South Shore Residences Opening in 2013, Retail Center Getting Underway

Anyone who has driven out towards the airport, past the AMLI South Shore apartments on East Riverside, must notice the massive piece of development prepping not far away.

That’s where Grayco Partners has started on its 20-acre South Shore development, where three residential developments, totaling 506 units for rent and sale are being built, with a project opening this coming spring.

Located just two miles from downtown Austin, more details are coming online now regarding the massive retail portion of the development, which will take up 700 feet of frontage along Riverside Drive. Not only is this important to making additional residential development along Riverside as success, but has the potential to serve portions of downtown as well. (More on that in a sec.)

The retail center is scheduled to begin construction this coming year, and a site plan was filed this month for a 46,000 square foot shopping district, encompassing five retail buildings. To make way, the existing 54,000-square-foot strip mall is being torn down.

Above: rendering of the South Shore shopping area

In addition, three more urban residential properties are approved and planned for future development. When finished, we could see a development that includes 8-story residential buildings, bringing the total to 1,200 multi-family units for rent and for sale, and more than 65,000 square feet of office and retail.
There is a lot planned for East Riverside, which you can read about in a recent post, but details on the planned retail component are important because it also serves downtown Austin, and has potential to serve Rainey Street development, in particular.


With the Sutton Towers and Skyhouse planned in Rainey Street, in addition to the current residences there, there is a strong demand for access to shops, but limited access to that neighborhood. The easiest option is jumping onto I-35, or the access road, but during the increasingly long rush hours, it’s almost not worth it.
However, when the Austin boardwalk completes in 2014, it will end on the eastern side right on the backyard of the South Shore development and retail center. That means Rainey Street residents – assuming it’s not 105 degrees – will be able to bike or walk onto the Lady Bird Lake trail, cross over at I-35, and jump on the board walk to access this shopping center.

Move Over South Lamar, East Riverside Is The Next Big Thing In Austin Multifamily

The RiverView Austin Apartments, clad with a mix of local brick, stucco, and metal panels, are starting to take shape, and provide a bit of a premonition of what we might see along the much of the E. Riverside strip someday.

The 280,000-square-foot, 302-unit RiverView sits on four acres at I-35 and E. Riverside, on the south shore of the water near downtown. The development has four buildings ranging from five to 11 stories. The initial announcement for the project said it will come online this spring.

When completed, the development will have taken the equivalent of almost 80 acres in a typical single family 'tract style' model of development, but accomplished the same density on a four-acre site.

This is a good thing, and City Hall has actually had gears turning for a long time to reshape East Riverside.

The city is preparing to rezone approximately 1,000 acres near East Riverside Drive, as part of implementing the East Riverside Corridor (ERC) Master Plan, adopted by Council in 2010.


The plan calls for four hubs, centered on transit, which could eventually have buildings as tall as 10 to 14 stories in some locations in exchange for the provision of community benefits. The density scales down to three stories as development gets closer to single-family neighborhoods.

One-page overviews of the proposed hubs -- Lakeshore, Pleasant Valley, Montopolis and Gateway -- are available to view.  

Because the East Riverside area is just few minutes from downtown Austin, change is already underway in the area. In addition to the RiverView project, the Lakeshore and South Shore planned unit developments, which will transform about 70 acres along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake east of I-35, are underway. Meanwhile the AMLI South Shore project opened in 2011, and music club Emo’s gave the area a boost when it relocated there last year.

That whole area will also become much more accessible to downtown without a car after Austin’s boardwalk project is completed, since right now the only way to cross I-35 is actually on Riverside, which is not very fun safe attractive on a bike or on foot.

That the city is stepping in to heavily regulate future development on E. Riverside might be irksome for some developers, but I am firmly in the camp that the city really has one shot to make that an incredible place. Without that heavy hand, I fear would happen is a hodgepodge of vanilla development from out-of-town financiers focused on turning a profit and not quality development.

Side note: City voters also approved East Riverside transportation study in 2010 to look at transportation improvements to take place over the coming decade. When those improvements actually happen is anyone’s guess, since they would have to compete with other communities around Austin for funding.

UPDATE: 3eleven Picture Becoming Clear

On the heels of the news that construction of the 3eleven apartments are underway, some more details are now showing up on

• LEED certified
• Residences coming online this October.
• 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail
• 463 parking spaces on floors 1 through 7
• 41,000 square feet of office space on floors 8 and 9
• residences on floors 10 through 35
• Austin’s highest swimming pool
• Catering kitchen
• Residential units will range from 448-square-foot studios to three-bedrooms of more than 2,000 square feet.
• The top five floors will house 35 penthouse units, including three-bedrooms
• Stainless-steel appliances, granite and quartz countertops, solar window shades, hardwood flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows, and 8-foot entry and interior doors.
• designed by HKS Architects, of Dallas
• constructed by Harvey-Cleary Builders, of Houston

13 Months After Ominous Heritage Tree Vote, Endeavor Breaks Ground On Bowie Street Project

Back in August, AustinTowers updated you on the new specs for Endeavor’s Bowie Street project, called 3eleven, and said construction would begin soon.

Now it seems construction is indeed underway, according to a recent report in the Austin American-Statesman. The construction timeline is about 24 months.


The project’s fate, in 2011, was in question after the Austin Planning Commission voted 5-4 to protect a 70-year-old Pecan tree on site that had thrived while sprouting from asphalt. (The vote was a great showcase of the ideological and political forces at play in Austin. Former Planning Commission Chair Dave Sullivan also showcased why he had become such a well-respected arbitrator in Austin.)

What’s notable is that despite the handwringing in real estate and pundit groups regarding the issue, market forces (read: the high potential to make a buck) compelled the developers to forge ahead with a remarkably similar project to the one it pitched initially by moving the tree.


Wedged between the Spring Condos and the Monarch apartments, the initially proposed tower was an office-residential high rise reaching 400 feet high, and that matches the current project breaking ground now, which will have 36 stories with 359 luxury apartments, 42,000 square feet of office space and about 3,400 square feet of retail space.

YNN reports: Crews are going to put the tree somewhere on the east side of the property along Shoal Creek “but moving it will be an expensive, three-month process.”

Michael Lynd, a San Antonio developer who partnered with Endeavor on the project and secured financing told the San Antonio Business Journal the project will be “one of the finest luxury residential rental buildings in all of downtown Austin” and the paper reported the high-rise will have a rooftop garden/dog park on the 10th floor; a sky deck, club room and fitness facility on the 31st floor and a pool on the 36th floor.


So, regardless of what barriers must be overcome in Downtown Austin to develop – whether those barriers are for better or for worse – this project seemingly negates many arguments that Austin’s development policies are scarring away marquee projects. At the end of the day, that could provide the cover for policy makers to make more stringent policy, and enforce it.

As real estate sage Charles Heimsath – who must be the most quoted man in the American-Statesman’s history – told the paper: demand for apartments downtown is “extraordinary” with 97 percent occupied, fetching rents that are more than twice the city average.

New Downtown Austin Federal Courthouse Opens, Exorcises Ghost of Intel Shell

There’s some well-received news this month that Austin’s new Federal courthouse at 5th Street and San Antonio has completed construction and is open for business.


A quick tour around the building Sunday night yielded no clues that for the past few years the site has been under heavy construction - certainly neighboring 360 Condos are relieved - and Sunday it was well-lit and inviting with a handful of people strolling around in the nice weather.

KUT has a nice slideshow posted on its Flickr account of the exterior and interior of the seven-story, $123-million building design by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, out of Atlanta, and constructed by our own White Construction, officed in Bee Caves.

What’s exciting for the rest of us not in the legal system is a nice area on the east site of the courthouse populated with benches that will flow well into Republic Square Park. I’m excited about this project lending a daily injection of energy and excitement to the park, and envision clients, lawyers and clerks all enjoying the open space to eat lunch and talk shop.

Maybe a hotdog and coffee vendor will set up shop in the park? Every time I watch Law & Order, the characters share a bite and broker a plea.

For the uninitiated: That site used to be a albatross on downtown, infamously known as the Intel shell, after Intel planted a flag downtown with a $124-million chip design center, but then had second thoughts, leaving only a four-story steel shell and concrete decks. The Feds bought the property from Intel in January 2004 for $8.89 million, and White Construction signed a deal to start preconstruction. In 2006, we got out first look at the design. The Intel Shell bit the dust, literally, in 2007 when it was destroyed, and in 2009 federal stimulus dollars shifted the project into overdrive… then wha-la!

