Spring: The View from 41

Tonight, Spring hosted hundreds for a special party on the 41st floor of the newly formed tower. After a shaky ride in a 20-person exterior construction elevator, visitors were treated to some of the highest views in Austin from a vantage point that has never before existed.

The views were amazing. Most notable was the ability to watch the city and the traffic and the water and the Long center and Whole foods and all of the downtown action from a quiet perch in the sky. As we have reported, Spring is now 55% sold with units remaining priced from $300K to roughly $1 million. In addition, there is a full-floor 42nd floor penthouse which will be available for $5.5 million.

We saw Kevin Burns from urbanspace at the event who provided good advice on picking a view: go for a corner with both water and city in sight. The water is always beautiful, and the city lights provide visual interest when the hills and the rest of the city disappear after dark.

Here are some images from the top of the tower:

Spring view of 360 and Lake

Spring Austin Condo Sunset View

More Images Here:

New Zilker Park Residences Renderings

Zilker Park Residences, the high end condo and boutique hotel project on the edge of Zilker park has released a series of renderings which illustrate the design and site plan for the project. Zilker Park Residences will be a 40-unit high end development with condos ranging in size from a large 1,515 square foot one bedroom to the largest 3,241 square foot unit (although multiple units have already been combined to form condos as large as 6,700 square feet).

The project as designed will include three separate 5-story condo buildings and a fourth building dedicated to the boutique Hotel Zilker , restaurant, and bar. The project, which was reportedly 40% sold as of September, is slated to begin construction in March.

The new renderings include the first images of the planned Hotel Zilker, the 65 room boutique hotel that shares the site with the ZIlker Park Residences. The small boutique hotel, which is slated to open in Fall of 2010, may be the only hotel ever developed on the border of Zilker park. For events like Austin City Limits, it will be a very desirable place to stay. According to the developers, Hotel Zilker will provide condo owners with multiple amenities.The project will include a neighborhood restaurant, bar, and hotel itself will serve as extra guest bedrooms just steps away from the residences.

Here are the new renderings:

ZIlker Park Residences Project Rendering
Zilker Park Residences

Interior Rendering
Zilker Park Residences Austin Condo Interior

Zilker Park Residences Site Plan
Zilker Park Austin

Hotel ZIlker
Hotel ZIlker Austin Picture ZIlker Park

The Definitive Downtown Condo Map

As the old adage goes, the three rules of real estate are location, location, location. And for this reason, Austin Towers has licensed the best mapping technology that we could find to make it easy for readers to find and navigate projects by location.

While a sample map is shown below, the top-of-the-line fancy interactive map can be found on the new Austin Towers map page located here. In addition to showing all new and completed projects with images and their own color-coded pins, the full map includes a comprehensive project table that lists all current projects with their key statistics.

CommunityWalk Map - Downtown Austin Condo Map

The full map can be found here!

Hasta La Vista: La Vista on Lavaca?

La Vista on Lavaca, an eight-story residential mixed-use tower consisting of 19 condominiums on the top four floors, a three-floor Executive Business Center, and first floor restaurant, seems to have halted construction mid-way throught the process. The project was being developed by Guerrero-McDonald.

While outside of the downtown focus of this site, La Vista on Lavaca may be an unusual mid-project catatrastrophe. Typically, projects do not break ground until they have lined-up enough sales to receive financing to support the entire construction process. The developers of La Vista on Lavaca -- which billed the project as “Downtown Living for Grown-up Texans” -- began construction after receiving a building permit and a street closure permit last April. They renewed the street closure permit once in November but failed to renew it at it’s recent anniversary.

While it is unknown why the project halted construction and whether it will resume, it appears that construction has actually been frozen for months. The developers claim that the project will be completed and that construction was to resume soon. They have not explained why it stopped for many months this winter and spring. There is also no word on how many units were actually sold and whether the buyer will receive credits or their money back for the severe construction delays.

With the interest raccumulating quickly and contracts that typically require developers to meet tight deadlines, mid-construction stoppages are extremely rare. Typically, stoppages only occur when projects run out of money or when the developer and key contractors win-up in a legal dispute.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

Jeffee Palmer had gotten used to the inconvenience caused by construction on Lavaca Street between 17th and 18th streets, and then she started wondering what happened to it.

For almost a year, Palmer has taken a circuitous route around a part of West 17th Street that is closed at Lavaca to get to a parking garage a block from the William P. Clements State Office Building, where she works as an assistant attorney general. That part of 17th Street is a major eastbound link for several thousand state employees who work in the Stephen F. Austin, the William B. Travis, the Lyndon B. Johnson and other state buildings just to the east.

In addition to the 17th Street closure, a block of the right lane of Lavaca Street has been closed for almost a year.

The developers of La Vista on Lavaca, a luxury condominium and office project, took out a permit with the City of Austin on April 20, 2007, to close the block of 17th Street between Lavaca and Colorado streets during construction, said Jason Redfern, manager of the Right of Way Management Division in the city’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department.

The developers paid $99,900 to the city to keep the street closed for six months, Redfern said. The permit was to have been renewed for the same fee every six months until construction was completed.

The developers renewed their street permit in November 2007 but failed to renew it in April, Redfern said.

No one in Redfern’s department knew when construction stopped, but Palmer said she has not seen anyone working at the site for months.

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north and West 15th Street to the south are strained during rush hour, Palmer said. Impatient motorists often drive into parking garages through the exit ramps to avoid traffic, she said.

As she stood in front of the construction site Tuesday, two Department of Public Safety squad cars drove into the garage from the exit-only side.

Palmer said she began searching the Internet about three weeks ago for a phone number to call to get an answer about why the street remained closed.

An e-mail inquiry to the Public Works’ Street and Bridge Division yielded a telephone number that provided an automated message offering Palmer several options for having building permit questions answered.

“I was trying to find out what kind of animal is this that the city can close down public access indefinitely,” Palmer said. “I realized that it was going to take me too much work to find out. That’s when I got in touch with Statesman Watch.”

