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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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.

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.

W Hotel & Residences Breaks Ground

Another Austin project -- the W Hotel & Residences -- took an important step forward yesterday with a lavish ground-breaking ceremony. Not unlike the Austonian which created a pile of dirt to be shoveled for the ceremony, the Block 21 development team and a world-famous basketball player and investor (Magic Johnson) used unusual guitar-shovels for the ground-breaking. The theme of the event, as far as I can tell, was "Keep Austin Weird."



Block 21, a former vacant lot in the heart of Austin’s Second Street District, is moving from planning to reality. Upon completion in early 2010, the new home of Austin City Limits, a 2,200 seat, state-of-the-art theater and music venue, will also incorporate the W Austin Hotel & Residences, a 35-story tower designed by Arthur Andersson with 196 condos, 250 guestrooms, spa and restaurant; plus approximately 47,000 square feet of ground and second floor retail. Unfortunately, the project will no longer contain the Austin Children's Museum which pulled out of the project -- an unfortunate loss for an otherwise great project. Supposedly, the developers made it very difficult for the Dell Children's Museum to affordably create the sort of space they needed for the facility.

The $260-million project is seeking Platinum LEED Certification for its implementation of green building techniques, materials and operational standards under the guidance of Gail Vittori, Co-director of the Austin-based Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. There are only a handful of mixed-use projects and hotels in the world that have achieved LEED Platinum Certification.

Here is the latest rendering of the project which will clearly have a huge, positive impact on the second-street district:

W Hotel & Residences Block 21 Austin Condos

The Monthly Cost of Luxury Living

Condo fees fund the daily operations and maintenance of most condo buildings. They cover security, landscaping, cleaning of common area, common area energy use, maintenance, and other key building functions.

With this posting, we are publishing the condo fees of two new ultra-luxury projects, The W Hotel & Residences and the Four Seasons Residences, for the first time. Our previous analysis has noted that he prices in the new buildings that we have looked at are surprisingly constant -- they have varied from $0.28 / SF / Month to $0.40 / month -- an amazingly tight range. With these two new projects, this is no longer the case. According to our research, the condo or home owner association fees at both buildings are set at $0.61 per month -- 50% higher than any other building we have reported on and 85% higher than middle-of-the-road projects like 360. While it should be no surprise that the Four Seasons and W are more expensive than the Hilton, it's sets a new and unprecedented price for luxury condo living in Austin.

Almost universally, Austin condo fees are calculated on a dollar-per-square foot basis. The rate typically remains relatively constant on all units throughout each building. So, condo fees are not higher for more expensive units, or units with more bedrooms, or units on higher floors compared to less desirable units of the same size in the same building. The only thing that matters is the number of interior square feet. If anyone has numbers for other buildings, send them to us and we will add them to the list.

Here are the updated building-by-building statistics:

Fee by Building - - - - - $ / SF / Month
Avenue Lofts
.................$0.28
Milago
.......................$0.31
The Sabine
...................$0.33
360
..........................$0.33
Plaza Lofts
..................$0.33
The Shore
....................$0.36
Five Fifty Five Condos
.......$0.40
W Hotel & Residences
.........$0.61
Four Seasons Residences
......$0.61
Average......................$0.40