What remains to be seen is what becomes of the former federal courthouse on W. 8th St. That one was built all the way back in 1935, after U.S. Congressman J. P. Buchanan introduced an appropriations measure for $415,000 and well-known Austin architect Charles H. Page drafted up the design. The Art Deco building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is certainly not going to be destroyed. No one seems to know what will be in store for the building, but I certainly hope it doesn’t languish in disuse.

There had been some chatter about a U.S. Patent office taking up residence there, but the local effort to land it was bested by Dallas’s earlier this year.

Maybe with plans stalled for the UT headquarters construction, just a block south of the old courthouse, some clever and well-connected minds will get together to figure out how those historic buildings could be incorporated into a future development, with some more density. That old courthouse is only four stories, ya know. (Nudge, nudge clever and well-connected minds: the GSA's South Central Texas Service Center is the one you should contact to get the ball rolling.)

Lakeside Buildings To Be Repurposed

Back in 2010, Austin City Councilmember Chris Riley presented to the Parks Commission ideas for repurposing the old power plant structures on Lady Bird Lake.

The buildings belong to the City under the stewardship of the Parks Department.

The Statesman is reporting that Austin’s Parks department is ramping up its intent to repurpose these structures and issue a Request For Proposal.

The buildings are now mostly vacant concrete shells with graffiti and broken windows. But it’s easy to see their potential. They hug the shoreline and have open, dramatic interiors with grand views of the lake. And their history echos in details like big pipes that once carried lake water and are girded to the bedrock below.“They are pretty amazing architectural spaces. They have a lot of windows so there’s a lot of light. And there’s an opportunity for a new use or uses that relate strongly to the lake,” said Marty Stump, a project management supervisor at the parks department.



City Staff Recommends Historic Zoning for Westgate Towers

According to a City of Austin Zoning Change Review Sheet dated September 24, 2012, City Staff has recommended that the zoning change (from CBD to CBD-H) recently requested by the Westgate Condominium Association for the Westgate Tower be granted.

The Westgate Tower is the closest residential tower to the Texas State Capitol, and many consider it the only pure mid-century modern building in downtown Austin.

City Staff summarizes the qualifications of the Westgate that merit the change:

“The Westgate Tower is an excellent example of the New Formalism approach to modern architecture, is the only building in Austin designed by internationally-known architect Edward Durell Stone, and has served as a model for continued mixed-use growth in the city, combining residential, commercial, and social uses in the same building.”

westgate tower

The review sheet goes over, in detail, the historical significance of the Westgate Tower. Some of interesting tid-bits:

  • The Westgate was named for its location just West of the State Capitol grounds
  • Westgate Tower opened its doors in 1966
  • Westgate Tower’s contemporaries are the Cambridge Tower and Penthouse Apartments, both also built in the 1960’s
  • Westgate Tower was the first high-rise building that was significantly taller than anything else in Austin, except the Capitol Dome
  • The Westgate Tower was the 2nd home of the Headliners Club (after the Driskill)

Landmarking a building has become controversial in Austin as some tax payers believe the system is being exploited. The issue has even made it into Austin Monthly founder Mike Levy’s infamous blind-copy email campaigns.

From local developer Rick Hardin (via Mike Levy): “So what is the historic “protection” for? Moreover what is “historic’ about this building? If the answer is some notable folks lived or worked there, most all older buildings downtown qualify. If Austin is to be even handed, take ALL buildings over 50 years old and give them the same tax break. “Landmark” designation is arbitrary, all older properties face the same maintenance challenges and expenses; why should just some get a tax break?”

See current listings at the Westgate Tower.

Waller Creek Design Competition Finalists Announced

Screen Shot 2012-09-18 at 10.45.22 AM

The Waller Creek Conservancy has announced the four finalists in their design competition. Below is a snapshot of each:

The CMG and Public Architecture Team, led by Willett Moss and John Peterson, intends to create, "a landscape authentic in its manifestation of Austin's Character."

Rendering by CMG and Public Architecture

The MVVA Team, led by Michael Van Valkenburgh and Thomas Phifer, brings together professionals aiming to, "create an exciting and humane landscape that will be critical to great city life in Austin."

Rendering by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners

The Turenscape + Lake|Flato Architects Team, led by Dr. Kongjian Yu and David Lake, will work to focus their team's, "diverse strengths on an inspiring vision during the competition and beyond."

Rendering by Turenscape + Lake|Flato Architects

The KSLA, TELA, + RMA Team, led by Ken Smith, Christine Ten Eyck, Robert Rogers, and Jonathan Marvel, share how they are, "committed to creating a better functioning, dynamic and accessible open space system along Waller Creek."

Rendering by Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, and Rogers Marvel Architects

Precluding any surface level improvements to Waller Creek, the City of Austin must complete the excavation of the massive drainage tunnel which pulls the adjacent land out of the flood plain. Downtown Austin Blog had the opportunity to go into the tunnel earlier this month (footage below)!

Seaholm Project Reveals More Details

Hidden on an inquiry form on the website, the unit sizes are revealed for the 298 planned downtown apartments.

  • 1 bedrooms will range from 659ft to 938ft
  • 2 bedrooms will range from 978ft to 1344ft
  • 3 bedrooms will be 2204ft.

The sizing is typical for downtown condos and apartments. What’s not revealed is how many of each unit type will be built, nor the anticipated pricing.

From the website:

“The apartments will have protected views over the lake, the Texas Hill Country & downtown. All will be luxuriously appointed with high-end finishes. Additional perk - having your neighborhood grocery store be Trader Joe’s!”

seaholm apartment sizes

You can also take a virtual tour of the the project...

Update: 3eleven (311 Bowie Street)


Last month the Statesman reported new details of the 3eleven apartment tower proposed by Endeavor. Above and below are the more recent elevation drawings of the building.

Endeavor’s original proposal to develop the site on the bank of Shoal Creek was shot down by City of Austin Planning Commission on the grounds that a pecan tree on the site should be protected. The Planning Commission was not against the project, per se, just that configuration. The project has evolved into a new design that permits the tree to be moved elsewhere on site. Now, it looks like the project is on track to begin construction soon.

Project Details:

Name = 3eleven
Address = 311 Bowie Street
Number of floors = 37 (26 residential floors)
Building height = 400 feet
Number of dwellings = 358 units
Retail space = 4,268 ft (ground floor)
Office space = 40,684 ft (7th & 8th floors)

The architect, HKS, was also the architect of the luxury Ashton Apartment tower. 3eleven is expected to be a similar luxury-style apartment building.


A recent rendering of 3eleven by HKS Architects


Approximate situation of the building between Spring Condos and the Monarch Apartments


The Whitley: Downtown's Next Apartment Tower

We’ve learned that the apartment tower which had been known simply as “3rd & Brazos”, will operate as The Whitley apartments.

The tower is currently under-construction. Local development firm Riverside Resources acquired the site in 2011 from Poe Companies (recall back in 2008, Poe intended to develop this site into the 21c Museum Residences).

The site consists of a half-block on 3rd Street, between Brazos and San Jacinto streets. The Whitley apartment tower will become part of an evolving Railyard District, a pocket of downtown south of 5th Street, east of Congress Ave.


Many Austin apartment buildings are operating at 97-99% occupancy, creating upward pressure on rents. This high level of occupancy reflects an under-supply of housing in Austin’s urban core. Average downtown Austin rent rates are hovering at $2.54 per foot, per month.

The Whitley’s site plan has evolved slightly since the project was announced, but we expect to see 266 for-rent apartments. Also included is 10,000ft of retail space at the ground level. CBRE is handling the commercial leasing with retail space being quoted at $36ft NNN.

Here are some details of The Whitley:
- Riverside Resources is the developer
- Address is likely 210 E. 3rd Street 301 Brazos Street
- $178,100 ($650 per unit) paid to City in parkland dedication fees
- Height = 196ft’
- Stories = 16
- Number of dwellings = 266

Construction of The Whitley should be completed in spring 2013.