Until Tuesday, Redfern said, the city was not aware that the developers owed $99,900 to renew the street closure permit and didn’t know why construction had stopped.

Redfern said that he began making inquiries and that he was told that construction would resume soon. “This one is very unusual,” Redfern said. “You normally don’t see construction starting and stopping like this.”

Mary Guerrero-McDonald, one of the principals in the La Vista on Lavaca development, disputed the city’s contention that its street permits were not current.

Four Seasons Residences: Austin's Most Over-the-top Rendering

When buying a condo in a project that is little more than an idea on paper, a hole in the ground, or a stubby concrete shell -- it takes some imagination to put real money down. These days, this is the major challenge facing many of the downtown Austin condo sales centers as they try to sell units to prospective buyers.

To solve this problem, the Four Seasons Residences has created an unusually over-the-top video rendering of ttheir future building. Since thd buidling is little more than a 20 foot tall concrete shell supported by wood planks, the video does an amazing job of capturing the experience of the new buidling.

Here it is:

For reference, here is what the Four Seasons Residences looks like today:

Four Seasons Condo Residences Austin 2008

Surprise Compromise Saves Riverside Condo Project

While the city continues to approve many variances to large downtown projects, there has remained one downtown Austin zoning request request that seems truly sacred: building in the protected zone around Lady Bird Lake. While long-standing rules prohibit construction within 200 feet of the former Town Lake, a new project may soon be built 50 feet closer to the lake than current rules allow.

CWS Riverside Austin Condo Project Rendering

In a new compromise with community groups, CWS Partners intends to build a scaled-down 8-story project 150 feet from the lake instead of the three 17-story apartment and condo towers with more than 800 units that had previously been proposed. With the support of community groups and a commitment to extend the popular hike and bike trails through the site, the new proposal should fare well as it works it's way through the standard zoning approval process. This is a productive compromise for both sides and a positive sign for the condo market. With the national housing market in such a weakened state, it is a strong endorsement of the market to see developers work so hard to bring a new project to market.

The proposed CWS project is to built on land currently occupied by long-standing apartments built much closer to the lake. Prior to the release of the current rules in the 1980s (they were revised in 1999), buildings could legally be built much much closer to the shore (as close as 25 feet). CWS prior position was that without their requested variance, they would build two 17-story towers within the legal setbacks and simply remodeling the existing apartments into town homes -- a legitimate exception to the setback requirements.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

In a precedent-setting compromise, developers have agreed to reduce the size of a controversial high-rise residential project on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake and donate land to extend the hike-and-bike trail across the site.In exchange, neighborhood and community groups that had mobilized against the project have made concessions that will allow the project to go forward.The deal reached this week ends a nearly two-year standoff between CWS Capital Partners LLC and the South River City Citizens and Save Town Lake, which had fought to block the project on East Riverside Drive, saying it would violate limits on waterfront development.Austin-based CWS had proposed to build three towers up to 200 feet high and to build within 80 feet of the lake.Under the compromise, the buildings will be no more than 96 feet high, and the project would be set back a minimum of 150 feet from the lakeshore. . . CWS will bring the revised project back before city officials for approvals. With the new agreement, the company will donate 1.5 acres for parkland and extend the hike-and-bike trail, which now stops at the western edge of the site.Miller said it will take four to six months to work through the city approval process and that construction could begin in 2009.

Seaholm Plan Approved: New Downtown Neighborhood to Emerge in 2011

Last week, the city approved a master plan for the redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant site on Cesar Chavez near Lamar. The $117.2 million project, a partnership between the city and Southwest Strategies, will result in a 22-story hotel, 60 condo units, and 180,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. Between the initial proposal and final draft, the condo portion of the project was reduced from 80 units to 60 units.


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

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

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The Austin City Council approved the master development agreement for the $117.2 million Seaholm mixed-use redevelopment project today.The agreement says the development group Seaholm Power LLP, led by Southwest Strategies Inc., will pay $98.6 million or 84 percent of the cost of the project, while the city will pay $18.6 million. The redevelopment plan calls for a 22-story hotel, 60 condo units, 130,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The 150,000-square-foot decommissioned power plant will be the centerpiece of the 7.8-acre property across Cesar Chavez Street from Lady Bird Lake.The city's contribution to the project, which will be raised through property and sales tax revenues, would pay for street and utility improvements, public parks and a parking garage. The city will continue to own the renovated Seaholm Power Plant.

21c Condo Project Magically Relocated to Waller Creek

In a highly unusual move, developers of the 44-story 21c hotel and condo development have abandoned the planned third and Brazos project in favor of a new multi-building complex to be located a few blocks East on Waller Creek. The new project, also to be named 21c, will first include a 16-story hotel with 243 rooms which will be followed by a 49-story condo tower. The hotel will break ground in 2009 and the condo tower is expected to break ground by 2010. The hotel will also double as a contemporary art museum.

The original 21c project was late to the game, announced just 2 months before the summer meltdown of U.S. credit markets. Although 21c had been actively marketing condo units through a sales office on 6th and Congress, the developers will essentially start from scratch with their condo marketing efforts for the newly planned 295 unit condo tower. At this point, prices have not even been announced.

While the Austin hotel market remains strong, 21c's unlucky timing likely made condo marketing difficult. With the new plans, the developers separate the hotel, residential, and a newly announced commercial tower into three separate projects. This allows them to begin quickly with the economically viable and modestly-scaled hotel project while testing the waters on the other two fronts. When (and if) sales and leasing goals have been met, 21c will be able to embark on the other two towers. One clear sign of the developers preference for hotel rooms over condo and commercial projects is the simultaneous announcement that the existing 21c site on Third and Brazos will also be developed into a new hotel. If all projects are completed on the new site, the project will cost $350 million, a significant jump from the originally planned $200 million hotel-condo tower.

