectively sold out.

- The Four Seasons released a very detailed update of current sales and downtown market conditions including the news that they have now pre-sold nearly 50% of units:

"As we enter 2009, Four Seasons Residences Austin is nearly 50% sold. Understandably, the last quarter of 2008 was slow, but sales activity in 2009 has picked up considerably. In the last week we signed a new contract for a 2,700 square foot residence and have a number of additional contracts in process. We continue to see an influx of interest from people who love Austin and are exploring the opportunity to live at Four Seasons. . .

Article Continues Here:

W Hotel & Residences . . . . & Offices?

According to the developers, plans for Block 21 -- the large second street development featuring the W Hotel & Residences -- have been revised to include 35,000 feet of office space. Assuming that the size of the project remains the same, office space will account for about 3.5% of the planned one million square foot multi-use project. This is the first new office space to be added downtown in a few years

The project update also included the following new facts:

- The W Hotel & Condo plans remain unchanged.

- So far, 44% of condo units are accounted for -- a number virtually unchanged from the 45% under contract as of 12/1/09. According to the developers, sales have practically stopped since the beginning of the economic crisis in November. With delivery 2 years out, the developers believe they have plenty of time to sell the remaining units.

- The project is proceeding on schedule: the first floor should be poured within the next few weeks

- The size of the Austin City Limits theater may be increased from 2,200 to 2,500 square feet

The $295 million project, to be located directly behind City Hall, will be an important retail and entertainment anchor to the blossoming 2nd Street district.

Block 21 Rendering
Block 21 Renderings Austin W Hotel & Residences

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The Downtown Austin Condo Rumor Mill

Over the last year, there has been an amazing flow of rumors about the major downtown Austin condo projects. Most of these rumors have been false. In particular, both the Austonian and W have been plagued with gossip that the projects were facing cancellation. Even in the last month, when construction patterns changed during the normal building process, rumors again started that the project would not be completed.

We've carefully researched these rumors -- including meeting with one of the Austonian developers --and are very comfortable that they are not true. The source of the rumors, for the most part, have been innocent assumptions by people who have been made hyper sensitive by the current crisis. With the housing market struggling, observers take any change as a sign of impending disaster.

The problem has become so acute that the Austonian today announced plans to move an office trailer and remove a crane -- both part of normal operations. The announcement was made to avoid another round of false rumors.

Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:

Developers of The Austonian are again warding off rumors of changes to the luxury condo’s plans as the construction team prepares to remove its trailers and a crane.

Article Continues Here:

Austonian Profiled in Architectural Record

An article published in Architectural Record, the leading national trade publication for architects, provides an extensive profile of the Austonian.

The article reveals new details about the projects green features including it's "Chilled water HVAC" and rainwater collection system. It also talks about the project's high-end touch screen controls for lighting, security, media, and climate which are included with every unit.

Here is the full story:

At 680 feet tall, the Austonian, designed by Houston-based firm Ziegler Cooper Architects, will be the tallest building in Austin when it’s completed in 2010.

Article Continues Here:

Important New Downtown Development Site

With the large number of downtown building projects under construction, planned, or pending, there are not too many open lots awaiting development. Now, an important new site is about to hit the market just a block from the prime 6th & Congress intersection.

The Texas General Land Office is selling it’s now-vacant prototypical 50s building, formerly the Texas Comptrollers office, to raise money for the State’s Permanent School Fund.

The site is located in a prime downtown location on 6th and Colorado street. Free of Capital View Corridor restrictions, the site will most likely be developed as condos, commercial office space, or as a hotel.

According to the Austin Business Journal:

A major downtown tower could soon replace the vacant 1950s building at the corner of Sixth and Colorado streets.

The Texas General Land Office confirms it’s working with CB Richard Ellis Inc. to put the 76,000-square-foot Starr Building and adjacent garage up for sale. A deal has not been signed, but the GLO hopes to contract with CBRE to put the property on the market in the next month.

The GLO acquired the four-story building in 2005 on behalf of the state’s Permanent School Fund for just over $4 million. That same year the building’s last tenant, the Texas Comptroller’s Office, moved out and the property has been unoccupied since.

The GLO staff has determined the best use for the property would be to demolish the building and build a new structure on the site, Press Secretary Jim Suydam says. The GLO will evaluate the purchase proposals it receives and likely choose the one that nets the most money for the school fund. The Permanent School Fund’s board would have to approve the sales agreement.

Moscow. Dubai. Austin? Star Luxe to Build "Real Estate Collectors' Dream" in Austin

In a surprise move, Constellation Property Group (CPG) of Australia has added a new ultra-high-end project to it’s $200 million condo development. With 18 units starting at 4,000 square feet and priced well above $1 million, Star Luxe is the second phase of CPG’s development just East of I-35. The first phase, Star Riverside, will feature 64 units overlooking the lake and starting at $600k. To follow are Revolution Riverside, the likely third phase, which will feature units priced at $400K - $700K and a fourth and final building which may be a hotel. Star Luxe is planned for completion in 2010.

For Star Luxe, the developers are shooting for the stratosphere. According to Eugene Marchese, President of both CPG and it’s design firm, "Sotheby's is handling the sales," he says. "They've already gone out and tested the project with their international offices and we're getting good responses from as far away as Moscow and Dubai." As reported in the Statesman, “The musically inspired units will have curved walls to evoke the shape of a guitar. Each unit will have a balcony of about 600 square feet — larger than some of downtown's lowest-priced condos. Owners will be driven from the airport in the building's "signature fleet," where they will be received by a white-gloved valet and waited on by 24-hour concierge service.”

While I could write lots about this project, nothing conveys how bold this project is better than the press release:

Award-winning Australian developers Constellation Property Group (CPG), acclaimed for such projects as the Bondi Beach “Icebergs” and the recent sensation STELLA in San Diego, have announced their newest project Star Luxe, a limited collection of opulent, one-of-a-kind penthouse residences. Selecting Austin as their next point of U.S. discovery, the developers will once again collaborate with architects Marchese + Partners International (MPI), who were inspired by the imagination of Texas’s capital while designing the project on Lady Bird Lake. Eugene Marchese, President of CPG and MPI says, “Star Luxe will be one of the most exceptional structures the world has seen. The size and design of each residence will make these customizable homes a true ‘real estate collectors’ dream.”

Inspired by Austin’s immersion in art, music, and architecture, Star Luxe will deliver three grand designs: ‘The Guitar’, shaped by the instrument’s exquisite lines, ‘The Salazar’, fashioned after an imagined artist within the Art Nouveau movement, and ‘The International’, modeled after Marchese’s signature ultra-modern designs and premium technology. Star Luxe supersedes any previous definitions of luxurious real estate with these lakefront penthouses situated alongside Austin’s lively Hike and Bike Trail. The project’s immersion in art, music, and architecture seems to keep in line with Austin’s anti-gentrification slogan of keeping the city ‘weird’.

Star Luxe’s approach to servicing its residents is to free them from everyday concerns. Residents will feel immediately settled upon entry with their “Demands List” previously arranged, instructing the 24-hour concierge of their ‘re-stocking’ requirements such as preferred groceries, clothing, beverages, reading materials, toiletries, and even a 5-course meal. Additional desires such as private trainers, nutritionists, personal shoppers, maids, and even the latest movies and music accessible from sophisticated in-home technology will all be arranged as well. Each unit at Star Luxe includes a safe room with comprehensive surveillance, secure garage spaces, wine storage, water filtration system, and exclusive Italian kitchens with Gagganeau appliances. “Collapsible” glass walls will be a central feature of each residence, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. The palatial 4,000 square foot penthouses with their massive balconies allow owners to enjoy the feeling of a lakefront private home with urban style living conveniences.

Star Luxe residents will take advantage of the property’s four acres which includes a private spa, outdoor pool with BBQ, private cinema, pet exercise area and a lush Zen garden. Marchese explains, “Star Luxe owners will want for nothing; this will be their place to experience privacy, inspiration, and sumptuousness like never before defined.”

Star Riverside

Major SoCo Infill Project Announced: New Hotel & Retail to Emerge

Over the last year, commercial brokers have been shopping one of the largest remaining south Congress parcels -- a full block across from Vespaio -- to a variety of potential commercial tenants.

Today, developers announced that the prime site will be developed with a 90-room boutique hotel, ground-floor retail and restaurants, a plaza with the Hey Cupcake Airstream trailer, and 350 spots of underground parking (a first for the neighborhood). The property is owned by the adjacent church and currently used for parking. One early requirement of the development was to provide ample Sunday parking for the Church. This may be one of the reasons that the developers plan to include 350 spots for a 90-room hotel and It is this requirement which supposedly made condo and rental development difficult on the site.

Dick Clark South Congress Hotel

The project is being developed by a team led by Bill Gurasich, a founder of GSD&M and co-owner of the Mansion on Judges Hill, a beautiful boutique hotel on MLK bvld between Lamar and Guadalupe. The project will be designed by Dick Clark, a well-established Texas contemporary architect who also designed the nearby “04” retail, restaurant (Mars), and condo project.

The developers are planning to include two “major” restaurants. Work is expected to begin in 2009 with the project to be completed in 2010.