Affordable Housing Development Gets Funding

Located at 11th Street & Trinity, Foundation Communities’ next development will be downtown Austin’s first affordable housing effort since the Lakeside tower was built 40 years ago.

The Statesman is reporting that Foundation Communities will receive $1,100,000 in Federal tax credits over the next 10 years for the project names, Capital Studios. They have also applied for City funding.

Details of the project include:
- 135 efficiency apartments
- rents will range from $400 to $650 a month
- target renter will earn less than $27,000 (roughly half of Austin's median income)
- 10 units reserved for artists and musicians
- cost of construction estimated at $13 million
- Dick Clark Architecture was recruited for the design

The project required the express support of Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association.

There’s discussion of including Car2Go and Austin Bike Share into the streetscape design. If the ideas for programming the ground floor can be realized, this development is a harbinger of successfully integrating dense affordable housing options into downtown Austin.




Exclusive: Downtown Austin Condo Sales Report

It’s no secret that the demand for downtown Austin living is growing. However, information on sales of new condos has been closely held. This had the tendency of just emboldening skeptics. Now, the data presented here should allay lingering doubts about downtown Austin condo pricing.

Below is a chart of the monthly aggregate sales data for the new-luxury highrises in downtown Austin, including: Austonian, Four Seasons, W Hotel Residences, and Spring Condos.

Over the past six months we can see the average new construction condo is 1,526ft and sells for $897,064. AustinTowers’ sister site, Downtown Austin Blog, recently shared that for new-luxury construction only 172 units remain, and that we’re on pace to sell the bulk of those over the next year.

2012 downtown austin condo closings ytd

Thanks to each building for their cooperation in sharing, and Charles Heimsath for assembling the data!

As more people move to Austin, the value of central living only goes up. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and the desire for walkability and feeling connected to the community bodes well for the long-term growth of downtown and the urban core.

Editor's Update

The Austin Towers team wants to take a minute to say “thanks!” for your continued readership and let you know about some changes coming.

We’re excited to announce that Austin Towers was acquired by and will become a part of the Downtown Austin Blog network. Downtown Austin Blog publishes real estate sales data similar to Austin Towers, and also includes editorial on development and lifestyle topics related to Downtown Austin.

To better serve the readers of both Austin Towers and the Downtown Austin Blog, the idea was formed and nurtured to bring the sites under an integrated publishing platform and owner. Austin Towers will maintain the same high-quality source for Austin development news it has come to be known for, including the updated market index.

Paul D'Arcy, the founder of Austin Towers, will continue to be an occasional contributor to the site as he shifts his focus to a new entrepreneurial venture. For the site's many readers, Austin Towers will live on as a testament to Paul's energy and devotion to downtown Austin. Even after the site's acquisition, Paul plans to remain actively involved in downtown Austin policy and planning.

Thanks again for making this site what it is today and coming back for insightful information and editorial about our fast changing urban core in Austin, Texas -- which recently passed San Francisco as the 13th largest city in America

Coming to Congress Ave: The Monster Marriott

Years after Las Manitas was prematurely demolished for the long-planned, controversial giant Marriott, the food trailers have finally been relocated and the lot fenced. It seems that construction is now about to begin. And with construction so close, new details and pictures have emerged.

The original plan for the project included 1,000 rooms across 3 separate incredibly ugly Marriott-branded hotels in one convoluted multi-faceted building. The second version of the project included two hotels in one building. Version 3.0 includes just one swanky 1,012 room J.W. Marriott hotel. The project is projected to cost more tan $275 million.

Pictures of the new Congress Avenue JW Marriott
JW Marriott Downtown Austin Congress Avenue Hotel

JW Marriott Downtown Austin Congress Avenue Hotel

JW Marriott Downtown Austin Congress Avenue Hotel

Here are some of the details on the new J.W. Marriott:

- Located at Congress between 2nd and 3rd across the street from the Austonian
- 33 Stories tall
- 1,012 rooms
- 115,000 feet of meeting space
- 3-floor 458 spot underground parking garage
- 4,500 square foot fitness center
- Will employ 700 people
- Construction to begin August 1
- A new design that more actively engages Congress Avenue with streetfront retail restaurant space

The project is one of two 1,000+ plus hotel rooms proposed for downtown Austin. The addition of 1,000 new hotel rooms under a single roof will allow the city to book larger conferences and events -- bringing valuable tourism dollars and jobs to Austin. There is a shortage of rooms downtown and a crazy large 1,000 room hotel can make a big difference.

The project is projected to open in 2015.

New, Improved Building-by-Building Condo Listings!

Look! We’ve updated our listing pages to provide a much-improved Condo browsing experience. Whether you are looking to buy, sell, or voyeuristically peak inside a stranger's condo, you'll like the updated site.

The way most people choose a condo is by figuring out which building or buildings they want to live in (hint: use the “Profiles”) and then looking to see which units are available. We’re planning a fully integrated roll out soon, but now you have direct access to MLS listings via our sponsors on a building-by-building basis.

You can see all of the listing's links here. Or view listings for your favorite condo building here:

Downtown Austin Condo Projects

360 -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Austin City Lofts -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Austonian -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Four Seasons Residences -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Nokonah -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Plaza Lofts -- Profile -- MLS Listings
The Shore -- Profile -- MLS Listings
Spring -- Profile -- MLS Listings
W Hotel & Residences -- Profile -- MLS Listings

The Seaholm Fiasco: Historic Building to be Closed to the Public

This past week, the Austin City Council essentially gave away the iconic, historic Seaholm Power Plant building to developers for the construction of commercial office space that will almost entirely be off limits to the public.

As Ken Altes, a founder of a group called the Friends of Seaholm, eloquently summarized at the City Council meeting: "If you allow it to become an office, it's gone. You'll be remembered as the council that lost Seaholm," he said. "You have the potential to make it a world-class facility that the public wants. ... The (power plant) should be the center of what happens at the Seaholm property and now it will just be an amenity, and not even that. It will be used for commercial gain and basically excluded from public use."

And that is exactly what the council did, abandoning a 2008 deal that vowed to turn the spectacular interior into grand public spaces at the heart of a major new development. With the new City Council deal, just 7,000 square feet of the 117,000 square foot plant will be open to the public. According to the Statesman, the developer, "Seaholm Power LLC plans to restore the historical power plant and build two structures near it: a low-rise building with offices and retail, including Austin's first Trader Joe's, a specialty grocery store, and a 28-story tower with 294 apartments. It expects to break ground this summer. The development will also include a 1-acre public plaza and a half-acre terrace that overlooks the lake."

In the case of Seaholm, the biggest problem with the development has been the lack of a clear commercially viable plan for the site. So many other Cities have turned similar abandoned sites -- from the South Street Seaport in New York to the Tate Modern in London -- into thriving commercial and cultural districts. For Seaholm, the first mistake was inking a deal with Trader Joe's. While many people would like to see Trader Joe's, a discount food retailer, in Austin, it is the wrong tenant for this historic downtown site.

Unfortunately for Austin, the deal is final and can't be changed for 20 years. Even then, change seems unlikely. In retrospect, a much better plan might have been to split the 7.8 acre site into a normal street grid and develop around the plant, only leasing out the historic structure when the surrounding density made better use of the site commercially viable.

47-Story "Planetarium" Tower Proposed Near Capital

A new development partnership is proposing a 47-story condo tower, science museum, and planetarium for a site just north of the Capital. The site, which is not limited by capital view corridor restrictions, is owned by the State and part of a program to develop under-developed state-owned lots. The project is a proposal and had not been reviewed or accepted by the State committees evaluating use of the land.

According to the developers, "A state-of-the-art science and technology museum, with the largest planetarium in Texas, will be the newest addition to Austin’s Museum District.

Planned to be built on State land across the street from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art, the proposed 157,000 square foot facility will include the largest planetarium in Texas, a full-spectrum interactive science museum, and a technology center showcasing Texas innovations and ingenuity. The development of a science complex at this location will solidify a Museum District for Austin, increasing visitation to the surrounding museums and adding a tourist destination just blocks from the State Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin Campus.