21c Condo Project Downtown Austin

With the move, the new 21c buildings will anchor a high-potential development district on the East end of downtown just north of Lady Bird Lake. The project will be located on a large 3.5 acre site surrounded by park and close to the much-loved downtown hike and bike trails. In the new location, the project will anchor a potential Austin "riverwalk" along Waller creek. 21c is the first major project to take advantage of a city-sponsored $125 million tunnel designed to remove the creek from the floodplain.

Here are some additional details on the new project:

-The new site will be home to the project’s 243-room hotel, 295 residential units, retail, spa, pools, museum, restaurants and other amenities.

- The project, including an underground parking garage, currently totals over 1 million square feet. The development team plans to develop another 425,000 square feet on the site as either a future office/retail or residential/retail tower. The entire project represents a $350 million investment.

- The new location allows the project to be enhanced with park space, a sculpture garden, signature spa, retail, indoor/outdoor meeting space and additional parking.

- The project will include an innovative and accessible restaurant that will emphasize local and sustainable agriculture and feature contemporary American cuisine. Michael Bonadies, CEO of ACE, was previously a founding partner of the New York-based Myriad Restaurant Group, which owns and operates such well-known restaurants as Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Rubicon.

- According to the developers, some of 21c’s most innovative aspects will be its artist lofts and new contemporary art museum, open free to the public 365 days per year. Twelve artist lofts will be made available at favorable rental rates for living and studio space. The museum will provide a new venue for contemporary visual and performing arts.

- The team of architects for the project includes Deborah Berke & Partners, a well-respected New York firm, Goody Clancy Architecture of Boston, and Susman Tisdale Gayle, and Austin firm that is often selected to participate in major downtown projects.

We'll update the 21c profile as soon as full details become available.

The Central Austin Condo Conversion Boom

Last year, 824 Austin apartments were converted to condos. This year, that number is expected to grow to 1,167. As downtown condo prices have skyrocketed to $400 / SF or more (sometimes much more), a wave of Central Austin rental properties are being converted into more-affordable central condo buildings.

Many of these new projects offer upscale central living for much less than the price of the major high-rise projects. As downtown condo prices have rapidly increased while rents have grown at a slower pace, downtown condo conversion provide a quick return for developers. While the price is lower -- often $200 - $250 / SF -- the product is also very different. Unlike the new glass, concrete, and steel downtown towers with panoramic views and high-quality build-outs, most of the current crop of conversions are low-rise renovations of older wood-framed buildings without views and with limited amenities. The main attraction is the price of entry, with units starting under $100K -- they are the most reasonable yet chic living options within miles of downtown.

Representative projects are being completed in Clarksville, East Austin, and South Austin.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

Ryan Robinson, demographer for the City of Austin, said that with demand for downtown area housing skyrocketing, "market pressure pushes prices up, and property owners can realize a larger margin from selling units as condos."Most of the converted units have emerged from apartments built in the 1960s and 1970s in "prime locations" in Central and Southeast Austin that command higher-than-average prices, Davis said.Often they appeal to buyers because they offer "upscale living in a mixed-use development" with boutique-style retail, restaurants, coffee bars and the like, "all in one new urbanism-type community in the heart of the city," Davis said.Barbara Ditlow, a real estate agent with Capital City Sotheby's International Realty, knows of four condo conversions in South Austin, all with updated wiring, plumbing and walkways, plus granite counters, stainless steel appliances and wood floors. . . But Ditlow said buyers need to do their homework before purchasing converted condos."Some (developers) buy these apartments at high price points and have to skimp on the finish-out to meet the bottom line," she said, adding that it's important to research the developers and their track records. "Don't get stuck with sow's ear when you thought you were buying a silk purse."

2020 Congress Downtown Austin Condo Conversion
The $13.5M 2020 Congress Project in South Austin includes units priced from $97K for 425SF to $200K for 943 SF

41 Waller Downtown Austin Condo Conversion Project
The 30-unit 41 Waller conversion project in East Austin has units starting at $215K for a 936SF 2-bedroom condo

Austin Four Seasons Residences Breaks Ground

After seven years of planning and multiple iterations, the Four Seasons Residences will break ground this week. As we have seen with many of the recent downtown Austin condo projects, they are not truly real until construction begins. Having reached that milestone, the 32-story Michael Graves-designed tower is now expected to open to residents in 2010.

With 166 condo units priced from $500 - $750 per square foot and monthly condo fees of $0.61 / square foot, the Four Seasons Residences represents an ambitious super-luxury project for Austin. It was not too long ago that the Four Hotel Seasons hotel itself was almost a strange site in such a down-to-earth town. But times have changes and demand is strong. The project reports that they have received 10% deposits for 40% of the planned units. Interestingly enough, half of the buyers so far hail from outside of Austin -- a new twist for the emerging local high-end condo market. However, with 60% of units to sell, much work still lies ahead.

When combined with the Austonian and W, the Four Seasons Residences represents an entirely new ultra-luxury urban high-rise experience that has never existed and that will not exist in Austin until the first of these projects hits the market.

Four Seasons Residences Austin Condos Michael Graves Rendering

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The Four Seasons Residences, one of downtown Austin's highest profile luxury condominium towers, will break ground this week, seven years after initial plans were thwarted by the tech bust of 2001.The newly designed 32-story tower will rise in the parking lot next to the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake. The building's 166 residences will be priced from $400,000 to $4 million, with units from 880 to 5,500 square feet. Four Seasons will manage the building, which is expected to open in the first quarter of 2010 and become a landmark on the evolving skyline.The $125 million project is a venture between local developers Ardent Residential and Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc, the financier. Michael Graves & Associates Inc. designed the tower, which will have a terra cotta-colored brick base that will blend with the hotel, developers say.The first major sign of construction will come later this week when crews begin demolishing the hotel's 123-space surface parking, which will be redirected to an underground garage. The new tower will include five levels of above-ground parking.The construction entrance and staging area will be on Trinity Street to minimize disruption for the hotel, said Art Carpenter, a principal with Ardent Residential.