While development in the heart of the South Congress ecosystem is always sensitive -- it’s truly one of the City’s great assets -- the existing weed-ridden block today serves mostly to break the flow of pedestrian traffic. A small hotel, underground parking, and extensive retails and restaurant are about as good a use of the block as can be expected. And Dick Clark is one of the few architects who has proven that he can successfully integrate new development into the South Congress streetscape.

A Radical New Plan for Zilker Park Residences

Last November, developers announced plans for 74 units to be developed on the eastern edge of Zilker Park on Barton Springs Road. With units starting at $300K and topping out near $1.3 million, the 3 building project was to sit on the border of the park with direct access to the hike and bike trails. Over the last few weeks, as listings were pulled from the MLS, it became clear that a change was in the works.

Today, the developers announced a radically different plan for the site with revised plans that include a reduction from 74 to 40 larger units, the addition of a hotel, and an expansion of the site through the purchase of an adjacent restaurant (formerly Wanfu Tool).

Here are the key details on the new project:

- 40 units ranging in size from a 1,515 square foot one bedroom to the largest 3,241 square foot unit.

- Prices range from $659,000, one of the highest starting prices of any project in Austin, to $1.4 million. According to the developers, about 1/3 of prospective buyers are contracting for multiple units, the highest priced of which has been near $3 million for 6,700 square feet.

- The project will include three 5-story condo buildings and a fourth building will house the newly-announced 65-room boutique hotel

- Although the project has not received construction financing, work is expected to begin in March with the first residents moving in as early as March of 2010. No clear timeline has been disclosed for construction of the hotel.

- As expected, access to the adjacent park is the top selling point and key differentiator for the project.

- 16 of the 40 units, or 40%, or have been sold (or are pending) with deposits of 10-15%.

- According to the developers, most of the buyers are empty-nesters and many are paying in cash.

- A sales center will open in the former restaurant building as soon as November.

The repositioning of Zilker Park Residences shows that while the market is tough, well-positioned boutique projects can be successful. With 40% of units accounted for, ZIlker Park Residences is off to a strong start. The up-market repositioning of the project based on early sales shows that demand remains for high-end downtown housing is real, and this bodes well for other projects currently under development. In addition, it also shows that demand for boutique hotel rooms remains strong. No doubt, this will be the toughest hotel room to book during the Austin City Limits Festival.

ZIlker Park Residences

Here is a summary of the project from the Austin American Statesman:

Developer John Wooley has added a boutique hotel to his proposed condominium project on Barton Springs Road bordering Zilker Park. He also has a new financial partner — the real estate development firm of Fort Worth billionaire Ed Bass.

Original plans for the project, announced in November, had 74 condominium units at the eastern edge of the park. The new design includes 40 condominiums and a 65-room boutique hotel whose operator Wooley said he's not ready to disclose.

Wooley also has purchased the former Wanfu Too restaurant site on Barton Springs Road, expanding the size of the project to just less than two acres.

His partners in the project are his brother, Jeff Wooley, and Sands Harris, a Harvard-educated architect and veteran developer of condo and mixed-use projects, including five such projects in the 72-acre master-planned Victory development in Dallas.

Fineline Diversified Development, Bass' development and investment arm, is a new equity partner. Bass was the equity partner in La Frontera, the 330-acre master-planned commercial development in Round Rock . . .

Prices are expected to range from $659,000 for a one-bedroom unit with 1,515 square feet to $1.4 million for a unit with 3,241 square feet. However, Wooley said about a third of prospective buyers are contracting for combined units, and the highest priced of those is in the $3 million range, for a unit with 6,700 square feet.

All will have balconies and screened porches.

Wooley said he decided to go with fewer but larger units based on the response to his initial marketing efforts.

Most potential buyers "are empty-nesters or people who soon will be," he said. "A lot of them have pretty large families, and when their children and grandchildren come home, they don't want to be in a loft or a one-bedroom."

Wooley said he has signed or pending contracts for 16 units, with buyers paying deposits of 10 or 15 percent.

Wooley said most of the buyers "are clearly planning on not having a mortgage," and thus won't be affected by the credit crunch that is limiting the availability of home loans.

Boecker said the project was appealing for several reasons, including the involvement of Sands and John Wooley, and the location near Austin's most prized park.

Development Update: The other 13 Buildings Rising Downtown

Austin Towers focuses on downtown Austin condo development, tracking the top projects currently under construction in the downtown area. As any observer can tell, there are many other downtown projects currently under construction downtown. Whether hotels, dorms, garages, or retail, all of these projects will change the face of downtown Austin

Here is a run-down of other important projects (information provided by City of Austin) which are currently under construction downtown:

Austin Market District, South Block Ph. II
The so-called Austin Market District is a four block zone spanning from 5th street to sixth street on Lamar. This project, on the Southeast corner of fifth and Lamar, involves construction on the garage portion of this second phase of an existing project. When completed, the 2nd phase will add a seven-story parking garage, 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 10,000 sq. ft. expansion to Pure Austin Fitness.

Hotel Van Zandt
The site has been cleared and San Diego-based JMI Realty will start construction late this year on a hotel project on Lady Bird Lake. The hotel, which will have 307 rooms, will be operated by San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels.
Start Construction: November 2008
Austin Hotel Van Zandt

Gables Park Plaza
Construction has started on this primarily residential project (294 apartments and 185 condominiums), along with 22,000 s.f. of retail and 11,000 s.f. of office and a 5,000 s.f. restaurant.
Completion: Early 2010

Gables Park Plaza Austin

La Vista on Lavaca
Construction started in 2007 on this mixed-use building which will have a first floor restaurant, a 3-floor Executive Business Center, and 31 condos (700 s.f. to 2,000 s.f.) on the top floors. Construction, however, has recently stalled without explanation.
Completion: April 2009

La Vista On Lavaca Austin Condos

The Ashton
MetLife Inc.'s Dallas office has teamed with The Hanover Company of Houston to build a 36-story tower on the half block lot just west of the 100 Congress. The project (formerly named Altavida) will include 258 rental units and a 5-level parking garage and ground floor lobby, visitor parking and retail space. Five levels of below-grade parking will connect to the existing 100 Congress garage.
Completion: Spring 2009

The Ashton Austin Altavida Downtown Rental

The project is a apartment development consisting of 169 multifamily units near Congress and Riverside in the South Congress area.
Completion: Late 2008

Crescent Austin Rental

300 Lamar Boulevard South
Phoenix Property is building a 5-story, 137-unit apartment project with ground floor retail and restaurants, on the site formerly occupied by Binswanger Glass Co.
Completion: Early 2009

The Presidio at Judges Hill
Dallas-based Stonehill-PRM Realty is developing a 45-unit condo on the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and West Avenue. Pricing starts at $235,000 with 45 units ranging from 689 to 1915 square feet.* Expected completion date of the model is mid-September with an expected completion date of November 2008. The project is being designed by Allan Nutt Architects, who also designed Piazza Navona in West Campus.
Completion: December 2008

Presidio at Judges Hill Austin

Legacy @ Town Lake
Legacy Partners is constructing a 31-story luxury high-rise residential building, with 187 apartments and 9 live / work lofts at ground level. The site is across the street from the Milago condominium project, at the corner of Rainey and Cummings Streets, adjacent to the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail.
Completion: October 2008 (first units), complete Feb. ‘09

Legacy on Town Lake Austin Rental

La Vista de Guadalupe
La Vista de Guadalupe, a 22-unit multifamily development, is going up at 813 E. Eighth St., just east of downtown. The development will have apartments from one to three bedrooms in two buildings, with rents from $300 to $725 per month, targeting a mix of incomes. Each unit will have nine-foot ceilings and full appliances, with designs that maximize energy efficiency. The development aims to provide
housing for residents who are finding it difficult to stay in the East Austin area because of dramatic increases in rents, aiming at families below the median income. La Vista de Guadalupe is owned by Guadalupe Family Community LP. Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp., a nonprofit that focuses on neighborhood revitalization and preservation, will serve as the developer and
property manager.

Super COOP
Alan Robison This is a 7-story, 178 unit multifamily / co-op development.

21 Rio
This is a 16-story, 117 unit private UT housing project with some first floor retail.


The Quarters
John McKinnerney This is a 100-unit multifamily project with ground floor retail.

In addition, AustinTowers continues to report on the following downtown condo projects, all of which are actively under construction or recently completed:

Barton Place
Bridges on the Park
Four Seasons Residences
The Shore
W Hotel & Residences

Inside 360: The Amenities Deck

When it comes to downtown Austin condos, the biggest news of 2008 is the recent opening of 360. With the opening, residents have begun to occupy the 430 sold-out units in the 44-story condo tower.

In many ways, the heart do the 360 project is the 9th floor amenity deck: the social center of 360 where residents go to swim, exercise, watch movies, play pool, socialize, or simply lunge among the palm trees near the outdoor fireplace. Located above the garage and below the residences, the Amenity Deck provides both indoor and outdoor entertainment for 360’s residents.

