Although the pandemic has stifled real estate projects in much of the nation, developer Turnbridge Equities LLC managed to bring a unique, successful spin to Austin's South Congress area. By encompassing the same moniker as the venue's Music Lane sidestreet, from a branding perspective, the new, multi-use development strikes the right chord.
Designed by architecture firm Lake | Flato, the project is constructed along the north end of the South Congress entertainment district at Academy Drive. At a total area of just over 300,000 square feet, the site combines office, retail, restaurant and fitness venues.
"A lot of people don't realize that Music Lane was actually first a street (off) South Congress," said Taylor Shepherd, communications and engagement manager for Endeavor Real Estate, the firm that serves as the commercial real estate leasing agent and property manager for a majority of Music Lane. "The development itself was drawn from that name and that street so we also love that it pays homage to Austin's live music scene."
She said the project aims to fill the gap between downtown and South Austin, with that goal reflected in the mix of local retailers as well as stores that are making their Texas debut in the project.
- Allbirds, Buck Mason, Equinox (fitness)
- Le Labo
- Madewell Men's
- Manready Mercantile
- Nak Armstrong
- Neighborhood Goods
- Tuft & Needle
"There was a strong desire from the retail community to be on South Congress, something upscale," Turnbridge Principal Roger Plourde said.
Deep and wide, he said two acres within the roughly three-acre tract that was redeveloped offered the opportunity to provide individual tenant spaces within a structure featuring paseos and walkways converging at central spots.
The second and third phases were revitalized from older, garden-style apartments, Plourde said.
However, the timing of the project's opening—to coincide with Austin's iconic SXSW festivals—proved a bit frustrating for the developers as the pandemic took hold, Plourde said.
The first retail tenant, Allbirds, opened just seven days before the commercial district shut down in March, Shepherd said. Two other tenants also opened very briefly that week; however, all three stores closed shortly thereafter, Plourde said. But the project is now on track.
"That was a hard hit," Plourde said of the shops and restaurants that shuttered due to coronavirus precautions. "That was a really tough time for us but I think all of our tenants showed a great deal of resilience. They're all back and with their doors open now."
Four restaurants are now open as well as 14 vendors, with only one retail space remaining to be filled, Shepherd said. Austin-based jeweler Nak Armstrong welcomed customers in his first flagship store on Dec. 8, she said. Global design and strategy firm, Frog Design, erected its sign two days later, and is slated to take occupancy in January, Plourde said.
- Aba, Prim and Proper (within Neighborhood Goods)
- Sunlife Organics
- Two Hands
According to Bea Reeve-Tucker, communications assistant for Soho House & Co., an offshoot of the London-based exclusive club is slated to be included among Music Lane's inhabitants this summer. The approximately 65,000-square-foot site will be the community's first in Austin and third in the U.S., following New York and Los Angeles openings.
The private group attracts members in creative industries and offers an environment for living, relaxing and dining. The Austin facility will feature a rooftop pool, a members' screening room and 46 bedrooms, Reeve-Tucker stated in an email to Austonia.
Mediterranean restaurant Aba, named for the Hebrew word "father," chose Music Lane as its inaugural location outside of the Windy City. The eatery, owned by dining enterprise Lettuce Entertain You, is centered around a prominent oak tree and, serendipitously, had planned for 70% of its seating to be outdoors, even before the pandemic hit, said Lettuce Associate Partner Sue Kim who recently relocated to Austin.
The group had been "enamored" with the city for quite some time, she said, visiting for a company retreat in 2017 before the opportunity to join the Music Lane community came along.
"I think South Congress has been a historic part of this city," Kim said. "The location is terrific: it's close to downtown, it's adjacent to some of the existing restaurants and history."
She said the nearby neighborhoods of Bouldin and Travis Heights can benefit from its residents having the amenities that Music Lane offers. And, the project's landscape, its openness and tree preservation, is also a draw for customers, she said.
Shepherd credits Aba's success to its strong following in Chicago's Fulton Market District.