New Downtown Project: Quorum Lofts

It's been a while since Austin Towers has had the privilege of announcing and profiling a new downtown Austin condo development. Today, we are pleased to announce that Quorum Lofts, a new capital-area loft conversion project, has been announced with a target completion date of late 2008 or early 2009.

The new project will convert a 1964 office complex on 13th & Guadalupe -- 2 blocks West of the Capital -- into a dramatic modern
26-unit condo project. With the Capital-area location, the project (and the name) are targeting legislators and other Capital district employees who might be the excited by the idea of walking just a few hundred feet to work. The project is aiming for a crazy fast development timeline with delivery before the end of 2008. Although the developers hope to beat the rush of projects arriving in 2009, the deadline will be hard to reach unless they receiving zoning approval and begin construction quickly.

Units in the Quorum Lofts will be big - ranging from 1,450 to 2,450 square feet with prices starting near $500,000. The project will include a rooftop infinity pool and lots of nice features such as high 10 foot ceilings, granite counter tops,and jetted soaking tubs. We have posted a full profile here.

quorum lofts austin downtown condo

Here is additional information from the Austin Business Journal:

Local developer John Graham knows there are plenty of condo projects on the horizon for downtown Austin.But with most of the next set of big towers not scheduled for delivery until 2009, Graham sees big potential in bringing a development to market quicker -- and in a location just steps away from the Capitol.Graham's company, AustinPartners.net, hopes to get approval on a building permit in the next month for redevelopment of the property at 1300 Guadalupe St. The $10 million Quorum project slated for completion late next year would turn a three-story office building constructed in 1964 into modern, loft-style condos.Work is set to begin in January on the project that will add a fourth floor to the building and create 26 condos ranging in size from 1,450 square feet to 2,450 square feet and priced from $350 a square foot to $450 a square foot.The fourth floor will feature a spa and negative-edge, or "infinity," pool overlooking the Capitol. A glass elevator fronting Guadalupe will feature views east toward the Capitol. A second phase that would add structured parking and more units is also being considered.

The Evolving Riverside Condo District

The shores of Riverside drive on the south side of Ladybird lake are about to undergo a dramatic transformation. Starting next year, four separate developers will begin construction on as many as 3,000 luxury condo and apartment units. With close access to downtown, the South Congress entertainment district, the lake, and the hike and bike trails, the location is highly desirable yet less expensive than the city core.

As we have reported, some of these projects have requested zoning variances to allow them to build closer to the lake than the 200 feet that the current rules allow. As a result of the zoning opposition, one developer has decided to redevelop the existing structures, some as close as 20-feet to the lake, as opposed to building new structures with a 150 foot set back. As part of the development, an extension of the hike and bike trails between Congress and I-35 and beyond is likely on the south shore of the lake.

The scope of the combined Riverside-area development is incredible: 3,000 units are now planned - more units than currently exist in all of downtown. While it will take many years for the projects to reach fruition, construction of the first projects will begin next spring.

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The transformation of East Riverside Drive from a sprawling, well-worn, affordable enclave into a dense and upscale urban village will begin in earnest in the spring, when the first planned condo project is expected to break ground.Australian developer Constellation Property Group plans to begin work in March on its 225-unit project at the northeast corner of Interstate 35 and Riverside Drive. The Star Riverside condos, which will sell for between $400,000 and $1.2 million, will be broken into four buildings ranging from 60 to 110 feet high.The first owners are expected to move in in April 2009.Constellation faces competition from numerous condo projects planned in the vicinity.AMLI Residential hopes to break ground by the middle of next year on 375 luxury apartments on 11 acres at the northwest corner of East Riverside Drive and South Lakeshore Boulevard. In addition, Sutton Co. will build at least 45 condos. Construction could take up to two years.Cypress Real Estate Advisors also hopes to break ground next summer on a mixed-use development that will replace 800 aging apartments with as many as 2,500 apartments, condominiums and townhomes, as well as commercial, retail and live-work space on a 50-acre site on South Lakeshore Boulevard.

New Project: "Zilker Place Condos"

John Wooley, the founder of Schlotsky's, this week announced plans for Zilker Place Condominiums, a new 74-unit condo development on a prime lot on Barton Springs road adjacent to Zilker Park. With quick access to the park and the hike and bike trail, three 5-story buildings will be constructed on a 2 acre lot that currently houses the restaurant Wanfu Too. Prices for the units will start at $300,000 for 900 square feet and will top out at $1.3 million for a 3,030 SF unit. The project will feature a central courtyard and pool, screened porches on many units, and protected views of Zilker Park.

Here is a rendering published by the Statesman:

Zilker Place Condominiums on Barton Springs

When combined with Barton Place, a 270 unit project just a few doors down, it is clear that the area on Barton Springs between the park and Lamar is now in store for a radical transformation. With two large projects on the way, tax increases will certainly put pressure on the remaining restaurants and mobile home parks that form this prime area of the city. As the blocks develop, one of the most important elements -- one that is missing from current plans -- may be a requirement for ground-floor retail up and down the street. It would certainly be detrimental to Austin to lose a full district of iconic restaurants for a few mid-rise condo buildings.

Although Wooley originally hoped to build a much taller tower, he intelligently reformed the project as a 5-story venture that fits just within local zoning requirements. The local neighborhood association has provided vocal opposition to other projects. Given Zilker Place's location adjacent to the park, it would have been very difficult to secure political support for variances.

New: Four Seasons Residences Listings

Since many of the large new condo projects are being privately marketed through in-house sales agents, the only way to get unit details and pricing is to schedule a meeting and visit the sales center. Recently, however, the Four Seasons Residences has added a number of units to the Austin MLS -- making the details publicly available for the first time.

Currently, there are 8 units listed ranging from a 1,060 SF one bedroom unit for $580,000 to a 2,692 SF three bedroom, three bath unit for $1,918,000. One interesting note is the wide variance in price-per-square-foot which ranges from $459 to $764 -- it's highest for the largest units.