The images below provide an inside look at life in the 360 tower:

It's Back: 800 West Applies for Height Variance

Last September, Fortis Development proposed a 250-foot, 200-unit, 25-story tower on 8th street and West Avenue near downtown. Since the area is currently zoned for buildings no taller than 60 feet, the project required a zoning variance or zoning change.

This week, the developers continued to press their case to the ciry for the zoning change, proving that the project is very much alive. As part of the process, the architects have presented four design options for the city to evaluate. all design have public parks in the back facing shoal creek. In the future, a trail will run alongside the creek connecting the building directly to the hike and bike trails and Ladybird Lake.

As we have reported, this decision may be a tough one for the city council: they need to decide on the boundaries of Austin's high-rise downtown. In the projects favor, it is within two blocks of the Nokonah at 9th and Lamar, CLB's proposed 33-story super tower on 7th and Rio Grande, and another project on 6th and West. As the developer points out, it is one of very few downtown blocks free of capital view corridor restrictions.

Here are the details on the proposed project:

- 200 condos in a single 25-story tower
- Lot size is 1.2 Acres
- Proposed building size is 25 stories totalling 130,605 square feet
- The project would include 143 parking spaces
- Planned amenities include a sun deck, gardens, and public trails connecting the building to the Shpal Creek greenbelt

Here are additional details from the Austin Chronicle:

Another test of council will concerning building heights in western Downtown: The zoning case for 800 West Ave., a 1.2-acre Shoal Creek-front site at the corner of Eighth Street, returned to council for a final vote at press time. Last fall, Cypress Real Estate Advisors sought an upgrade to Central Business District zoning to build a 250-foot condo tower, to be designed by Muñoz + Albin Architec­ture and Planning. (The contested 33-story 7Rio condo tower, at nearby Seventh and Rio Grande – now on hold – won CBD from council last year.) When 800 West Ave. came before council in November, members instead approved, on first reading, Downtown Mixed Use Condi­tional Over­lay zoning, which limits height to 120 feet. But according to unhappy project neighbor Ben Procter, retiring Council Member Betty Dunkerley then encouraged a developer-friendly "pass" on height-limiting compatibility standards triggered by nearby residences – a perk of CBD, not DMU. Definitive development guidelines for this peri­pheral urban district, rich in historic homes, are due later this year in the Downtown Austin Plan.

Trammell Crow to Develop 6 Acre Downtown Site

Today, the City of Austin offically selected Trammell Crow, Constructive Ventures, and USAA toredevelop the six acre Green Water Treatment Plant site into a dense multi-use extention of downtown. As part of the deal, the development team will pay the city $57.9 million for the right to develeop the prime site.

With the developer selected -- Trammell Crow proposed the most dense and ambitious plan for the site -- downtown Austin is now set for it’s most radical transformation in decades. With the redevelopment of the Green Site, as many as five high-rise buildings - some as tall as 40-stories -- will be added to the Austin skyline. In addition, a new retail district will connect the 2nd street district to the Seaholm development, creating a vibrant new downtown region which will draw many more residents, workers, and visitor downtown for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

As previously reported, the Trammell Crow proposal includes the following components:

- A 350,000-square-foot hotel and a 250-unit senior assisted living facility in addition to condos, apartments, offices and retail space.

- Five public squares could accommodate as many as 2,700 people.

- 5,200 new parking spaces

- The proposal includes an Austin Car Share program, bicycle bays, and electric refueling stations

- Restoration of the downtown street grid which will ease congestion and streamlie the flow of traffic into downtown

- The proposal offers to make 25 percent of its rental units affordable--defined at 80 percent of the city's median family income--and offered to make a donation to the city's affordable housing fund for every condo it sells, estimating that total donations could reach $2.5 million.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The Austin City Council on Wednesday unanimously chose Trammell Crow and its partners Constructive Ventures and USAA for the single biggest development project ever to take place downtown.The group beat four other development teams to win the right to negotiate with the city to buy and transform five isolated blocks of city-owned land bounded loosely by the Seaholm Power Plant and San Antonio, Fourth and Cesar Chavez streets into a residential, commercial and cultural hub.But a city official familiar with the proposals said the Trammell Crow team offered to pay $57.9 million for the six acres appraised at $55.5 million. The official requested anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak about the unsigned deal.Of the five teams, Trammell Crow proposed the biggest and tallest buildings, the most uses and the most parking for the current sites of the Green Water Treatment Plant and Austin Energy Control Center.Two weeks ago, members of the city staff announced that they had determined that the Trammell Crow plan was the best deal for the city.Their decision was based largely on financial information the city has refused to release, including: the proposed sales price for the land, sales and property tax projections, the financial backing of the developers, and the amount of public money needed to achieve the developers' plans. City officials say the information won't be released until the city has signed a deal with the selected developer, a process that could take more than a year.

Star Riverside Begins Construction

Star Riverside, a four building condo complex on Riverside Drive just east of I-35, has officially commenced construction on the first 2 buildings. In this first phase, two 6-story lake front buildings will contain 64 large mostly 3/3 units ranging from 1,500 to more than 2,500 square feet with prices starting at $600k. The first two buildings are expected to be completed by Summer, 2009. A second phase will add 9 and 12-story towers with units as small as 600SF and starting around $350K.

Star Riverside Austin Condo Rendering CPG

Star Riversideis being developed by Constellation Property Group on the 4 acre former site of the Wellesley Inn & Suites just East of I-35. Constellation, an Australian firm which has developed some very cool modern projects (examples), has targeted a small number of cities in the U.S. for new projects. Austin is one of their targets, and Star Riverside is the first new project to break ground.

The first phase of the project features a relatively small number (64) of large units (1,500 - 2,500) in two buildings that sit as close as the rules allow to the lake. With prices starting at $600K, or about $400 / SF, the projects are mid-priced for downtown condo units. While the architecture is interesting and the projects looks to be modern, tasteful, and well-conceived, it remain to be seen whether this price point will succeed East of I-35 and South of the lake. Pluses include direct access to the hike and bike trails, a private dock (non-motorized water craft only on Lady Bird lake) and a planned swimming pool for residents.

In addition, Star Riverside is one of the first projects to transform the shores of Riverside drive on the south side of Ladybird lake. Constellation, and four other developers, are planning to build more than 2,000 luxury condo and apartment units near the shores of Ladybird lake. With close access to downtown, the South Congress entertainment district, the lake, and the hike and bike trails, the location is highly desirable yet less expensive (theoretically) than the city core. As part of thee projects, the Hike and Bike trail is likely to be expanded to fill long missing gaps between Congress Avenue and I-35 and with Star Riverside, the trail will be extended East of I-35.

Star Riverside was scaled back from 364 units to 201 units after the City planning commission denied the developers request for an impervious cover variance. Constellation had attempted to get a variance by building green roofs that were fully landscaped. The planning commission, however, has been very strict when it comes to variances for new buildings on the shores of Lady Bird lake.

The full and updated Star Riverside Profile can be found here. And below, here are additional images and renderings of the Star Riverside project:

City Staff Recommends Trammell Crow Proposal for Green Water Treatment Site

This week the city staff recommended Trammell Crow's proposal for redevelopment of the Green Water Treatment plant tract in downtown Austin. Trammell Crow and it's partner Constructive Ventures, which has been involved in the development of Spring and BartonPlace, proposed the most ambitious plan for the site with the tallest buildings, the most parking, and the biggest diversity of uses.

While the staff’s recommendation is not biding, it is a strong endorsement for the project and makes Trammwll Crow the clear front runner for this important project. Here are some details of their proposal:

- The Trammell Crow proposal calls for a 350,000-square-foot hotel and a 250-unit senior assisted living facility in addition to condos, apartments, offices and retail space.

- Five public squares could accommodate as many as 2,700 people.

- The proposal includes 5,200 parking spaces

- The proposal includes an Austin Car Share program, bicycle bays, and electric refueling stations

- The proposal offers to make 25 percent of its rental units affordable--defined at 80 percent of the city's median family income--and offered to make a donation to the city's affordable housing fund for every condo it sells, estimating that total donations could reach $2.5 million.

Here are renderings from the Trammell Crow Proposal:

Nestled between Whole Foods, Ladybird Lake, Seaholm, Austin Music Hall, and the 2nd Street District is the City's oldest sewage treatment plant - the Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant - which began purifying water from Ladybird lake in 1925. The plant covers 6 acres across 4 city blocks. In addition to using a key tract of land to process water using 1920's technology, the plant also serves to disrupt the natural grid of the city -- it stops second street at its west end and blocks Nueces and Rio Grande from reaching Cesar Chavez.

The Green site offers an incredible development opportunity. With four downtown blocks, it is a huge chunk of land. The location is perfect -- it is on the lake and adjacent to both the hot second street district and the future Seaholm multi-use development. The site is free of Capital View Corridor restrictions, although portions of the site close to the lake are limited to 45 feet in height.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

After sorting through five partnerships' proposals for developing the Green Water Treatment Plant site, city staff members on Thursday recommended Austin go with Trammell Crow, which proposed the biggest and tallest buildings with the most uses.Staff members ranked Stratus Properties second, followed by Forest City, Catellus and Simmons Vedder.The site is five city-owned blocks roughly bounded by the Seaholm Power Plant and San Antonio, Fourth and Cesar Chavez streets.The recommendation is based largely on financial information the city has declined to release. The information won't be released until the city has signed a deal with the selected developer, a process that could take more than a year after the City Council makes a choice June 18.The staff recommendation is not binding."We now have a couple weeks as a council to continue to get a bit of public feedback while, more importantly, drilling down through the staff analysis, asking questions of staff and ultimately coming up with our decision in two weeks," Mayor Will Wynn said.