Rendering of the Proposed Planetarium Tower
Austin Planetarium Tower Proposal 47 Stories

Rendering of the Proposed Science Museum & Planetarium
Austin Planetarium and Science Museum

In a joint effort, the Austin Planetarium, a nonprofit with the goal of building a world-class science and technology museum in Austin, and KUD International, a private sector development firm, have submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Texas Facilities Commission for a ground lease on the property located at North Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. This innovative public-private partnership will create a development that also includes a 47-story residential tower, restaurants, a gift store, retail space and over 1000 underground parking spaces, meeting the mixed-use and high-density vision of the State of Texas for that location. “This partnership is the opportunity we have been working very long and hard to achieve,” states Executive Director Torvald Hessel, “by attracting a major international development firm, we have shown that, as a grassroots organization, we can do this."

The total cost of the development is estimated at $240 million, which includes $95 million for the science and technology museum. So far, funding for a third of the museum’s cost has been identified, thus offering confidence to bring in additional donors and investors. The development will attract over 600,000 annual visitors and will create more than 650 full and part-time jobs to the area, over $10 million in tax revenue over 10 years, ground rents for the State, and $60 million in annual economic impact. Furthermore, through its presence in the Capital City, it will serve as point of pride for the City and the State alike.

The Planetarium will continue its fundraising activities while the State considers the proposal for the site. If the proposal is accepted by the State, it is expected that the process will take approximately a year and that construction will begin shortly after an agreement is finalized.

Strange Trends in Downtown Condo Sales

During the first 3 months of this year, 32 units were sold in Spring and the 3 major luxury projects: the Austonian, W Residences, and the Four Seasons. Across all four projects, the average sales price was an amazingly high $952,000. Now, just 221 new condo units remain downtown -- almost all in the Austonian, the Four Seasons, and the W.

We've tracked the sporadic reporting of downtown sales over the last two years and now the trend show some very interesting results. First, Spring and the Four Seasons are selling at a very good clip. While the data is less reliable, the W and Austonian sales seem to be relatively flat.

In comparison, sales at BartonPlace across the lake have been very weak with just 37% of units sold after two years of marketing. In September of 2010, BartonPlace reported that 154 units were sold or under contract. A year ago, they reported that 85 units were sold and 54 were under contract. The new data suggests that just 100 units are sold or under contract -- 54 fewer than were reported in September of 2010.

Here is the detailed data:

Now: 242 / 247 units sold or under contract
One Year Ago:
215 / 248 units sold or under contract (201 sold & 14 under contract)
September, 2010: 158 / 248 units sold or under contract
Y/Y Change: + 28 units sold or under contract

W Residences
Now: 89 / 159 units sold or under contract (estimated)
One Year Ago:
86 / 159 units sold or under contract (40 sold & 46 under contract)
Last September: 84 / 159 units sold or under contract
Change: + 3 units sold or under contract

Four Seasons
Now: 108 / 148 units sold or under contract
One Year Ago:
79 / 148 units sold or under contract (68 sold & 11 under contract)
September, 2010: 77 / 148 units sold or under contract
Change: + 29 units sold or under contract

Now: 100 / 270 units sold or under contract
One Year Ago:
139 / 270 units sold or under contract (85 sold & 54 under contract)
September, 2010: 154 / 270 units sold or under contract
Change: - 39 units sold or under contract

Now: 89 / 162 units sold or under contract (estimated)

There are just four condo buildings with available new units in downtown Austin. Of these, Spring is the only mid-priced project. As of the end of March, the project had just 5 units remaining. With Spring essentially sold out, it will be many years before new mid-price inventory will be available downtown. In the meantime, there will be increased demand on the mid-price resale market as people who want to live downtown purchase existing units.

Prime Downtown Statesman Site for Sale?

While the newspaper industry continues to struggle, the Austin American Statesman has a very valuable asset: the land under it's offices and printing facility. The Statesman building sits on one of the most valuable downtown real estate parcels: 18.9 acres of lakefront land on South Congress Avenue across from downtown. The site also boasts a great view of the bats that live under the Congress Avenue bridge.

Now the Statesman's parent company is considering multiple unsolicited offers for the site which experts believe could be worth $50 - $80 million. For the Statesman, it is probably not necessary or cost effective to print newspapers on one of the most expensive pieces of land in the City. They currently must pay roughly $1 million in property taxes each year based on the site's current $39.8 million valuation.

The Statesman building was constructed in 1980. It houses the bulk of the newspaper's 500+ employees as well as the printing plant and packaging facilities. The 330,000 square foot building s surrounded by 500+ parking spaces for employees and visitors. Without any public parking or ground-floor retail, the current Statesman site in one of the reasons that the prime south congress shopping and dining areas are so disconnected from downtown.

The Statesman Site (Source: Statesman)

The Statesman has said that they would relocate the paper within Austin if the downtown land was sold to developers. Development of the site, however would have challenges as the parcel would face numerous height and setback restrictions. In addition, South Austin neighborhoods have been strong opponents of high-rise development on the south shore of the lake. But the site does offer great benefits for dense development and the opportunity to serve as a pedestrian gateway connecting South Austin to the heart of downtown.

Austin: The Fastest Growing City

If it feels like a zillion people are moving to Austin, it is because it is true. A recently published analysis of the rate of migration for the top 40 cities shows that Austin is going at roughly twice the rate of the second fastest city in the U.S. (Tampa). And while Austin is leading the pack, San Antonio is the third fastest growing City, Dallas is #7, and Houston is #12.


The rapid population growth of Austin make downtown development important: as thousands of people move to Austin, the City will need to choose between density and sprawl. Density is more efficient and more environmentally friendly. It also means less traffic. But the high costs of dense development and long-lead times for new projects make it difficult for downtown projects to keep up with downtown housing demand.

Two More 50-Story Towers Proposed

It's starting to feel like 2007 again. It's been five years since good economic times resulted in a wave of development that resulted in projects such as the Austonian, Four Seasons Residences, the Monarch, and Spring. In 2007, it seems that a new project was announced every couple of weeks. That's exactly what is happening right now.

Last week's big announcement was that two fifty story tourers could rise in the warehouse district. According to the statesman, The Sutton Co. wants to build the project on about two acres it has under contract bounded by Rainey and Driskill streets and East Avenue. The development would continue the transformation of a part of downtown where a new nightlife scene has emerged with the addition of numerous bars and restaurants. Together, the towers could have as many as 800 to 1,000 apartment and condominium units, along with hotel rooms in the first tower to break ground, said Mac Pike, a principal — along with Wally Scott — in the Sutton Co. The first tower, which Pike estimated would cost $75 million to $100 million to build, is at least a year to 18 months from breaking ground and would require a number of city approvals, he said.

It's key to note that financing has not been secured for the very ambitious project In addition, the project would require approval from the city's Historic Landmark Commission to knock down the houses on the site. It would also likely require additional special exemptions to build a project that tall on the Rainey street site. The developer does have a strong track record in the City "having converted older buildings into the Brazos Lofts in 1999, the Avenue Lofts in 2000 and, later, co-developing the Plaza Lofts, a new condo high-rise built in the early 2000s."

Two Towers Proposed for the Rainey Street Neighborhood

New Development Near 6th & Lamar

Add this to the very long list of planned projects downtown: "A new crop of development is about to sprout up on the western edge of downtown, bringing with it a proposed 493,000 square feet of office space, 70,000 square feet of retail and 370 apartments," the Austin Business Journal reports. The project includes the redevelopment of the KASE-KVET offices and 7th & Lamar near Book People shown below.


30-Story Office Tour to Rise in Warehouse District

When it comes to downtown Austin, almost everyone loves the Warehouse district. It's historic, iconic, and full of life. Its small scale is a nice counterbalance to the surrounding towers. The area, though much smaller than it used to be, is widely known and a common entertainment destination for residents and visitors.

So it will be mixed emotions that downtown dwellers will greet yesterday's news of a new 30-story shiny glass office tour planned for one of the key warehouse district blocks. The tower, which will certainly block many Austonian northwest views, will contain 18 stories of fancy offices on top of 12 stories of above-ground parking. The building is being developed by Cousins Properties which also developed the Frost Bank Tower just a couple of blocks away. Fortunately, the new building will not sport the same giant nose hair trimmer crown.

The building -- currently named "Colorado and Third" -- is planned for a parking lot site that was previously supposed to become a hotel. The lot, located on 3rd and Congress, is at a prime intersection connecting the warehouse district to the Second Street District.

