Austin on a high rise building boom
Ground zero for the latest coming gathering of tower cranes is at Red River and Cesar Chavez Sts. and along neighboring Rainey St. On the northeast corner of the intersection will rise the 50-story Fairmont Austin hotel, which when finished in 2015 will be the city's second tallest building at 580 feet high (after the 680 foot Austonian at Second St. and Congress Ave). It will add some 1,000 new rooms to the city's tight hotel stock, which will help the Convention Center across the street attract the larger meetings it has missed out on due to the shortage in accommodations. The tower is slated to break ground in November.
A block or so away at the end of Red River, the long-planned Hotel Van Zandt project starts construction this summer on a 16-story, 327-room structure next to The Shore condo tower. It was scaled down from the original plan for a 29-story hotel and residential tower.
Just announced for development on the southwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River is three-tower mixed-use project called Waller Center with an estimated $500 million construction budget. Plans call for a 64-story hotel/condo highrise (which would become Austin's tallest structure), a 35- to 45-level apartment tower and a 17- to 20-story office building, all planned to break ground in mid-to-late 2014.
At the southeast corner of Rainey and Driskill St. a 327-unit apartment building with a ground floor restaurant will soon be underway, displacing Lustre Pearl – the "Rainey Street Bar That Started It All" as its website says – which will reportedly be moved though where to is not yet known. (Previously announced for that site was a much bigger development of two mixed-use towers, both over 40 stories tall, plus a later office highrise.) A 182-unit residential tower with a ground floor restaurant and retail space is planned at 70 Rainey, and the 21-story Skyhouse Austin apartments is nearing completion at Water St. and Rainey. Also planned for some time now is the 144-unit North Shore Lofts condo project at the end of Rainey on the banks of Lady Bird Lake next to the Holiday Inn.
All this activity begs the question of how it will affect the bustling Rainey St. nightlife district of bars and eateries that sprouted in old single family homes in the not-too-long-ago moribund residential neighborhood. Can they coexist with the towers, or will development spur further new construction along the street?
Just as transformational to Downtown is the building activity in the area around the retired Seaholm Power Plant, next to which the new Central Library recently broke ground. A public/private partnership will not just repurpose the historical plant building with office and event space but also erect a 30-story apartment tower plus low-rise structures housing retail, restaurants, office space and a Trader Joe's. The project starts construction this summer.There is much more.
Austin growth is building at a faster rate than most Texas cities which are also seeing a building boom. Finding downtown hotel rooms has become difficult of late, but high rise living is also a growing trend in Austin. The city has blown by places like San Francisco, Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Florida putting it close to the top 10 cities in the US