New: W Austin Residences Listings

Earlier this month, the developers of the W Hotel & Residences announced successful funding of the project and immediately broke ground on the 165 condo unit and luxury hotel project. Once the W Hotel is completed in 2010 and the Condos completed in 2011, the project will also contain the 2,480-capacity venue for "Austin City Limits" as well as other restaurants, bars, and retail.

For the first time, actual listings are now available on the MLS, and as always, we have added the W to our Condo Listing Page.

As of the beginning of the month, just more than half, 85 of the 165 units, are under contract with nonrefundable 10% deposits. Amazingly, the average price of sold units is an amazingly high $1.1 million with prices ranging from the high $400,000s to more than $3 million. The three listings on the market today (many more are being sold directly) range in price from $617,500 for a large 1,149 square foot 1 bedroom / 1 bath unit to $2.875 million for a 3,932 SF 3 bedroom / 3 bath unit.

Owners of W Austin Residences will have full use of all the hotel's facilities as well as access to 24-hour room service, daily housekeeping service and concierge services, and a spa in the building. Whatever, Whenever service provides the closets thing to a personal butler: call them to shop for groceries, take a dog for a walk, fix a flat tire, of pick-up take out on your behalf.

Here are renderings of the planned interiors:

W Austin Condo Interior Rendering

The W Residences Listings can be found here.

360 Retail, Lance Armstrong Bike Store to Open

According to the Statesman, four new businesses will move into retail spaces on the ground floor of the nearly complete 360 project on 4th and Nueces:

* Blue Café Bar Lounge will open in an 1,100-square-foot space in June. The European-influenced shop will feature coffee drinks, lunch items, desserts and wine among other items.

* Lora Reynolds Gallery will move from its current space on West Avenue to an 1,800-square-foot space at 360 in the fall. The gallery, which opened in 2004, features nationally and internationally recognized artists. It organizes six to eight shows annually, and has promoted gallery artists through a number of platforms including published catalogs and placement in public and private collections.

* Mulberry is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Michael Polombo and designer Michael Hsu. The shop slated to open in July will feature a variety of light cuisine in a neighborhood restaurant and wine bar format.

* Royal Blue Grocery will open its second location at 360. The compact urban market's first location is in Austin's Second Street District. The 1,900-square-foot store -- a hybrid of sorts between a convenience store and gourmet grocery -- will welcome its first customers in August.

With these tenants, 7,909 square feet remain unrented, the highlight of which is a 3,300-square-foot restaurant space overlooking Shoal Creek.

Just a block away - on Nueces between 4th and 5th-- Lance Armstrong's new bike store / coffee house / commuter hub is also opening. The store, named Mellow Johnny's, is certain to be a major downtown destination. According to Austin 360:

Besides road bikes, Mellow Johnny's will sell commuter bikes, mountain bikes, triathlon bikes, fixed-gear bikes, low-riders, cruiser-style bikes and even hand-made "art bikes" that look as good hanging on a wall as they do rolling down the street. Stock will also include gear by Giro, Nike and Oakley.Showers and a locker room will allow commuters who don't have facilities at their offices to ride downtown, store their bikes at the shop, bathe and catch a ride on a pedicab or walk the rest of the way to work.The building covers 18,000 square feet on a main floor and basement level and will have garage doors that roll open at one end. The site has served as a distribution center for Pearl beer, a paint company, a steel manufacturing facility and a resource center for the homeless. Demolition work began in June, and construction inside the shop started two weeks ago. Armstrong and his partners are leasing the property from an undisclosed owner.

Lance Armstong's Mellow Johnny's Store is one block north of 360

The Big Roundup: Our Austin Condo Market Update

Tonight, as the lucky future owners of 430 condo units at the 360 celebrate, the building has come alive with a 44-story vertical line culminating in a lit tower that is now the tallest structure in downtown Austin.

With a waiting list of 215 units, a list equal to 50% of the actual units in the building, the 360 has been an amazing success. Novare, the developer, hit the perfect combination of early timing, a great location, and an affordably-priced units.

With a major project completed, and a long list of people waiting for affordable downtown housing, it's a good time to take stock of other activity downtown:

- With their success with 360, Novare Group is on track for their next two towers -- Block 51 & 52 -- on the site of the downtown post office and an adjacent block on 5th street just North of Republic Square. These projects will add an amazing 900 condo units in 37 and 40 floor towers which should be completed by 2012. In fact construction will begin on the 37-floor tower in as little as 60 days. Novare is looking to repeat the model for 360 with a large number of affordably-priced units. However, with increases in downtown construction costs, the new Novare projects will inevitably be more expensive than the units in 360.

- The W Hotel & Residences, Four Seasons Residences, and Austonian -- all luxury projects -- are all proceeding quite well with construction as is the upscale Spring tower next to Whole Foods.

- The 34-story 7Rio Tower (AKA "CLB Unnamed" and "7th & Rio Grande" -- this is the first time we've heard this name) has bee so quiet that we had assumed it was dead (we moved it to "Pending" many months ago). According to the developers, they are still hoping to move forward and are aiming for a ground-breaking in Fall of 2009.

- 1115 Barton Springs, which have also labeled pending, is 30% slowed and slowly moving towards the 50% mark at which point they hope to begin construction. A smaller project with very expensive units, this project may have a difficult time getting built.

- Work has been suspended at La Vista on Lavaca at 1701 Lavaca St. for unknown reasons but is supposedly set to resume soon.

- According to the Statesman, groundbreaking on The Park, an office/condominium project at 801 Barton Springs Road, has been postponed to late 2009 for zoning reasons.

- The city is moving forward with the development of Seaholm and the Green Water Treament Plant - projects which will add a large number of affordable downtown units.

Shore, 360 Open to Residents

Over the last five years, Austin has experienced an unprecedented condo building boom. With many projects underway, the first two in the current wave are nearing completion.

This week, the 44-story 360 is throwing a massive party to celebrate the building's opening. Soon after the party, the first units will open. Over the next few months, the sold out project will be fully completed and all 430 units will be occupied. In addition to selling all units, the project's waiting list remains long. Like most projects, 360 is being completed sequentially starting from the bottom and working towards the top. As the building grows taller, work begins on the interiors of the lower floors. With it's opening, 360 becomes the tallest building in Austin - surpassing the height of the Frost Bank Tower by 50 feet.

In addition, The 23-floor Shore on Davis Street in the southeast quadrant is also nearing completion. Over the last few weeks, residents have begun to move in.

With the completion of 360 and the Shore, there will be as many as 1,000 new residents living in 622 new downtown condo units. While many additional condo projects are planned -- both of these projects are essentially sold out. If you are looking for a new downtown condo unit, at this point you will likely have to wait until the next round of units hits the market in 2009. That said, there are at least 2 listings on MLS for units in the Shore and likely a few more that will hit the market soon.

Financing in Hand, W Austin Hotel & Condos to Begin Construction on Monday

Stratus Properties announced that it closed financing for the massive $295 million Block 21 hotel-retail-condo project behind City Hall on Friday. Not wasting anytime, they plan to begin construction on the 36-story project on Monday.

No project has been subject to more speculation than the W Hotel & Residences. Over the last few months, rumors have swarmed that the project might not materialize. Despite strong pre-sales, it seemed that the large project might not be able to raise the financing required to break ground.

However, the developers have pulled it off. With groundbreaking in site, the Block 21 project will likely become the heart of downtown. Located on 2nd street directly behind City Hall, Block 21 fills an important street-front retail gap between the two AMLI projects. As Seaholm and the redeveloped Green Water Plant grow to become a vibrant corridor between Congress and Lamar just North of Ladybird Lake, the 2nd street district and Block 21 will be in the center of the action.

Once the W Hotel is completed in 2010 and the Condos completed in 2011, the project will also contain the 2,480-capacity venue for "Austin City Limits" as well as other restaurants, bars, and retail.

Owners of W Austin Residences will have full use of all the hotel's facilities as well as access to 24-hour room service, daily housekeeping service and concierge services, and a spa in the building. Whatever, Whenever service provides the closets thing to a personal butler: call them to shop for groceries, take a dog for a walk, fix a flat tire, of pick-up take out on your behalf.

With today's announcement, additional project details were revealed:

- The project will include 165 units, down from the originally planned 196 units. The change is reported to be the result of the combination of some units into larger condos.

- Just more than half, 85 of the 165 units, are under contract with nonrefundable 10% deposits.

- The average price of sold units is an amazingly high $1.1 million with prices ranging from the high $400,000s to more than $3 million.

- The project will have a significant economic impact, creating more than 1,000 jobs during construction and hundreds of new jobs when the project opens. The project is expected to provide the City with approximately $35 million in incremental taxes once it opens.