The 30-Story "Colorado & Third" Project
Cousins Properties Colorado and Third Tower Austin

There is no doubt that the expansion of downtown Austin office inventory is essential to bringing more people downtown and to increase downtown destiny. According to the Statesman, "Cousins has filed for a zoning change with the city to build a tower with more square footage than current zoning would allow. Hendricks is presenting Cousins’ plans to brief the Downtown Commission on the project this afternoon. The commission is an advisory board that makes recommendations to the City Council on downtown policies and projects. Hendricks said two key factors are driving Cousins’ decision to add more office supply downtown, where office rents and occupancies are on the rise. About 80 percent of the leases for first-class office space downtown will come up for renewal between 2012 and 2016. In addition, the downtown office market is becoming increasingly diversified, with a growing number of technology companies choosing to locate in the central business district, pushing up the demand for space."

The project would include 6,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.

This Sunday: Downtown Living Tour

If you are interested in living downtown, you should make sure to spend time on the 2012 Downtown Living Tour. This annual event is a fantastic showcase of homes located in Downtown Austin, and is put on by the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (it’s DANA’s only fundraiser, and helps keep the organization chugging throughout the rest of the year).  The tour is this Sunday, April 22, from 11AM to 5PM.
In addition to many great units in the major condo projects, you'll get to see the very amazing Graeber Residence, one of the few single family downtown residences.

Graeber Residence: Part of the 2012 Downtown Living Tour

Graeber Pool

The tour gets you access to just about every building that you should see:

- The Buttrey Building - 107 W. Sixth
- The Graeber Residence at 410 E. 6th Street
- 555
- The 360 Condominiums
- The Railyard Condominiums
- The Milago - PH08
- The Shore Condominiums
- The Residences at The W
- Towers of Town Lake
- The Four Seasons Residences (VIP only)
- The Speaker's Apartment at The Capitol (VIP Only)

You'll need tickets --- so visit for the full tour details and to buy tickets for Sunday.

Pasted Graphic

Green Redevelopment Tension Builds

Earlier this month, the City council delayed a key vote to approve the plan for Trammell Crow to develop the 4.4 acre Green Water Treatment Site. Now, pressure is building for the City to renegotiate the 4-year-old agreement to sell Trammell the prime downtown site for $42.4 million as part of the $500 million development proposal.

According to a lengthy editorial on the subject by the Austin American Statesman editorial board, "Under the 2008 proposal, Trammell Crow agreed to pay the city $42.4 million over several years to buy and transform the land, beating four other teams that submitted bids with an offer that 25 percent of rental housing it built on the land would be affordable. That meant that 80 of the planned 320 apartments would be rented to those who earn less than 80 percent of Austin's median family income and 240 apartments for more moderate incomes. Trammell Crow also proposed building a housing project for seniors. It would build many other features as part of its $500 million project, including offices, shops and restaurants, making it one of the biggest developments ever built downtown.

But that was not the deal city staffers brought back to the City Council earlier this month. That proposal increased the total number of apartments to 826, but decreased the percentage of affordable housing to 10 percent. That change would yield 87 affordable apartments. Five of those would be designated for low-income people, while the rest would go to people earning incomes of below $43,000 for a single person to just more than $60,000 for a family of four. Also, Trammell Crow is offering $250,000 for improvements to Shoal Creek near the Green site, $375,000 for public art, $150,000 for on-site music programs and discounted office space for nonprofit groups, among other things."

The Undeveloped Green Water Treatment Plant Site: Now Just a 4.4 Acre Fenced Lawn

The editorial also points out that the City shifted responsibility for construction of a $60 million underground parking garage from the City to the Developer, further increasing the development costs.

The bottom-line seems clear the market has accelerated dramatically over the last few years. Downtown land values continue to spike. There is more need than ever for affordable housing downtown. The 4.4 acre site -- one of the best downtown sites that will ever be developed -- requires the City to get the best deal possible. Since it's City-owned land, community pressure is building for the Council to look at increasing the cash payment for the site, increasing the about of affordable housing included within the project, and decreasing City costs by shifting as much development responsibility to the developer.

According to the Statesman, "The council has time to do that when it again takes up the Green proposal on April 26. If its goal is to get more or longer-term affordable housing, council members should be willing to pay for that with concessions or trade-offs in the proposed deal, given that Trammell Crow is paying market value for the land and building an underground parking garage. Perry Lorenz, who is working with Trammell Crow, said its intentions still are to build senior housing on the site. That is good; it should be spelled out in a new deal, as well. . . Certainly the city is wise to do business with the private sector regarding the sale of Green; as city property, it is not generating taxes or income. Trammell Crow estimates that when developed, the project will generate $112 million over 30 years in city property taxes. A previously adopted council policy would steer $67 million of that to the city budget for services such as parks and libraries and $45 million to a fund the city uses to build and renovate affordable housing across the city.

The Green deal offers a good opportunity to increase affordable housing downtown. It is public property, and there is value in having a downtown that is populated by people from different walks of life. But the city has to be willing to pay for that benefit on property that, when sold, will be in private hands."

Metered Parking: Good for Downtown Business

Six months ago, the City of Austin began charging drivers to park on downtown streets Thursday to Saturday night until midnight. Prior to the change, parking spots would fill-up early in evening -- or early in the weekend -- and spots would remain full all night. Now it's much easier to find downtown parking.

According to City, the result of the change has been an increase in parking capacity with room for as many as 6,000 more cars on downtown streets on most weekend nights. With the change, the City reports, long-term parking has moved into garages while short-term parking has stayed on the street. According to KXAN, "Now, people are about three times more likely to find a space on the street to park."

The additional parking may have boosted business revenue dousing the period, although it is difficult to attribute the corresponding rise in business revenue and taxes during the period to just one source.

Update: Green Water Treatment Redevelopment

Nearly four years ago, the City picked Trammell Crow to redevelop the 4.4 acre Green Water Treatment site on the Southwest end of downtown. Now, with the site finally cleared and ready fro construction, the $500 million project remains stalled as the City Council further deliberates on the planned land and development deal.

According to the Austin Business Journal, "Some residents are complaining that Trammell Crow's plan doesn't offer enough affordable housing and there are concerns being expressed about safety issues for construction workers. The downtown block of land at Cesar Chavez and San Antonio streets was appraised at $41 million. Under the agreement, Trammell Crow would purchase the land for $42.4 million over the course of a few years."

Renderings of the Proposed $500M Green Water Treatment Site Redevelopment

One of the major issues driving reconsideration of the project is Tramell Crow's reversal of its 2008 commitment to provide 320 units of affordable housing as part of the development. According to YNN, " Trammell Crow plans to lease 127 apartments below market rate for seven years so more families can afford to live downtown, which is fewer than the 320 units pitched to planners in 2008. "We want to go back over this project and make sure that we are getting the maximum return on our investment, that we are getting the levels of affordability and that they are staying affordable for more than just five years," Martinez said. Martinez says 40 percent of property taxes gained from Project Green will go to the city's affordable housing trust fund.

The City Council is now scheduled to vote on the project on April 26.

Keep up with AustinTowers

Unbelievably, AustinTowers just celebrated its fifth anniversary! With nearly half a million visits, we're thrilled with our very loyal base of readers! For our anniversary, we're excited to help our thousands of frequent readers to keep up with the News on AustinTowers!


Tell us more about why you visit the site and how we can best serve you. Send us story ideas! The best part of running AustinTowers is the great comments that we get from readers on our registration forms. Register here!


We've added integration with Facebook so you can share the site directly with friends. If you like the site, please click the link below to register your support (or the link on the sidebar). It means a lot to us!

iGoogle & Google Reader

As always, if you use Google for search, we've made it easy to add our news feed to your google home page. Simply click on the "Add to Google" button below (or on the sidebar) and you will be directed to Google to create an iGoogle search page like the one below, to add AustinTowers to an existing iGoogle page, or to add AustinTowers to Google Reader. Once added, you'll see our latest headlines whenever you visit your iGoogle page to conduct a web search. If you later change your mind, it's easy to remove the AustinTowers feed or to revert to a basic search page.