The listings, as well as new listings for Sabine on 5th, are available Here: AustinTowers Downtown Condo Listings

BartonPlace Sells 61 units, Lines Up Financing

There has been lots of mixed news on the national and local real estate front over the last few months -- so it is a relief to see good news from BartonPlace Condominiums.

According to the developers, the project has taken $30 million in deposits on 61 of their 270 units. With strong pre-sales, the project has been able to secure financing for the project from IBC Bank in Austin -- clearing the biggest hurdle to a new project and setting them up to begin construction in the first quarter of 2008. The project is being developed behind Austin Java on Barton Springs road.

BartonPlace Barton Place Condos in Austin

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

The BartonPlace announcement Friday comes amid a dramatically changed lending and credit environment nationwide, with experts predicting that some Austin condo developers who don't already have financing might find it much tougher to get, meaning some projects might not get built.But the credit crunch hasn't hurt the BartonPlace project. It is expected to break ground in March at 1600 Barton Springs Road, replacing the Shady Grove RV Park.Unit prices will range from $259,000 to about $700,000.Warshaw said BartonPlace sales are the strongest he and Constructive Venture principal Perry Lorenz have seen in any of their projects, which include four in East Austin. Austin Java co-owner Rick Engel also is a partner in BartonPlace, which will incorporate the Austin Java restaurant at the front of the 4.3 acre site.

Monarch Profile Added

We've added a full profile for the Monarch -- the 305 unit rental-turned-condo project at 5th and West, just East of Whole Foods. The project is named for the Butterfly-like structure on the roof and is scheduled for completion in early 2008. The building features units from 681 square feet to 3,530 square feet and priced from the low $200,000s to $1.75 million.

The Monarch Condo Austin Downtown

The full profile is here.

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

Another New Project: Hyatt "Andaz" Condos

In April, Hyatt introduced a new boutique-style luxury hotel brand called Andaz. The first hotels, they announced, would be placed in world's most important "international cross-road" cities. And so far, three such locations have been announced. First was London. Second was midtown Manhattan. And the third location to be announced is— believe it or not — Austin, Texas.

The 210-room hotel is slated to open in 2010 as part of a $750M development on 32 acres formerly occupied by Concordia University. The site is located between I-35 and Red River near 32nd street. On top of the hotel will also sit 150 condo units ranging in size from 800 to 2,700 square feet. The building will be 182 feet tall and condo units will start at around $400,000 or a whopping $500 / SF for a non-downtown location.

hyatt andaz austin hotel condo project concordia tower

Here is a summary from the Statesman:

The hotel, which is expected to open in 2010, will offer amenities such as a spa and fitness center and a 20,000-square-foot park-like roof that includes a cocktail lounge and restaurant.It will have appeal in Austin for its high-quality amenities but also will reflect the city's casual atmosphere, Sarwal said."The Andaz concept will integrate well with this prime location and Austin's cosmopolitan energy," Steve Haggerty, global head of real estate and development for Global Hyatt, said in a statement. "Together, we intend to attract customers looking for fresh, uncomplicated luxury."The hotel will be energy-efficient and will use ecologically friendly building materials. It will also offer organic food.

This is the second major project announced in the last 10 days after a multi-month lull in major announcements. While it's not downtown, it represents another major investment in central Austin and likely signals the creation of a promising new district.

New Project: 8th & West Tower

Between the credit crisis, skyrocketing construction costs, and the slowing real estate market, we didn't expect to see anymore downtown condo projects for a while. Today, however, we were surprised to learn of another downtown condo project announcement.

Austin's Fortis development today announced a new 20-story 200-unit condo tower to be developed on West avenue between 8th and 9th. While virtually no other details have been announced, the public details are enough to generate public opposition to the project. As the project is in a low rise area just north of sixth street, the project pushes the frontier of high-rise development.

fortis development west 8th 9th condo

The issue is that the location is zoned for buildings as tall as 60 feet -- far less than the 250 foot height of the proposed condo tower. This decision may be a tough one for the city council: they need to decide on the boundaries of Austin's high-rise downtown. In the projects favor, it is within two blocks of the Nokonah at 9th and Lamar, CLB's proposed 33-story super tower on 7th and Rio Grande, and another project on 6th and West. As the developer points out, it is one of very few downtown blocks free of capital view corridor restrictions.

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

A new condo high-rise is being proposed on West Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets, but residents in the neighborhood on the western edge of downtown have registered their opposition.David Cox, president of Austin-based Fortis Development, is seeking a zoning change to build a tower of up to 250 feet, or about 20 stories, in an area where office zoning now caps height at 60 feet. The project would have about 200 condominiums plus retail space.The zoning request is scheduled to go before the city's Planning Commission on Tuesday, and the City Council would have the final say.If all goes as planned, the project would break ground in the fourth quarter of 2008, said Cox, who also is a vice president with Cypress Real Estate Advisors Inc., which has provided some financing for Fortis, his new development venture.

We'll post additional details and a full profile when we receive them!

Fight over Riverside Lakefront Towers Continues

While zoning variances seem easy to come by for most downtown condo projects looking for increased density or height, there is one request that remains sacred: building in the protected zone around Lady Bird Lake. Long-standing rules prohibit construction within 200 feet of the former Town Lake.

This is a problem for CWS Capital Partners which is trying to build three 17-story apartment and condo towers with 715 units on the south bank of Lady Bird Lake between Congress Avenue and I-35. The project has requested a variance to build 50 feet closer to the lake than current rules allow. The project has faced significant opposition and lost a crucial vote last week.

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

A developer seeking city approval to build three high-rises 50 feet closer to the shores of Lady Bird Lake than city rules allow struck out at the city’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting last night when board members recommended that the city should deny its request.Board members voted 5-4 against CWS Capital Partners’ request for a variance that would allow it to build 150 feet from the shore. The board’s vote will serve as a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which could hear the case as soon as September.More than 70 people attended Tuesday night’s meeting including many nearby neighbors and lake enthusiasts lobbying against the variance for the property located at 222 and 300 E. Riverside Drive.Board chair Linda Guerrero was one of the members who voted to deny the request.“There was an overwhelming concern regarding the project, and the citizens seemed to want to preserve the waterfront overlay (the current rules) overwhelmingly,” she said.