- It will take 30 months to build the hotel, for an expected fall 2010 completion, and 36 months for the last condominium to be finished, by about May 2011.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

With financing in place, construction is finally ready to begin Monday on a high-profile downtown development with a 36-story W hotel, condominiums and a new "Austin City Limits" venue.Joint-venture partner Stratus Properties Inc. closed Friday on financing for its Block 21 project, which will cost $295 million, up from an earlier estimate of $260 million.The higher costs are related to 70,000 square feet being added to the original project and a "modest increase" in building costs, Stratus chairman and CEO Beau Armstrong said.The financing paves the way for crews to arrive Monday to start excavation work for three levels of underground parking, Armstrong said. The entire project is expected to be completed in three years. . .But Armstrong said the "sheer magnitude of the project" and a highly challenging lending market altered the timetable. The city had the right to repurchase the property if Stratus didn't start construction by April 15 but gave Stratus an extension, he said."It's a tough time to borrow money now, no matter who you are," Armstrong said. And though, typically, construction loans aren't the hardest part of a deal to land, "because of the turmoil in the credit markets, it became a more difficult proposition," he said.Armstrong said that it also took time to get the necessary building and other permits from the city but that those are now in hand.

With Strong Sales, BartonPlace Construction Begins

Amid continuing market uncertainty, BartonPlace today announced that they have officially broken ground. With more than $45 million in earnest money on non-refundable contracts, BartonPlace is the latest project to confirm the strong market for well-conceived and affordable downtown housing.

BartonPlace, a 270 unit condo project on Barton Springs Road, includes one, two, and three bedroom units starting at $263,000 for 683 feet. With a prime location close to downtown and next to Barton Springs pool and park, the project will is in a great location and well priced. As we have seen with many of the downtown projects, the lower the price, the higher the demand. Projects like 360 with many units under $400K have sold very quickly. With construction underway, the project is expected to be ready for occupancy in late 2009.

Bartonplace Austin Condo Peojwct Barton Springs

Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held today for the 270-unit BartonPlace condo project on Barton Springs Road.Constructive Ventures, the Austin-based group behind such developments as The Pedernales, 2124 and Saltillo Lofts, is developing BartonPlace in conjunction with local restaurateur Rick Engel. The project is going up near Engel's Austin Java restaurant on Barton Springs.Construction on the project designed by Dallas-based Boka Powell is expected to take 18 to 22 months.Perry Lorenz, one of the partners of Constructive Ventures, says the company has already collected $45 million in non-refundable earnest money contracts for units in the development."Our robust pre-construction sales show clearly that the condominium market in Austin remains very strong," says Lorenz. "The bottom line is that this is a great location in a solid market, and our team has the proven ability to deliver a unique, high-quality product here. BartonPlace will be a distinctively cool new Austin address."

Arthouse Announces Striking Downtown Expansion Plan

Arthouse, a downtown contemporary art museum located on Congress and 7th, today announced plans to remodel and expand their downtown galleries and educational facilities. According to Arthouse, "The plans -- developed by Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, New York-based architects, the Board’s Building Committee and Staff -- will triple total space from 7,000 sq. ft. to 20,830 sq.ft."

Arthouse (formerly the Texas Fine Arts Association) was founded in 1911, and for more than ninety years it has advocated for the support of contemporary art in Texas, organizing exhibitions and presenting them in Austin and statewide. From its home, the Jones Center in downtown Austin, Arthouse pursues its mission: to promote the growth and appreciation of contemporary art and artists in Texas. The museum is well respected for its innovative exhibits and programs.

With the $6.6 million renovation and expansion, the project will “recycle” the current building which in the 1920’s was the Queen Theater, a key part of the Queen/Paramount/State theater “block,” and in the 1950’s became a Lerner Shops department store. Three new galleries, two artists’ studios, a 90-seat community/screening room, and a 5,500 sq. ft. rooftop space with a 33 foot x 17 foot movie screen will be added.

The highlight of the Arthouse project is the innovative architecture of the renovated structure. The striking building features randomly placed green translucent bricks, a modern awning reminiscent of the building's department store past, large glass windows including live projections on the upper floor, and a dramatic rooftop deck with an open air movie theater. The main space on the second floor also doubles as a large screening room.

Arthouse Museum Renovation Rendering Remodel Downtown New Building Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis

New Arthouse Building Austin Museum

Arthouse Movie Screening New Building

The Arthouse project follows Austin Museum of Arts recent announcement of a new free-standing 40,000 square foot museum and a separate 425,000 square foot 30-story office tower on the current lot at West Fourth & Guadalupe. Together, these projects mark an exciting expansion of downtown arts options. With regular events, gallery openings, and now rooftop movies, these venues will continue to thrive as cornerstones of the emerging downtown cultural scene.

Another Condo Project in Trouble

Last April, developers announced a 4-story, 27 unit development on Barton Springs just east of Lamar adjacent to the train tracks, McDonalds, and Peter Pan Mini Golf. With pricing starting at $1,000,000, are original reaction was that "the project is a very odd combination of location and pricing that suggests a lack of experience in residential development." At the high end, the units were priced at $900 / SF making this the most expensive development in Austin.

155 Barton Springs South Austin Condo Project

Today we learned that ground-breaking for 1155 Barton Springs has in fact been delayed. With tough times in the credit markets, it is getting tougher to sell even the best conceived projects, While strong projects are finding success South of the river, they are succeeding by combining prime locations with prices far below those of the large downtown high-rises. 1155 Barton Springs attempted to combine ultra-luxury with a low-rise "B" grade location -- a tough sell in this market. While the views are great, top dollar projects need to be perfect, which is not the case with 1155 Barton Springs. While the project is delayed and not canceled, it is clear that the developers have a tough road ahead.

Here are additional details from the Statesman:

Groundbreaking has been delayed for the condo project called 1155 Barton Springs, which is destined to replace the long-vacant Treehouse restaurant and nightclub at Dawson and Barton Springs Road.Developers Elisabeth and Steffen Waltz and their partners had hoped to start construction on the project by the end of 2007. But yesterday, Elisabeth Waltz wrote in an email:“These times seem to call for a measured approach. It may take us a few more months to start construction; we will start when we have 50% or more of the residences sold. (Personally, having been a real estate broker for many years, I would prefer all of them pre-sold).”In addition, she said all floor plans are “custom-designed to reflect the buyers’ input and lifestyle. The reservations currently in place are the result of close cooperation between buyers, our office and the architects. This takes a bit longer that selecting a pre-designed unit but seems to really please the owners.”And having happy owners is especially important when they’ll be shelling out anywhere from $1 million to $4.3 million for the 27 units, which will range in size from 1,670 square feet to 4,500 square feet.And although it’s located next to a railroad track, the Waltzes have said the building’s concrete and sound-proofing insulation will minimize noise from the railroad. Waltz said in her email that, although she originally wanted the Treehouse building demolished as soon as possible, it actually has “proven useful.”” It gives me the opportunity to show the view from the first floor and also listen to the trains go by. Everyone is amazed on how little impact the train will have, if any. It moves very, very slowly in anticipation of the upcoming 90-degree turn across the lake.”

New: Austonian Listings Added to

The Austonian is one of the most luxurious and desirable downtown projects currently under development. With an unusually secretive sales process, details on pricing and sales have been hard to come by.

Over the last few weeks, many new details have become public as the project has begun to list a small number of unsold units on the Austin Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Starting today, we have added these listings to the AustinTowers Listings page. The new Austonian Listings can be found here.

The 4 listied units (as well as a fifth on the Gottesman Residential site) show a broad range of prices for units, with the highest prices rightfully reserved for the units on the highest floors. The prices for listed units range from $559,000 to $1,855,000 for units ranging from 1,221 to 3,129 square feet. What the units have in common is that they are in an exclusive building with super-high-end finish out, appliances, and building amenities.

One of the most interesting details to emerge is the variance in pricing on a per square foot basis from unit to unit. For the five listed units, price per square foot varies from $458 / Square Foot to a whopping $830 / Square Foot for Unit 41Q, a 2,235 square foot 2 bedroom unit on the 41st floor.

The following new renderings provide an interesting glimpse into the the planned Austonian interiors:

Austonian Austin Condo Bathroom Rendering

Austonian Condo Media Room Rendering

Austonian Condo Kitchen Rendering

Austonian Dining Room Rendering

Austonian Condo Bedroom Rendering

Visit the new Austonian Listings and listings for more than a dozen other projects on the Listings page here.

New 70-story Condo Tower Planned for Brazos Street

T. Stacy & Associates, the developer of the bold 501 Congress multi-use project, announced a even bigger plan for the prime 5th and Congress site and a new lot that he now controls on Brazos and 5th.

The new project -- which will cover 1.5 prime downtown blocks - will include an 800 foot hotel and condo tower that will likely be 70 stories tall. By far the tallest building in Austin, the building would rise more than 120 feet taller than the 56-story Austonian, currently the tallest planned downtown building. As part of the project, a smaller office building will be built at 501 Congress. The proposed office tower would likely rise 30-stories above Congress avenue.

We'll publish renderings and additional details as they become available.