Add to Google


As many of you know, you can also subscribe to the AustinTowers feed on this site by simply clicking the Orange RSS feed button on the sidebar or by following this link: AustinTowers RSS Feed

Thanks for visiting the site! If you have ideas or feedback, send us a note to register and add comments! We love to hear from our thousands of monthly readers! We appreciate everyone's support -- it's what keeps us going after 5 great years!

Austin: Top Investment Market

According to and data from the National Association of Realtors, Austin is the second-best real estate investment market in the Country. Out of 146 markets analyzed nationwide, Austin placed second after Tucson, Arizona.

Austin ranks high for the potential for market appreciation and ability to generate financial returns through renting. With a very strong rental market, rapidly increasing rents, and low interest rates, more people are purchasing investment properties in Austin. According to the Austin Business Journal, "Austin’s potential for price growth is one of the best in the nation and the median list price of $229,500 is about 12 percent higher than a year ago."

The Top 10 Real Estate Investment Markets:

1. Tucson, Ariz.
2. Austin
3. Kansas City, Mo.
4. Baltimore
5. Fort Worth, Texas
6. Salt Lake City
7. San Jose, Calif.
8. Raleigh, N.C.
9. Milwaukee
10. St. Louis

With high downtown rents and low interest rates, an increasing number of buyers are looking to invest in downtown condos, funding the payments by renting the units out. While it is increasingly possible to make such investments "cash flow positive," many building restrict speculative purchases by limiting the ability to rent out units. Some buildings have special rental deeds which require larger deposits.

It's Official: Austin Growing Like Crazy

According to the Austin Business Journal, Austin is the second fastest growing urban area in the country.

"Austin experienced the second largest urban population growth over the last 10 years when compared to its peers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among urbanized areas with populations of 1 million or more, Austin — with a growth rate of 51.1 percent — ranked behind Charlotte, N.C., which grew 64.6 percent from 2000 to 2010."


More information is available here.

Nokonah shows strong Price Appreciation, 360 Growth Flat

It's well known that the value of a condo is mostly determined by the value of the building. No matter what improvements you make to your Railyard condo unit, it will sell for less on a $/SF basis than a unit in the Austonian. For this reason, we've crunched our full-year 2011 data to see how various buildings performed in terms of realized pricing and appreciation over the last year. If you live downtown, view this as a handy guide to the likely value of your unit.

Here is what we learned:
- The most expensive projects are all new: the W ($620/SF), the Austonian ($557/SF), and Spring ($436 / SF).
- Units in the W averaged an insanely high $1.24M each
- 360, the largest downtown project, had the most annual sales at 46: almost one per week
- Greenwood saw the highest rate of year-over-year price appreciation at 16.8%, followed by the Nokonah at 15.9%.
- Two condo conversion projects, the Brown Building and Brazos Place, saw the largest yea-over-year price declines (-11.0% and -10.5% respectively)
- Greenwood, Towers on Town Lake and Sabine were the most affordable downtown projects and also some of the fastest appreciating
- The two biggest selling projects, 360 and Shore, saw relatively flat price appreciation
- Milago stood out as a high performer with solid sales volumes, price appreciation, and very rapid sales

Here is the full analysis:

2011 MLS Sales Result by Building: Price & Sales Trends
Avg $
2010 $/SF
Y/Y %
Avg SF
% Ask
W Austin Hotel & Residences






Spring Condo






360 Condominiums



Austin City Lofts



904 West



Shore A Condo



Brazos Lofts Condo Amd



Plaza Lofts



Five Fifty 05






Railyard Condo



Brown Building



Cambridge Condo



Brazos Place



Avenue Lofts



Sabine On 5th



Towers Town Lake






2011 MLS Sales Results by Building: Least and Most Expensive Units


Max $
W Austin Hotel & Residences






Spring Condo






360 Condominiums



Austin City Lofts



904 West



Shore A Condo



Brazos Lofts Condo Amd



Plaza Lofts



Five Fifty 05






Railyard Condo



Brown Building



Cambridge Condo



Brazos Place



Avenue Lofts



Sabine On 5th



Towers Town Lake






Exclusive: January & February Sales Fetch Higher Prices

We've updated the AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Austin Condo Market Index for January and February, 2012, and our seasonally neutral 12-month tracking index set four new records. With January and February sales included, the 12-month tracking index set records for the highest $/square foot ($336), average sales price ($405,503), newest units (avg 1997) and shortest average days on market (78.8) as well. When combined, the two months saw a 20% increase in condo sales in comparison to the same time period in 201.

January, 2012 Downtown Condo Sales
Avg. Price
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask




















YoY Change




February, 2012 Downtown Condo Sales


Avg. Price
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask




















YoY Change




One of the factors driving high sales values was the inclusion of two big dollar sales. One of these was another $2.3 million sale in the W and the latter was a $2.6 million sale in the Austonian, the most expensive unit recorded in MLS since we began tracking downtown sales 4-years ago. As a result, both months show significant improvements in price, $/SF, and size. Days on market continues to improve, showing increased strength in the downtown market. Sales also showed a shift toward higher price bands with 2 units sold for less than $200K, 5 units sold for $200K - $300K, 11 for $300K to $500K, 3 X for $500K to $1 million, and 3 for more than $1 million.

Top buildings during the two-month period were 360, Spring and Milago with 4 sales. The remaining sales were spread across 9 additional buildings. As usual, additional private sales -- which are not reflected in the MLS data -- continued to close at Spring, Four Seasons, the W and Austonian.

See the full index here.

Migration, Job Growth Likely to Push Real Estate Prices up

The factors that drive real estate appreciation are very well known: migration, job creation, low interest rates, and accessible credit drive price appreciation as long as supply isn't increasing equally rapidly. Over the next two years, Austin will see very strong migration and job creation in a low-interest rate environment with only small increases in the supply of housing. As a result, both rental rates and housing prices are expected to rise. In downtown Austin, where prices are already rapidly increasing, this trend should be particularly strong.

According to Employment Spectator, Austin will add more than 45,000 jobs in the next 2-years as well as 88,000 new residents swelling the metropolitan area population to more than 1.8 million by the end of 2013. Today, Apple alone announced plans to build a new $300M+ campus in Austin to hold 3,600 new employees.

According to the article, "Angelos Angelou, who published his firm’s 26th annual forecast on Thursday, the major drivers in job growth would be venture-backed startups, renovation of tech companies already functioning in the area, and a stronger real estate sector. To this would be the added the factor of immigration of skilled labor from other parts of the country infusing new blood in the local human resources pool.

Experts say that except a miss in 2009, Angelou’s economic reports for the past 26 years have been able to predict Austin’s economy with fair accuracy. The only miss of 2009 was, however, on a positive note as he predicted a job growth of only 2000 positions, while Austin outdid itself by adding 16, 000 new jobs against the prediction.

Point to note, is that Austin’s performance in employment growth has been quite poor in the last two fiscal years with a meager growth rate of 1.7 percent, while other cities in Texas had an average job growth rate of 2.3 percent. Last year, Austin added only 12, 800 jobs to the local economy."

In addition, "The report expects a spurt in real estate activities during 2012-13 with an estimated 8, 000 new apartment units and 14, 500 single-family dwellings.
Austin’s development is also expected along entertainment industry events including the unabated growth for South by Southwest festivals, the Austin City Limits music festival, and the city’s first Formula One auto race scheduled to launch in November. According to the report, only the Formula One event can have an economic impact of an additional $500 million annually."

Starting Today: Friday & Saturday Night MetroRail Service

Starting today, MetroRail trains will run on Friday and Saturday nights, ferrying people to and from downtown on a new evening schedule that runs from 4pm to midnight every weekend.

According to the article, "The city-funded service will begin March 23. But Capital Metro on its own dime will have late Friday and Saturday service for the two weekends prior, starting March 9. Like the ongoing service to come, the March 9 and March 16 Friday trains will run until midnight rather than stopping about 6:30 p.m. But the Saturday service March 10 and March 17 will begin much earlier than what will happen beginning March 24. For those first two weekends, because of expected heavy demand during the South-by-Southwest festivals, Capital Metro will run Saturday trains every 34 minutes from 10 a.m. to midnight. On March 24 and thereafter, the trains will run on 35-minute intervals starting at 4 p.m. and ending at midnight."