While CWS had been requesting a 150 foot variance, this was a major concession as their original plans called for an 80-foot setback. The project is built on land currently occupied by long-standing apartments built much closer to the lake. Prior to the release of the current rules in the 1980s (they were revised in 1999), buildings could legally be built much much closer to the shore (as close as 25 feet). If CWS does not receive approval for the current variance request, they have proposed building two 17-story towers with the legal setbacks and simply remodeling the existing apartments into town homes -- a legitimate exception to the setback requirements.

While it might make sense to replace old townhouses that are close to the lake with new buildings 150 feet from the lake, the political debate has focused on the integrity of the regulations. The lake is the crown jewel of Austin and the council has taken a "no exceptions" approach to preserve the integrity of the green space surrounding the lake. While it is easy to focus on the setback, an equally important goal of many residents is to extend the hike and bike trails to the east. In fact, one public interest group endorsed the 150 foot version of the CWS proposal.

While the zoning issues are settled for now, it does not seem like the city will get everything it wants: a 200 foot setback, demolition of the old apartments, and an extension of the hike and bike trails to the east. Hopefully CWS will take up the slack, striking the right balance between their development needs and the public interest.

BartonPlace Shows Condo Demand is Still Strong

BartonPlace, a planned 270-unit condo project behind Austin Java on Barton Springs Road, announced today that despite recent media attention and public speculation about whether the Austin condo market is being overbuilt, 300 people have already made reservations for a chance to buy a condo in their 270-unit project. They also announced that they will end the reservation project after tomorrow. After that, the only way to reserve a unit will be with a sales contract on any that do not sell in the pre-sales period. The project is expected to begin construction later this year.

The project includes one, two, and three bedroom units starting at $263,000 for 683 feet. With a prime location close to downtown and next to Barton Springs pool and park, the project will is in a great location and well priced. As we have seen with many of the downtown projects, the lower the price, the higher the demand. Projects like 360 with many units under $400K have sold very quickly.

The full profile is included here.

Project Rendering:

BartonPlace Barton Place Condo Project Austin Barton Springs

Approximate top floor view:

21c Museum & Condos Takes a Step Forward

The 21c Museum & Condos moved a step closer to reality this week. The project, a 44-story tower which will combine a museum, hotel, and condos in a very attractive structure on Third and Brazos, received approval from the Austin Design Commission. Next, the Austin Planning Commission will review the project on September 11 before it's final review by the City Council. Given the buildings strong support, it seems to be well positioned for approval.

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

"The 21c museum, hotel and condo development slated for Third and Brazos streets will reach 44 stories into the Austin skyline, making it a dominant presence in the area of downtown east of Congress Avenue. The $200 million project will include 209 condos along with an upscale, 230-room hotel and contemporary art museum. The Design Commission voted unanimously on Monday to support the project, which has already garnered the approval of the city's Downtown Commission and support from the Downtown Austin Alliance."

The building is expected to begin construction in January and to be completed in 2010. The sales center is expected to open later this month.

Austonian (sort of) Breaks Ground

The Austonian, a 56-story tower at 2nd and Congress that would become the tallest building in the city, staged an elaborate "ground-breaking" ceremony today to signify the beginning of construction. While the ground-breaking does hold real symbolic value, it did not involve much in the way of construction equipment. For the ceremony, a pile of dirt was constructed in the middle of the lot and then symbolically dismantled by a large crowd of well-dressed dignitaries in business clothing and matching white hard hats!

While the ground-breaking does not truly commit them to completing the project, it is a step in the right direction. The project team announced that they have lined up full financing for the project from Spanish sources. With the financing complete, they are now commencing construction. When the cranes go up, it will be a good sign that the building will truly be a reality.

The Austonian is an exciting project that is one of the most bold developments in Austin. At 56-stories and with 188 units starting at $500,000, the project is exclusively focused on the high end of the market. This is the segment that remains the most unproven downtown. The commencement of construction is a good sign for the Austin condo market, especially in the middle of the current credit crunch and ongoing subprime lending crisis.

Austonian Austin Condo Ground Breaking Ceremony

Update: Downtown Condo Sales

We have lots of updates today on the state of sales at the leading downtown projects:

- The W Austin Hotel & Residences, which is currently building a sales center at Block 21 in downtown Austin, reports that about three-fourths of the 196 condo units have been reserved with a deposit. Construction of the building will begin in October.

- At Spring Condominiums just south of Whole Foods, 40% of the units are under contract. They report that they have sold out of all of the lower priced units. The building broke ground last month.

- At 360, the 44-story tower next to Austin Music Hall, 90% of the 430 units are under contract. The building has been very desirable because it is tall, well-located, and reasonably priced with virtually all of the units priced under $500K. The building has been under construction for a while, it is already approximately 30-stories tall.

- The 305-unit Monarch, also just a block from Whole Foods, is cryptically reporting that "there are prospective buyers for at least half of the units" although it remains clear whether these buyers have signed contracts.

- The Four Seasons Residences reported a month ago that 80% of the on floors 14-32 had already been reserved after just 6 weeks on the market. As a result, they have now opened the lower floors - floors 6 to 13 -- for reservations. They expect to begin construction later this fall

Spring Condo Update: Construction Begins, Sales are Strong

The Spring condos, an attractive 42-story green-colored building just south of Whole Foods, is under construction and selling quickly. According to the marketing center, construction began on July 24th and completion is expected Spring of 2009. As of today, 40% of units have already been sold.

We have learned of additional details of the planned project:

- 75’ lap pool on the 5th floor with an outdoor kitchen
- Private dining for rent with a full kitchen 
- Gas cooking 
- All 2 and 3 bedroom residences are corner units with 180 degree views
- 2 and 3 bedroom units come with 2 reserved parking spaces
- There is a rentable guest suite available to building residents
- Bosch appliances are standard
- Pets allowed
- Designed as a Green building

The latest renderings or shown below -- and we've updated the full AustinTowers profile on on the project.