Here is the summary from the Austin Business Journal:

"More than three years after Austin developer Tom Stacy and a Chicago partner company purchased the building at 501 Congress Ave. and unveiled plans for a dramatic multiuse tower on the site, the deal has grown much larger, incorporating one-and-a-half city blocks, two soaring towers and an estimated $500 million investment.Stacy's company, T. Stacy & Associates Inc., and Walton Street Capital now plan a 500,000-square-foot office and retail tower at 501 Congress that would be slightly taller than the 26-story Bank of America Center building the partnership owns at 515 Congress next door. The group is also plotting a hotel and condo tower at the corner of Brazos and Fifth streets that would rise more than 800 feet, making it by far the tallest building in Austin and the sixth-tallest in Texas.Stacy and Walton Street had initially proposed a 700-foot-tall tower at 501 Congress -- with a hotel, condos, office and other uses -- that would have been the tallest in Austin. But when the group finalized the purchase late last year of the Littlefield Garage just east of 501 Congress fronting Fifth Street, plans were reworked."

New Renderings of AMOA Museum Tower

As we have reported, the Austin Museum of Art this week announced a new project which would combine an 40,000 square foot museum facility with an adjacent 425,000 feet of commercial office space in a new 465,000 square foot project on the AMOA-owned site

Today, AMOA unveiled a rendering and site plan of for their new multi-purpose development across from Republic Square Park. The rendering of the new tower and museum shows the project as envisioned by AMOA's world renown architecture firm, Pelli Clark Pelli:

AMOA Rendering Austin Museum of Art Tower Pelli Clarke Pelli

The museum also released the following site plan:

AMOA Austin Museum of Art Building Site Plan

The new museum and 30-story office tower will likely break ground in 2009 and open in 2011.

18-Story Westin to be Built in Warehouse District

Reviving long dormant plans, a San Antonio firm now plans a 300-room Westin Hotel on the site of the former Bitter End Restaurant and a parking lot at West Third and Colorado Streets.

The 18-Story hotel will be designed by Lake|Flato Architects, one of Texas' most unique and prominent architectural firms and the winner of the American Institute of Architect's (AIA) prestigious National Firm Award in 2004. Lake|Flato is based in San Antonio and has completed many central Texas projects including the Hotel San Jose on South Congress Avenue. Apparently, Lake|Flato won a national competition to design the new "3rd & Colorado" hotel and has committed to create an original Austin-focused hotel project.

The hotel will include a ground-floor lobby and street-front restaurant. There will be a bar and pool on the 3rd floor overlooking Third Street and the warehouse district. The project will seek green-building certification.

While downtown condo development has slowed, the downtown building boom has not. This is the second major project to be announced in the last week. With the momentum of the emerging second street district, it is likely that additional projects will continue to be announced to take advantage of his strong emerging downtown district.

While hotels may not be of much use to Austinites who actually live here, they play an important role in the downtown economy. Conventions and tourism are important economic engines for the city, and the number of downtown hotel rooms continues to limit the size of conventions that can be held in the City. In addition, hotel's dramatically increase the round-the-clock downtown population, providing a strong economic base for restaurants, nightlife, and bars.

Unlike the Marriott, which does not even seem to be designed by an architect, this project seems to be making a real effort to create a building that will add to downtown Austin environment.

Here are additional details from the Statesman:

A 300-room Westin Hotel is planned for downtown Austin’s Warehouse District, as a San Antonio development firm goes ahead with long-delayed plans.The 18-story hotel will replace the former Bitter End Restaurant and parking lot at West Third and Colorado streets, said John Beauchamp, vice president of acquisitions and development for Hixon Properties of San Antonio.Hixon, which bought the land several years ago, is teaming up with Hines, a Houston-based developer, on the project. Hines also is the developer of another new downtown project, a 30-story office tower to be built at West Fourth and Guadalupe streets. That project will include the new home of the Austin Museum of Arts.

Now Official, New AMOA Tower Details Emerge

As predicted, the Austin Museum of Art today announced new plans for their prime downtown lot. With the official announcement, additional details of the project emerged:

- Rather than building a single tower with a ground-floor museum, the project will include a free-standing 40,000 square foot museum and a separate 425,000 square foot 30-story office tower on the current lot at West Fourth & Guadalupe. The 40,000 museum project is much smaller than a previously planned 140,000 square foot facility but will more than double the museums current downtown space.

- Both projects will be designed by world-renowned architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli. The firm, known for projects such as the Petronas Towers, was started by Cesar Pelli who also served as the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. Pelli Clarke Pelli was also the architect of record for the now dormant 5th & Congress multi-use project.

- The museum building will cost $23 million

- 14 developers submitted proposals to partner with AMOA on development of the site

- Both buildings will break ground in 2009 for completion in 2011

- The project will likely further extend the bustling 2nd-street district by providing additional ground-floor retail and cultural facilities adjacent to AMLI and diagonally across the street from Block 21. The Museum will likely face Republic Park.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

Museum officials said the design of their new building is in a preliminary stage. However, they say they hope to include 10,000 square feet of galleries, 2,900 square feet of education and activity rooms, outdoor space for public sculpture and a front entrance opening to Republic Square. The design would also incorporate a possible future expansion, chiefly adding more stories to what is likely to be a two- or three-story museum.Ground is expected to be broken in 2009 with completion of both buildings projected for 2011.At 40,000 square feet, the proposed new museum would more than double the museum's existing space at 823 Congress Ave., where it rents the first floor of an office building. The museum, which has a $4.3 million annual budget, also has the historical 12-acre Laguna Gloria site in West Austin, which includes a restored 1916 villa that hosts small exhibitions and studio buildings for the museum's art school. The museum has a small permanent collection but mostly features traveling exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and photography.

W Austin Condo Update

The W Hotel & Residences continues to make progress. They are now actively selling units ad have completed nearly 200 meetings for the 206 planned units in the 36 story tower. Supposedly, they have taken firm reservations for somewhere between 20-35% of the units.

The W is offering 19 different floor plans ranging in size from 644 to 3,779 square feet. They have launched a new website which includes all of the floor plans: The project is located in the heart of the second street district directly behind city hall. The modern W brand is popular and should fare well with a young, affluent audience.

Here is a new image of a model of the planned building:

Future Downtown Austin Skyline

Every now and then, someone takes all of the fancy models of new condo projects, shrinks them to their proportional size, and lines them up in there approximate position in the sky. While not perfect, this latest attempt is up-to-date with most of the recently announced projects. When shown this way, it is amazing to think that the skyline in 2010 will essentially be all new.

Here is the image:

Future Downtown Austin Skyline

The most interesting downtown housing: Population 3 (including a dog!)

While lots has been written about the many large-scale downtown high rise condo projects under way, there i another downtown living trend worthy of note. Over the last five years, a number of the older, historic buildings on Congress avenue have been converted into very large single family residences. At least four buildings have been - or are in the process of being - converted.

Here are pictures of one of the projects - a roughly 6,500 square foot "house" between 8th and ninth on the East side of Congress Ave. I have toured one of these projects and the amazing thing is the complexity of the engineering. To build these -- and to support the weight of a pool on the roof -- requires the construction of a complex steel structure to support the loads of the house.

Here are a few pictures of the project:

Click the link below to see many more great pictures!


Monarch Condos?

The Monarch — billed as the city's first luxury rental high rise tower — is now very far along in the construction process. Developer ZOM Austin is constructing what was supposed to be a 27 story rental project on 5th just East of Lamar with 297 rental apartments and 8,500 square feet of ground floor retail.

The confusing part of the project is it's website which now bills the project as the Monarch Condominiums and refers to the upcoming opening of the project's "sales center". It's hard to find any interpretation other than that the project will be largely, if not entirely, converted from a rental to a condo project. There is not currently any websites promoting rentals at the Monarch.

Current sales of downtown Austin condo units are reported to be quite strong. While rental rates are rising, the market for very expensive downtown rental units is very very small. Given hat the Monarch will beat many of the other planned projects to the market, the switch is probably a smart decision. What remains to be seen, is what percentage of the building will be rental and which units will be condos. If anyone has additional information, send us a note!

New York Times Article: Protecting the Hill Country

The New York Times published an interesting analysis of the development pressures on the hill country surrounding Austin. The hill country is one of Austin's greatest assets and has historically been protected from development by the difficulty of providing a reliable water supply across the rural region. Recently, however, new water infrastructure has changed the equation, adding to development pressures in the hill country.

Thousands of new people will come to Austin this year. One of the nice benefits of downtown development is that it takes pressure off development west of the city. A single large downtown building can provide enough housing to displace a 400 acre suburban development. Plus, as downtown residents either work downtown or drive in a reverse commute, they reduce the traffic pressure on highly congested roads.