The Coming Transformation of South Lamar

So many areas of the City seem to be changing so fast. In addition to Seaholm, Green, and the Waller Creek area, multiple developers have proposed ambitious projects for the South Lamar corridor. South Austin development is clearly controversial, and a flood of new proposed apartments and retail will likely see considerable opposition.

According to the Austin Business Journal, "Six apartment projects are currently being planned or are under construction, adding nearly 1,700 apartments in the next few years. Areas where apartment complexes being planned include Sterzing Street and Barton Springs Road; 1717 Toomey Road; South Lamar Boulevard and Juliet Street; South Lamar Boulevard and Treadwell Street; 1219 S. Lamar Blvd.; 1500 S. Lamar Blvd., currently under construction."

In addition, developers have announced plans to redevelop the strip mall that houses the Alamo Drafthouse and Highball into a more-dense multiple use project.

Michael Hsu Office of Architecture Rendering of South Lamar Plaza

Michael Hsu Office of Architecture Rendering of South Lamar Plaza

dwg. | urban landscape architecture Rendering of South Lamar Plaza

Furthermore, the Statesman reports that "two prime properties just south of Lady Bird Lake are on the market, including a parcel where developers planned to build luxury condominiums priced as high as $6 million.

The recession halted plans for the condo project that was to be built on Barton Springs Road just east of South Lamar Boulevard. The site housed the trendy Mackedrick's Treehouse restaurant and nightclub in the late 1970s and subsequently other venues, but the angular glass building has sat vacant on the 1.5-acre tract for a quarter-century.

Now, that land and the adjacent Park Terrace Apartments, a 65-unit complex that was built in 1962 and renovated in 2001, are being offered for sale. Brokerage firm ARA Central Texas is billing the parcel as "an unparalleled development opportunity" to own about 4 acres with unobstructed downtown views."

Previously, the treehouse restaurant and nightclub site were to house 1155 Barton Springs, a super high-end low-rise condo project adjacent to Peter Pan golf and the train tracks. The 27 units were originally priced at $1 - $6 million in a project that was often shown as a poster child of condo boom excess.

While there is strong demand for South Austin housing -- south Austin rents are among the highest in the City, often as high as downtown rents -- the south Austin neighborhoods remain many of the City's most iconic and resistant to change. Many people fear that further development and gentrification will damage the charm that makes the area so popular and eclectic. We will continue to track these developments as they proceed.

Hike & Bike Boardwalk Underfunded but Project will Proceed

According to the Statesman, "the boardwalk trail over and along Lady Bird Lake might cost at least $3.3 million more than estimates released for the 2010 City of Austin bond election that authorized the project. The city received eight bids for the work, all far exceeding the expected cost." Despite the significant projected cost overrun, the City remains committed to finding the funds to complete the popular downtown project.

The Hike and Bike Trail that runs alongside Ladybird Lake in downtown Austin is one of the City's most-valued recreational areas. 3,000 - 15,000 people use the trails each day to run, walk, bike, or relax. Unfortunately, the trail loop is incomplete: a 1.1 mile gap on the south shore on either side of I-35 is a problematic hole in a much-loved 10-mile loop. Ttrail users who venture East of Congress Avenue on the south shore "must divert onto the narrow sidewalk and travel along busy Riverside Drive, crossing 35 busy business entrances and other points of conflict and crossing 6 lanes of I-35 access roads to travel east or west and use the south side of the Trail."

Last year, the City passed $14.4 million in bonds to build a boardwalk in the lake to close the entire 1.1 mile gap. The bonds were contingent on a contribution of $3 million in private funds to be raised by the Trail Foundation. This week, the Trail foundation announced good news: they have quickly raised $2.4 million of the $3 million goal and are increasing the target to $5 million to fund additional trail improvements.

Renderings of the New Boardwalk
Proposed Hike and Bike Trail Boardwalk

According to the article, Howard Lazarus, director of the city's Public Works Department, said there are numerous options for coming up with the extra money — unspent bonds authorized in past elections, bonds that might be OK'd this November, short-term borrowing, even private donations — and that the project is not threatened. He said he anticipates settling on a source, or sources, for the extra money later this week, and that the city staff probably will make a contractor recommendation to the City Council by late March or early April. That would allow the project to begin construction by late May."

Aquatic Center, Water Slides, Lazy River Planned Downtown!

There are many downtown proposals that I look at and say: who thinks that is a good idea? And there a few that look interesting and that I hope work out well. The new downtown park proposal for Lamar Beach looks so crazy awesome that all I can say is that I would like for it to be done now.

If this gets built, it will transform downtown daytime fun with a beautiful mix of architecture, pools, water slides, diving boards, lazy rivers, ballparks, running trails, lakes, and natural landscaping. The renderings below tell the full story.

(image credit dwg. | urban landscape architecture)
Lamar Beach Austin Acquatic Center

(image credit Runa Workshop)
Lamar Beach Austin Acquatic Center

(image credit Runa Workshop)
Lamar Beach Austin Acquatic Center

Lamar Beach Austin Acquatic Center Water Slides

Lamar Beach Austin Acquatic Center

According to the Austin Business Journal, "More details have been obtained about the YMCA’s proposed public-private partnership for the Lamar Beach park area currently made up of the Town Lake Animal Center and ball fields north of Cesar Chavez between MoPac Expressway and Lamar Boulevard.

A team of architects, designers and engineers mostly from the Austin area worked with the YMCA and the city to come up with the concept of a sustainable multi-purpose park.

The YMCA is committed to raise $10 million to $15 million in capital for the project, estimated to cost $38 million to $42 million, said James Finck, president and CEO of the YMCA.

He said they hope to include $25 million to $30 million in funding for the project on the city’s 2012 bond initiative. . .

The aquatic center will be open to the public and operated by the YMCA.

The 29-lane, 70-meter pool should be welcome news for swim teams that have trouble finding space to meet.

“We can’t keep up with demand,” Finck said. He said the YMCA will continue using its indoor pools.

Additionally, there will be a recreational pool with water slides and a lazy river.

Plans for the surrounding facility include offices, a multipurpose room, retail and a cafe.

Also planned for the 35-acre site is a bio-filtration pond, a boardwalk, a trail that runs along the roof of the aquatics facilities building, a multipurpose field that could host concerts and events, bike lockers and restroom facilities. The current roadways will be connected along the north and more parking will be added."

Waller Update: 9 Design Teams Selected

The redevelopment of Waller Creek will lead to a wholesale transformation of the East end of downtown. As a massive tunnel diverts floodwaters and removes the area from the floodplain, an independent conservancy is driving bold plans for redevelopment of the area. The first step is a design competition.

On Monday, The Waller Creek Conservancy announced the results of the first phase of "Design Waller Creek: A Competition." Out of 31 submissions, nine design teams were selected will continue on to the next stage of the competition. The goal is to pick a design team lead development of a master plan for Waller Creek redevelopment across the southeast corner of downtown.

Waller Creek As it Flows through Downtown

The lead design teams chosen by the independent jury to advance to Stage II includes a good selection of local and national design firms:

Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos and Miro Rivera Architects
Civitas and BIG New York City
CMG and Public Architecture
James Corner Field Operations and SHoP
!melk and Page Southerland Page
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners
Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Saucier & Perrotte
Turenscape and Lake | Flato Architects
Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects and Rogers Marvel Architects
In Stage II, the lead designers must assemble complete integrated design teams that are capable of executing the project. To assist in this effort, the Conservancy will host a networking session to provide an opportunity to local consultants and contractors, including small, women- and minority-owned and small, disadvantaged businesses, to meet with the nine lead design teams for potential opportunities to team up during Stage II of the competition. The networking event will be held February 28, 2012 at the Palm Door on 401 Sabine Street from 10 a.m. to noon.

The lead designers will decide who and which disciplines they choose to include, with a focus on the design phase as opposed to construction. The target audience for the networking session includes architects and landscape designers; civil, structural and MEP engineers; cost consultants; project/program management; urban planning and design, and specialty design consultants.

"Waller Creek presents a unique landscape challenge and we will see some incredible teams formed to respond to this challenge in the next phase," Stephanie Lee McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy, said. "This process, the first of its kind for Austin, has been thrilling and we are eager to see the work of the teams selected to advance to Stage II."