Spring Condo Tower in Austin Skyline

Spring Condo Project Bathroom Austin

Spring Condo Project Kitchen Austin

Spring Condo Project Interior Austin

Spring Condo Tower Pool Austin

Seaholm Construction Begins

Construction has officially commenced on a five-year project to transform the Seaholm power plant and surrounding site near Cesar Chavez Street and Lamar into a large mixed-use project. The initial phase of construction, as expected, include mostly infrastructure enhancements and site preparation.

Seaholm is a 7.8 acre site, the main feature of which is the 136,000 historic art deco decommissioned power plant. The redevelopment project will add a 22-story hotel and condo project featuring 80 condo units atop a 160 room hotel. While the initial phase of the project will open in 2008, the Seaholm Plaza Hotel is not expected to open until 2010.

The project will also include offices, extensive retail, and more than 3 acres of open space. However, the most exciting part of the project is the redevelopment of the Seaholm facility itself. When complete, the art deco structure will include nearly 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.

More than anything else, Seaholm will further shift the heart of downtown to the west. While downtown life used to center around 6th street between Congress and red river, the warehouse district, 2nd street district, and Whole Foods have shifted the balance. With Seaholm, the downtown action will increasingly be centered between Congress, Lamar, 5th, and Town Lake.

New Austin Four Seasons Residences Renderings

The Four Seasons Residences, the new condo project adjacent to the hotel, has released new renderings which provide a great feel for what the building will look like when it is completed. The renderings also show a slightly modified exterior design: more upper floors have been added with full glass walls. These replace the lower floors with smaller windows. The change is the result of the elimination of rental apartments which were initially planned but since have been replaced by additional condo units. The building is designed by Michael Graves, a world-famous architect.

The pictures show sample units as well as the rooftop amenities: a pool, yoga deck, and sun deck more than 30 floors above town lake. The pictures complement a very impressive "walk-through" video rendering of the project which can be viewed in the Four Seasons Residences appointment-only sales office.

As previously reported, the project recently opened the lower floors to prospective buyers after more than 80% of the units on the upper floors were reserved in the initial sales phase. The project seems to be on track to sell out by ground-breaking sometime this fall.


SoCo Lofts Near Completion on South Congress

While dozens of high rise condo projects rise from the ground in downtown Austin, interesting condo developments are also nearing completion in other parts of the city. One notable project is the SoCo Lofts which is nearing completion in the red hot South Congress district. This 69-unit condo development with ground-floor retail is located near Saint Edwards University. By building outside the core of downtown, the project has been able to hit a price point that is much lower than any current downtown project. With 616 SF units starting at $169,900 and 2-bedroom units starting at $289,900, the project is at least 25% less expensive than the new downtown projects.

SoCo Lofts

The SoCo Lofts are not alone: a number of interesting projects are currently under development on South Congress, South Lamar, and on the East side across I-35 from downtown.

Here is a full profile of the project:

21C Museum-Hotel-Condo: Major New Downtown Project Announced

A Kentucky-based developer announced plans for a unique 44-story tower on a prime downtown lot today. The $200M project, "21c Austin" will combine a private contemporary art museum, condos, and a boutique hotel run under the 21c brand. The project is based on the 21c Louisville, which is the top-rated hotel in the city of Louisville, Kentucky.

Here are some of the details from today's Statesman:

Another dramatic change could be on the horizon for Austin's skyline, as plans take shape for a 44-story tower that would combine luxury condos and a hotel that doubles as a modern art museum.Developers today will announce a $200 million project at Third and Brazos streets that is to include a 21c Museum Hotel, the second such project following the successful opening of one last year in Louisville, Ky. The project would have 209 guest rooms and 200 condos as well as a world-class contemporary art museum that would offer free admission year-round to allow the public to experience original art in a nontraditional setting.

The investment in the project is truly staggering: $200 million for 779,000 square feet. It's nice that the developers are investing first for underground parking, an expensive rarity in Austin, as well as for the museum which will add another cultural destination downtown while providing the project a creative identity. The project is being constructed at 3rd and Brazos on the current site of the Whitley printing company -- a windowless black stucco one floor industrial building that has had "future condo site" written all over it. The project will require variances for the large size and is expected to break ground in 2008 with a planned completion in 2010.

The project architects include Deborah Berke & Partners, a very well respected boutique, modern New York firm as well as Goody Clancy Architecture, a national firm based in Boston. Susman Tisdale Gayle, a local firm retained to assist with many of the large Austin projects, will also be involved.

The renderings show a very attractive project:

What's the bottom line? First, it's nice to see developers who could choose any city in the world choose Austin for such a unique $200 million project. This concept, more than most, will make a significant positive contribution to the downtown Austin environment. It will also be a key project in an important part of the city: the area between Congress and the Convention Center, between Sixth and the lake. While the Second Street District and the contiguous Warehouse District are becoming the heart of downtown, this area is the prime connective tissue to historic Sixth Street, the important Convention Center District, and the rest of downtown. The area is threatened by the terrible Marriott block between second and third, congress and Brazos where a huge retail-less hotel monolith will break the westward pedestrian traffic flow from the 2nd Street district. This project will help balance the area, providing a hub for new restaurants, bars, and shops and hopefully creating a bridge between these important downtown neighborhoods.

While pricing has not been revealed, the developers have implied that the project will compete on the upper-end of the market with the Austonian and the Four Seasons condo project. As this market for high-end condos has not previously existed in Austin, it's too early to tell how the project will fare financially. However, the unique boutique hotel will certainly be a welcome addition just a block from the convention center.

As always, the full AustinTowers profile can be found here!

Very Expensive Barton Springs Living

Developers just announced plans to proceed with a 4-story, 27 unit development on Barton Springs just east of Lamar. The project is a very odd combination of location and pricing that suggests a lack of experience in residential development.