Here is a quote from the article:

The Hill Country, an area that extends about 150 miles west of Austin, is quickly becoming suburban. With its rolling hills, lakes and rivers, it is attracting Texans eager to escape city life, and out-of-state buyers who can buy more acreage for less, real estate agents say, than they might pay in other states.“People want to live out in the country,” said Charles Gilliland, a research economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University in College Station.Water, once so difficult to find, is, at least for now, not a problem because of new water lines. Thousands of new homes are planned, and last year the Real Estate Center reported that land prices had reached as high as $25,000 an acre. In certain areas, the prices have ballooned even further.Ranchers and farmers, enticed by multimillion-dollar payouts, retirement or the lack of heirs, are selling thousands of acres of their large properties to developers eager to put up homes and strip malls. Other landowners, threatened with rising property taxes, see no option but to sell some of the land they have held in their families for many decades.The beauty of the Hill Country may also be its undoing. The crush of new people is likely to put more cars on county roads, pollute creeks and streams and eventually drain underground water supplies, according to the Save Our Springs Alliance in Austin.In an environmentally sensitive area like the Hill Country, which sends water downstream to Austin, the stakes are particularly high. And the concerns have led to efforts — like those of the Lowenthals’ group — to curb development.

360 Sales Update

According to a source who recently visited the 360 sales center, the 44-story 430 unit is selling well and should sell out soon -- many months ahead of its scheduled completion date. With 430 units, 360 is the largest of the current crop of developments, so a sell out would be a strong sign for the market.

The news is that 360 has sold approximately 378 of the planned 430 units. With 52 units remaining, 88% of units have been sold. Supposedly, most of the remaining units face East with the cheapest remaining 1 bedroom selling for $283K and the cheapest remaining 2 bedroom listed at $406,000. There are still 14 floor plans to choose from.

While sales are strong, the other side of the coin is that the first 75% of units supposedly sold in the first three weeks in he market in March. In the following 3.5 month, they have sold just another 13%. But, there is lots of time left to sell the remaining 52 units.

360 is unique in that it is well positioned, very tall, early to market, and attractively priced. It still remains to be seen how well the more expensive downtown projects will fare.

Spring Breaks Ground

Another downtown Austin condo building has begun it's unstoppable climb to the sky. Over the last few weeks, construction has begun on the Spring condo development in the Austin Market District, just south of Whole Foods. The $70 million project will be 42-stories high. The 260-unit project at 3rd & Bowie will have units starting in the low $200s.

Here are some new notes on the project from the staff:

Spring is designed by Foad Rafii, a Vancouver architect, using design principles that maximize the amount of usable space on each floor. Panoramic views of the city, wall-to-wall glass and concrete "point towers," so called because a plate - the footprint of one floor - is limited to 6,800 square feet. Compare this to Austin, where many of our recent residential buildings are thick and squat and use land inefficiently. Plans call for ground-level retail and 248 units, priced from $235,000 (600 SF) to $950,000 (1,720 SF), with only four to eight units per floor. This will be a stunning piece of architecture, and it will help accommodate the need for urban living space in the heart of Austin.Larry Warshaw, who is developing the project along with Perry Lorenz, Robert Barnstone and Diana Zuniga. Lorenz and Barnstone were partners in the Nokonah condominiums on North Lamar Boulevard and West Ninth Street. Robert Barnstone also served on the Austin City Council from 1988 to 1990. Warshaw and Lorenz co-developed the Pedernales Lofts condominiums on East Sixth Street. Zuniga, a well-known broker, also is a principal in the partnership that sold the land.

And of course, AT has a full profile. And here is a picture:

Dpring Condos Downtown Austin

Downtown Marriott: 31 floors, 1,000+ Rooms

New plans were announced today for the most controversial project in downtown Austin: the 1,000+ room $250 million Marriott superplex on 2nd and Congress. The project, best known for displacing La Manitas, has been reconfigured to include higher-end brand hotels and fewer, taller "buildings". As far as we can tell, the 31-story project still does not include any ground floor retail. While the project has an opportunity to extend the thriving 2nd street district towards the convention center and the new 21c Austin Condos and Museum, Marriott seems more interested in developing another large, generic, building on a prime downtown lot.

Here's a summary from today's Statesman:

White Lodging, which would develop, own and operate the hotels under a long-term agreement with Marriott International, still plans a 1,000-room project, but the new plans have two towers instead of three.New plans call for a 31-story tower along Brazos Street with 850 guest rooms and an 11-story hotel along Congress Avenue with 150 rooms.The larger Marriott will be a convention center hotel, and the smaller one will be a J.W. Marriott, the chain's upscale brand. White Lodging hopes to break ground in early 2008 and open the hotels in 2010. . . Initial plans called for a 26-story Marriott convention center hotel with 650 rooms; an 11-story upscale Renaissance Hotel with 200 rooms; and a 15-story Springhill Suites with 150 rooms.

If this project had an interesting architect, ground floor retail, and a way to incorporate Las Manitas it might be a positive addition to downtown. While the 1,000 rooms will provide an important boost to the convention center and the Austin economy, the planned project is uninspiring and potentially disruptive to a prime pedestrian corridor on one of the most important downtown blocks.

East Avenue: $750M Development Near Downtown

A lot of money is being spent on downtown development -- more than $2 billion in condo projects alone at last count. And while it is technically outside of downtown, it seems another $750 million mixed use development is about to break ground. The project will develop 2.75 million square feet across 22 prime central acres near downtown Austin.

The project, East Avenue, will be on the former campus of Concordia University just North of the University of Texas on the West side of I-35. The goal is a new mixed-use "downtown" with residential, commercial, retail, parks, and a hotel. Here is the summary from the Austin Business Journal:

With a three to five-year build-out timeframe, the project will eventually include 1,450 residential units, 600,000 square feet of office space, 325,000 square feet of retail and a 250-room luxury hotel. Pocket parks, public spaces and an interconnected network of walkways will also be included in the layout of East Avenue, which developer Andy Sarwal hopes will become an entertainment and shopping hub, providing a dense, urban-living alternative to downtown.

As we have asked before, how many downtowns does one city need? It's hard to tell what is happening: the optimistic view is that responsible developers are working hard to create model mini-communities that represent a new sort of urbanism. I hope this is true -- and that Austin is becoming a leader in a new sort of urban or quasi-urban growth. Clearly, it's too early to know how these projects will fare --- my sense with all of these (the Domain, The Triangle, etc.) is that they don't really become interesting until after a few phases of development when they reach a scale that provides a critical mass for people to live, work, shop, and have fun. So far, only the Domain seems on track to reach this objective.

The following images, courtesy of East Avenue, show the site and renderings of the new neighborhood:

New 31-Story Rental Tower Breaks Ground

While this site focuses on condo development, today's announcement of a new rental project demonstrates the breadth of downtown development. The project -- Legacy@Town Lake -- is a 31-story, 187 unit rental project in the Rainey Street district near the Milago off Town Lake.

According to the developer, rents are expected to range from $1,330 to $6,930 (average rent will be $2,298) for units that range in size from 659 square feet to 2,876 square feet. I'm not sure how many people are looking for a $7K / month for a 2,900SF rental unit, but I am very curious to find out.

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

Construction has started on Legacy@Town Lake, a 31-story luxury apartment tower that is the latest high-rise to break ground amid downtown Austin's residential building boom. . . Legacy Partners Residential Development Inc., based in Foster City, Calif., is building the 187-unit project at Rainey and Cummings streets. . . Construction has started on Legacy@Town Lake, a 31-story luxury apartment tower that is the latest high-rise to break ground amid downtown Austin's residential building boom. Legacy Partners Residential Development Inc., based in Foster City, Calif., is building the 187-unit project at Rainey and Cummings streets. . . Legacy@Town Lake is due to open in September 2008, said Spencer Stuart Jr., a senior vice president and partner. . . The project will include a 265-car garage. . . Other apartment projects under construction downtown include AMLI Residential Properties Trust's 18-story, 232-unit complex on Second Street between Guadalupe and San Antonio streets, and Phoenix Property Co.'s complex at the former Goodwill site near West Fifth Street and North Lamar Boulevard. In addition, several condominium towers are under way, with scores more planned in and around downtown.

How does it look? Needless to say, the rental projects in Austin are rarely as architecturally interesting as the major condo projects. This project is no exception. In fact, it almost looks as if the garage is falling over.

Town Lake Condo Projects Fuel Opposition

A new group, "" has been formed and has initiated legal action against the city to fight variances for a variety of condo projects on the banks of Town Lake. Essentially, they want to make sure that the city does not grant variances to allow new projects to build closer to the lake than current ordinances allow. Here is the summary from the Statesman:

An Austin citizens group has asked a judge to temporarily stop the city from granting exceptions to an ordinance that limits development along Town Lake in the latest battle over dense development in and near downtown. The outcome could have ramifications for future development along the lake, where developers have proposed more than 1 million square feet of residential projects. Some of those projects are seeking exceptions to an ordinance that restricts how close developers can build to the shore and how tall the buildings can be. contends that a 1999 rewrite of the city's waterfront development rules omitted key provisions, including height limits and the right of citizens to appeal when variances are granted. . . .SaveTownLake's specific target is a proposed three-tower condominium project that CWS Capital Partners LLC plans on Riverside Drive east of Congress. The developers want a variance to build part of the project closer to the lake than the existing ordinance allows.