Exclusive: Full Year Analysis of 2011 Downtown Austin Condo Sales

The Annual AustinTowers | urbanspace Condo Sales Report
2011 Analysis: Downtown Austin Condo Sales

2011 showed new market strength as volumes, prices, and $/SF rose broadly across the market. With the addition of new, high-end inventory at the W and Austonian, the market saw increased breadth with more sales in mid and high-price bands. Sales were up 16% from 2010 and 74% over 2009.

With very few new condo units on the horizon, inventory is rapidly decreasing as more units are selling quickly at prices close to the asking price. By almost any measure, it's the strongest downtown Austin condo year in recent memory. If interest rates stay low and lending standards continue to return to more normal levels, 2012 should be a strong year for condo resale and condo values.

With new pricing records set throughout the year -- and a few big dollar unit sales --- the average condo price rose an amazing 13% to $388,157. During 2011, 195 downtown condo units sold -- not including additional non-MLS sales at the Austonian, W Residences, Four Seasons, and Spring -- for a record average of $329 / SF. Unit sizes were unchanged from last year and slightly newer, continuing a four year trend that has moved the average year of construction from 1983 in 2008 to 1996 today.

While the year ended strong, it is important to note that much of the increase in value, and a small part of the increase in volumes, comes from the expensive new units that sold in the big new projects. Not all existing buildings saw the same market average price appreciation: there were winners (Nokonah +16% $/SF, Milago +8%, Towers Town Lake +7%) and losers as well (Brown Building -11% $/SF, Brazos Place -11%, Cambridge Condos -8%). Buyer preferences seems to be favoring newer, nicer, taller buildings.

Downtown Condo Sales: 2008 - 2011


Avg. Price
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask















+ 3.7
- 27

A close look at the 168 recorded MLS transactions revealed the following highlights:

  • Once again, 360 was the downtown project with the most sales (46 this year, 38 last year)
  • 360 values, a good benchmark of the health of the market, were unchanged $377 / SF vs. $378 last year
  • The newest projects had the highest $/SF: $620 / SF at the W, $557 / SF at the Austonian, and $436 at Spring
  • The average time to sell a condo was 83-days, a 17-day decrease from 2010.
  • 7 units sold for $1 million or more during 2011 compared with 8 in 2010, 2 in 2009, and 1 in 2008.3 of these units -- including two priced over $2 million -- were in the W. There were 2 sales each in Austin City Lofts and the Nokonah. There were likely many more unreported non-mls $1+ million sales in the Austonian, W, and Four Seasons.
  • Despite a higher volume of sales, there were fewer values to be found. In 2011, only 27 units sold for less than $200,000 vs 38 units in 2010. The least expensive condo sold for $91,500.
  • Units sold the fastest in Greenwood (29 days) and Milago (31 days) and slowest in Plaza Lofts (260 days) and the W (156 days).

While 2011 far exceeded 2010 results, it is also worth noting that the market was stronger on almost every dimension than the peak market in 2008. As we look forward, it seems that 2012 will most likely be defined by a continuation of the trends that we have seen over the last year: constant inventory, slow but steady sales at the new high-end buildings, a sell-out at Spring, a reduction in inventory priced below $200K, and a broadening of the resale market for larger, more expensive units.

Over the next few weeks, we'll continue to provide detailed analysis of 2011 results, including a full analysis of building-by-building performance.

New 23-Story Rainey Street Apartment Tower to Rise, Block Neighboring Views

Novare, the developer of 360 and the firm behind the recent acquisition of the downtown post office site, has announced plans for another downtown Austin apartment project.

The new 23-story tower will rise in the rapidly transforming Rainey Street neighborhood on a long-narrow site directly east of Milago and north of Legacy on Town Lake. The new project is likely to extensively block the views of residents in both units -- especially residents on the East side of Milago.

The project, to be named SkyHouse Austin, will be enormous, adding 320 apartments to the Rainey Street district. The development will also contain ground floor retail and restaurant space. The project will be designed by Atlanta-based Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart Associations Inc.

Hopefully, the project will bring much-needed public-parking to the increasingly popular bar and restaurant district. Rainey street is one of the few corners of downtown that doesn't have a surplus of parking.

Exclusive: November and December Sales Set New Records!

We've updated the AustinTowers | urbanspace Downtown Austin Condo Market Index for November and December, 2011, and our seasonally neutral 12-month tracking index set four new records in each of the two months. With November and December sales included, the 12-month tracking index set records for the highest $/square foot ($329), average sales price ($388,157), and % of list (96.4%) as well as the lowest average days on market (83.4). However, after a long streak of increasing monthly sales, both November and December saw significant decreases in the absolute number of monthly sales.

Avg. Price
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask
















YoY Change





Avg. Price
Avg SF
Avg Year
% Ask
















YoY Change




One of the factors driving high sales values was the inclusion of two big dollar sales. One of these was a $2.35 million sale in the W, the most expensive unit recorded in MLS since we began tracking downtown sales 4-years ago. As a result, both months show significant improvements in price, $/SF, and size. Days on market continues to improve, showing increased strength in the downtown market. Sales also showed a shift toward higher price bands with 7 units sold for $200K - $300K, 5 for $300K to $500K, an amazing 8 for $500K to $1 million, and 2 for more than $1 million.

Top buildings during the two-month period were 360 with 7 sales and Spring & W which each had two sales. The remaining sales were spread across 7 additional buildings. As usual, additional private sales -- which are not reflected in the MLS data -- continued to close at Spring, Four Seasons, the W and Austonian.

See the full index here.

More Lady Bird Lake Improvements Planned

Lady Bird Lake may be the most-prized downtown destination. This week, a new grant was announced that will further improve the South Shore of the lake. The American Institute of Architects will contribute as much as $200,000 to improve the South shore of the lake.

According to the Austin Business Journal, "The areas around Lady Bird Lake that will benefit from the grant include the South Shore Central subdistrict, South First Street to the west, and East Bouldin Creek to the south and west."

USPS: No More Downtown Post Office

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it had come to agreement with Novare Group -- the developer of 360 -- to sell the current downtown post office site and to relocate the post office in early 2013. Novare is looking at building a new high-rise development on the current low-rise site.

Now, the U.S. Postal Service has confirmed the they will close the site next year and that they do not plan to open another downtown site. Once the site closes, downtown post office customers will need to go to the South Congress post office location for USPS service.

The downtown post office building may be the worst structure constructed downtown in the last century. It wastes a prime central block (Block 51) with an enormous elevated parking lot. It leaves all four sides devoid of retail, restaurants or cultural use. It places the structure in the middle of the block, far from the street and close to parked cars. It wastes a prime tall-building lot with a tiny 2 floor structure.

With mounting financial troubles and shifting demand for postal services, the USPS has been closing Post Office locations across the country. With the impending sale of the downtown site, it is no surprise that the USPS will not open a new site downtown. However, it is unfortunate that the growing pool of downtown residents -- many who do not own cars -- will no longer have a Post Office that they can walk to.

Sabine: the Next "Great Street"

Austin's great streets program has transformed second street into a prime downtown hub with wide sidewalks, rich landscaping, public art, controlled traffic, and crowded street cafes. Today, second street is a key destination for residents, tourists, and other visitors to downtown.

With the Waller Creek tunnel eliminating the flood plain on the East end of downtown, Sabine (the street between Red River and I-35) may be the next street to be transformed into a downtown destination.

According to the Statesman, the City is looking to transform Sabine "between East Fourth Street and East Seventh Street into a promenade that, according to a 2010 master plan for the Waller Creek district on downtown's east side, "can become a catalyst for the revitalization of the area."

Although the promenade details remain to be worked out, that master plan for Waller Creek, which meanders just east of this section of Sabine, anticipates that more than 55 feet of the street's existing 80 feet of right of way would be given over to broad sidewalks on each side, with a double row of trees on one side and a single row on the other.

The makeover would be similar to other "great streets" designs the city has done and continues to do elsewhere downtown, but this one would be oriented even more toward those on foot and on bikes."

Since much of Sabine Street is undeveloped -- there are plenty of parking lots -- the street redesign would create a foundation for developers to in the Area. The goal would be for the street work to be completed by 2014 to coincide with the completion of the Waller Creek Tunnel project. At that point, the Eastern end of downtown is likely to experience rapid and dramatic redevelopment as a large area is removed from the flood plain.