Here is the summary from the Statesman:

Now called 1155 Barton Springs, the project will consist of a four-story condominium building atop three levels of parking. The building will replace the long-vacant Treehouse restaurant and nightclub at Dawson and Barton Springs roads, which is next to a railroad track.Developers Elisabeth and Steffen Waltz and their partners plan to sell 27 condos for $1 million to $6 million each, well above the price range of the most expensive downtown-area condo projects announced to date.Skeptics may question the prices because of the location. But the developers say several factors set the project apart: It will have large units, from 1,600 square feet to more than 6,200 square feet. The grounds will be designed by the renowned landscape architectural firm Peter Walker & Partners of Berkeley, Calif.The building's concrete and sound-proofing insulation will minimize noise from the railroad.And its location near cultural and arts venues, including the future Long Center for the Performing Arts, is expected to appeal to arts patrons.

This project does not sound viable as planned. With prices starting at $625 / SF, it is 25% more expensive than the next highest price proposed project - the beautiful Pelli designed 5th & Congress project. And with a location on the south side of busy Barton Springs adjacent to the railroad, McDonalds, and Peter Pan mini golf, it's not a top location. And with units priced as high as $6 million, it's clear they have not done their research. There are almost no residential sales over the last five years of houses above $5 million -- that is a price point that just does not exist in Austin. Maybe, the Austonian can sell a crazy penthouse for $6 million - but it is not going to happen on the fourth floor of this project.

The Austonian: Crazy Luxury?

Today's Statesman brought to light new details on the planned 55-story Austonian:

The Austonian, the swanky 55-story condo tower planned for Second Street and Congress Avenue, is pulling out the stops on amenities. The bathrooms will have marble walls; the kitchens will have Italian cabinets and built-in cappuccino machines, and 54th floor lounge will have a catering kitchen. A 10th floor "urban garden" will include a lap pool, billiard room and outdoor movie screen. It also will have a dog park with a scented, self-cleaning doggie toilet — just the thing for pampered high-rise pooches. Prices will range from $550,000 to $3.8 million and higher than that for buyers who create a custom unit on the three highest floors. "We knew what the standard was, and we wanted to blow it out of the water," said Laura Gottesman, whose firm, Gottesman Windham Real Estate, is marketing the units.

The market remains unproven for super-high-end projects -- it will be interesting to see whether there is enough demand to make the Austonian successful.

Four Seasons Residences May Actually be Built

After seven years of proposed projects, the developer behind the Four Seasons Residences claims that the project will break ground this year. Apparently, the developer is self-financing the $100 million project -- eliminating the pre-sales hurdles which stall many projects before construction.


75% of 360 Units Sold in 3-Weeks

An incredible 75% of the 430 units in Novare Groups' 44-story 360 project are now under contract after just 3 weeks on the market. The units, which are mostly priced between $190K and $550K, rank among the most affordable units in the current downtown condo boom. This demonstrates, once again, that there is tremendous pent-up demand for reasonably priced units in central Austin.

Today, there are only 9 listings in the Austin MLS (360 is being marketed privately and is not reflected in the MLS numbers) in all of central Austin — areas 1b. 1a, 2, 4, 6, 7. To find similarly priced homes, buyers need to look far outside the city center. In contrast to other options, central high-rise developments seem to be very attractive to buyers. As this sales rate shows, units priced under $400K will move very quickly -- there will likely be ongoing demand to fill quite a few projects like this one. Novare, in fact, is planning additional 35-story and 40-story tower on the central post office site and an adjacent lot for completion by 2010. These units will priced in a similar range to the 360 project.

AustinTowers ongoing reader survey (please take our survey if you haven't already!) has shown so far that more than 90-percent of potential downtown Austin condo buyers are looking for units priced under $400K with the median target price for buyers currently around $300K.

The Condo Conversion Wave

The Statesman reported today on three condo conversion projects currently under way in downtown Austin. All three projects will transform commercial space into new condos. As thousands of residential units are being built in Austin for new residents who want to live and work in downtown. Compared to the boom in condo development, there is relatively little new downtown office space being developed downtown. These conversions will take additional office space offline. All in all, the city seems headed for a healthy commercial-residential mix.

One of the projects is "Sabine on Fifth" - an 80 unit 10-story building on, go figure, Sabine & 5th just west of I-35. Units will start at $190K for a 700 SF one bedroom apartment. the most expensive unit is in the mid 500's for 1,461 SF. The second project is the Brazos Place Condominiums, which we've fully profiled. It's units are already on the market. The Third project is Capital Tower which would include just 25 "Ultra Luxury" units atop an office building at 9th & San Jacinto. The project is still in the early planning phase.

Here is a picture of Sabine on Fifth:

Barton Springs Project Proposed

While it's technically out of the downtown radius, Texas American Resources is proposing a 14-story mixed-use project on Barton Springs Rd. between 1st and Lamar and directly across from the Long Center. The building would include 24 condo units atop 86,000 feet of office space and a ground floor restaurant. The site is the former location of the iconic Filling Station restaurant which closed in 2004.


"Hyatt Towers" Approved

Today, the Austin City Council approved a project that will include two towers, each approximately 20 floors, adjacent to the Hyatt on the south shore of Town Lake. The project, to be developed by Fairfield Residential of Grand Prarie, shows how much the attitudes towards development has changed over the last few decades. Read More...

Downtown Post Office Redevelopment

Not everybody is thrilled with the rate of development downtown. However, most Austinites would agree that the downtown post office at 6th & Guadalupe is one of the worst developed sites in the city. They took a prime downtown lot and built a small ugly 2-story post office that takes up less than 30% of the block. They surround it with a parking lot and a couple of mailboxes.

Last year, Mayor Wynn went to DC to lobby for redevelopment of the site. The fed agreed, proposals were submitted, and Novare Group Holdings of Atlanta---the firm behind the 360 project--was selected. Today, more details were announced. Read More...