It's hard to argue against protecting the banks of the lake . . . .as downtown becomes more and more dense, the urban experience will be greatly enhanced by the park-like experience of Town Lake. The issue, however, is more complex. A number of projects -- especially those East of I-35 on the south shore, have proposed trading variances for extension of the hike and bike trail and permanent easements providing public access to the shore. For example, Star Riverside. This is clearly in the city's best interest.

Nokonah Analysis: Part II

Two months ago, Austin Towers initiated a comprehensive unit-by-unit analysis of appreciation in the Nokonah. The Nokonah, A luxury high-rise project completed in 2002, was one of the first successful projects that helped to ignite the current condo boom in downtown Austin. The 11-story project is located at 9th and Lamar just north of Whole Foods and on the western border of downtown. When the Nokonah was built, the real estate market in Austin was stalling as the regional economy slowed. It was not clear how well the new project would do. Five years later we know the answer: the project sold out and the buyers have seen significant appreciation in the value of their units.

As we mentioned in Part I of our analysis, In order to better understand condo values in the downtown market, we've begun a comprensive analysis of public tax records (tax records are available online through the Travis Central Appraisal District) to better understand downtown condo market values and how they have changed over the last five years. This analysis, which tracks every unit in the Nokonah, shows appraisal value and $ / SF by floor, apartment size, # of bedrooms, and year. The data is fascinating and will be a useful tool for anyone looking to purchase a downtown condo (Register for the full report).

In part two, we've further examined the tax data and have come up with some interesting results: Read More...

Changes to the Capital View Corridor

The Capital View Corridor is a unique Austin phenomenon. As part of the downtown master plan, the city has set aside a number of corridors where development is severely restricted. The corridor essentially requires all buildings to be short so that they don't block views of the capital from a number of predetermined angles. With 30 such corridors, the result severely limits downtown growth (read our previous posting on this)

In order to increase downtown density, a city council advisory board is recommending changes to the corridors. Here is the summary of today's news from the Statesman:

Of the 30 city views of the Capitol evaluated by an Austin City Council advisory board, a dozen are being recommended for change.The Downtown Commission characterizes the changes as mostly technical in nature, accommodating the reality of already restricted views because of development or other obstructions. . . In fact, enacting any recommendations in the report would require approval by the City Council or the Legislature, depending on which corridor it is. . . Boyt noted that the commission is proposing to keep 18 view corridors intact and that of the dozen with recommended changes, only three are substantive: deleting or modifying a view corridor that includes Wooldridge Park to allow for redevelopment of nearby lots; adjusting the northern boundary of a view corridor from the MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) bridge, a change that might allow taller developments along West Fifth and Sixth streets; and realigning the view from Interstate 35 between East Seventh and 10th streets, to remove three blocks where the view is obstructed by buildings and where the view is perpendicular to traffic on I-35.

Given the broad scope of the corridors and their effect on downtown development (do we really need 30 corridors to provide views of the capital), the significant changes proposed to two corridors seems quite reasonable. The challenges to getting these through the council and, if needed, the legislature, may be significant.

Question: What are condo buyers interested in? Answer: 360.

The growth of the site has been amazing over the last three months - we're now averaging nearly 1,000 visitors per month -- it's great to see so much interest in downtown high rise condo development.

On our home page, there is about 40 links. Interestingly enough, the link that gets the most click is not the blog or the project navigator or the condo project rankings. It's the link for the profile of Novare's 360 development. With 430 units across 44-floors, it's the biggest downtown project so far. With units starting at $190K, it's also the most reasonable. According to the developer, 75% of the units were under contract by the end of March, just 3 weeks after they went on the market.

The Austin condo market is so new that it is very hard to predict what will happen over the next few years. It's good to see that tall, well-designed, affordable projects in good locations are drawing so much interest and demand --- it bodes well for vibrant and dense urban core.

How many downtowns does one city need?

A very unusual $1.5 billion development was announced today -- it is a 681 acre multi-use development with a movie and music theme that is being proposed on empty land east of the city, near the new Texas 130 highway. The project includes a 50,000 SF soundstage and recording studio, a 70,000 seat outdoor amphitheater, and production facilities for movie, TV, and video game makers. It is being pitched as a master planned community for the creative class. The project will also include about 8,500 housing units -- mostly single family houses.

The developers claim they are trying to create an alternative downtown. But unlike the Domain, which may have as many as 85,000 residents in a dense multi-use neighborhood, this project seems to be very low density. It's more like Riverplace or Circle C than downtown with an average of just 4 households per acre. The amphitheater is a nice idea: Austin is lacking such a large scale venue. But it may be hard to fill 70,000 seats in a metropolitan area of just over a million for anything other than a UT football game. The bottom-line is that this is an ambitious project that seems unique. It's not a new downtown and it's not the focus of this site, but it will be interesting to see if it gets built. $1.5 billion is a big investment for any city, it's an amazing sum for East Austin.

Huge Downtown Plot Available for Development

Thirteen prime acres in the Rainey street neighborhood - the district between Red River and I-35 south of Cesar Chavez - are for sale in one of the largest downtown real estate offerings ever. The owners who assembled 20+ individual parcels including a large section along the lake are hoping that a master developer will purchase the land for dense multi-use development.

This would make sense as there are already multiple projects under way in the area including the Hotel Van Zandt. Shore Condos, the Mexican American Cultural Center, and the recently completed Milago condominiums. The area was recently rezoned for dense development and is a prime location for residential and hotel development. Additional retail, commercial, and entertainment projects would extend the traditional downtown boundaries and accelerate the shifting center of gravity further to the south.

The land is particularly attractive because the entire Rainey Street neighborhood is outside of existing Capital View Corridors that limit development. With the new zoning, it is a prime area for tall and dense new construction. However, a number of single family house owners continue to hold on to their parcels and may fight future requests for variances, which may add risk to the purchase and for any buyer who is looking to create a larger "master planned" district in the mold of the successful 2nd street district to the West.

Planning Commission Denies Riverside Variances

Ever since the Hyatt hotel was built on the south shore of Town Lake, neighborhood groups have mobilized to limit development south of the lake. This week, in a marathon planning commission that lasted until 2:30AM, the commission recommended that the city counsel deny variances for two high profile "South Lake" projects. Read More...

Affordable Housing Task Force

Over the last year, a city-sponsored Affordable Housing Incentives Task Force has been discussing ways to encourage the development of afordable housing units as part of large scale development projects. The city wants more affordable downtown units, but State law doesn't allow the city to place affordability requirements on new developments. The purpose of the task force is to create incentives that make it attractive for developers to include these units.

Last week, the Task Force delivered its recommendations to the Austin City Council, Planning Commission and the Community Development Commission. After seven months of work and twenty meetings, the task force reached consensus on incentive policies to encourage developers to provide affordable housing.

Like most policies, there is a carrot and a stick. The carrot provides for expedited review, fee waivers, and zoning variances that allow for greater height or density if affordable units are included. The stick is a fee -- as much as $10 per SF -- that applies to project area in excess of standard zoning density requirements when variances are granted for projects that do not include affordable units. As the City Council has already been applying similar rules in some zoning discussions, the incentives seem likely to be put into effect.

A Second Downtown?

This week, Endeavor Real Estate announced ambitious plans for the second phase of the Domain: the new mini-city rising off Mopac just north of 183. Between now and 2015, Endeavor plans to build 50, yes FIFTY, new buildings with heights ranging from 2-26 stories (as tall as 310 feet). When complete, The Domain will form a second Austin "downtown" with as many as 82,000 residents and 50,000 daytime workers. To put these numbers in context, Mayor Will Wynn has working hard towards a big goal: getting 25,000 people to live in the real downtown by 2015, the same timeframe. Read More...

Seaholm Details Revealed

More details emerged today on one of the most important downtown projects: the redevelopment of the Seaholm power plant site between Lamar and the second street district and just north of the river. Seaholm is a 7.8 acre site, the main feature of which is the 136,000 historic art deco decommissioned power plant. The redevelopment project will add a 22-story hotel and condo project featuring 80 condo units atop a 160 room hotel. While the initial phase of the project will open in 2008, the Seaholm Plaza Hotel is not expected to open until 2010.


Beyond Residential: Other Downtown Projects

While the focus of AustinTowers is downtown high-rise residential development, there are a number of non-residential projects that will also help reshape downtown over the next few years. Here are a few:

W Hotel - The new W Hotel will anchor the $225 million "Block 21" project in the heart of the second street district. If it is like other W's, the upscale design-themed hotel's bar and lobby will likely prove to be a popular nightspot. Block 21 will also include 200 high-end condos, a Willie-Nelson owned nightclub, a new Austin Children's museum, new studios for the Austin City Limits TV program, and 50,000 square feet of street-level retail. The project is expected to be completed in 2009.


Is this the Future Austin Skyline?

With more than a dozen high-rise projects currently in the planning or construction phases, Austin's skyline will change fast. This composite image (source unknown) provides a sense of the scale of the different projects. Note that the Congress Condos has been renamed the Austonian and is currently planned at 55 stories -- about the height of the Tom Stacy project at 5th and Congress. The Frost Bank Building, sometimes referred to as the world's largest nose hair trimmer, will no longer dominate the Austin skyline.

Future Austin Skyline