"Aba, as a concept, is about Mediterranean dining and creating this oasis, making people feel like you just landed somewhere in the Mediterranean and have this lush greenery," Kim said. "This is what we created in Chicago on a very large scale roof deck. So, in many ways, it was a really perfect concept for this area given that we wrapped our patio around this beautiful, beautiful oak tree. It is a landmark piece."
Local design and architecture firm Gensler became the development's anchor tenant in March, occupying two floors, or roughly half of the project's approximately 52,000 total square feet of office space, including a skylight, double-story staircase and a 10-foot by 26-foot digital wall, Managing Director Todd Runkle said. However, due to all of its employees working remotely while the pandemic is in play, the new offices wait to be filled, he said.
"There's nothing like this," Runkle said of Music Lane. "We, at Gensler, felt it was about being a part of Austin. That's really why we wanted to be down here. It was a project and space that we thought reflected Austin and where we want to be in the future."
Gensler's 147 employees have recently been working on large-scale projects including creating the Austin FC soccer stadium; developing the city's soon-to-be largest tower, 6XGuadalupe; renovating the University of Texas Moody Center's basketball arena; and expanding the Austin Convention Center. With room for up to 220 employees, the new Music Lane office provides space for the company to grow.
Music Lane is in sync with surrounding venues created by former Bunkhouse Group hotelier Liz Lambert, including the recently opened Hotel Magdalena, an 86-room South Congress lodging at Music and Academy, and established Hotel Saint Cecilia that is adding residential units to its site.
But, feedback from locals isn't all positive.
"It's like they built a little domain down there," said Alan Barnett, owner of South Congress gift and accessory shop Prima Dora, after eyeing the Music Lane project. "I'm not sure if I like it or not. I'm trying to be open minded about it. But at the same time, it's like, now you're changing us too much, Austin."
After settling in the neighborhood about two decades ago, he's "watched some incredible houses being moved out of this neighborhood and very modern things being built here."
Barnett touts the area's popularity as stemming from its vintage homes and large trees.
"And now getting rid of those houses, it's going to look like anywhere else," he said.
Diners and shoppers are also unhappy with the scarcity of parking at the new venue.
Shepherd said that issue may stem from patrons not being aware of the project's parking garage—an underground facility that can hold 496 vehicles.
To get the word out about the garage and the development, she said Music Lane and the South Congress Shopping District held the SoCo Stroll this month. The event features holiday activities, retailer discounts and performances through Dec. 31.
Despite the pandemic, construction at Music Lane has been able to continue, Shepherd said.
"We've just been very fortunate to have the majority of our tenants open safely," she said.
Laura Figi contributed to this story.
More on South Congress:
Austin police lifted the shelter in place order after searching the area around 9600 block of Great Hills Trail near the Arboretum for a 41-year-old man named Stephen Broderick, who they believe is responsible for shooting and ultimately killing three people in Northwest Austin
As of 5 p.m., the suspect is still at large and considered to be armed and dangerous, though police do not believe he is actively targeting anyone else. During a press briefing at 4:45 on Sunday, APD Interim police Chief Joseph Chacon said they are switching the search from the immediate area to a fugitive search as they have exhausted all the leads they currently have.
Chacon confirmed during the briefing that Broderick was a former Travis County Sheriff's Office deputy. Chacon said they will remain on the scene for "several hours" and there were 75 FBI agents on the scene as of the briefing.
APD @Chief_Chacon provides updated media briefing in relation to Great Hills Trail incident. - PIO8 https://t.co/47siNWhARI
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Police believe the victims, who have been identified as two Hispanic women and one Black man, knew their assailant. Chacon said a child was involved but is now safely in police custody. Broderick was described as 5 foot, 7 inches with a medium build and was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, sunglasses and a baseball cap.
"We're very sorry that obviously that this has happened and we continue to try and locate this individual, we are transitioning from a search in this area to a fugitive search and those efforts will continue until this person is located," Chacon said. "I don't want anyone to think that we're packing up and going home. We're going to continue to look for this individual because he continues to pose a threat to this community."
At a 2:30 p.m. press briefing, Chacon said APD responded to a "shoot, stab, hot shot" call on Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway at 11:46 a.m. to find the three victims with gunshot wounds. APD was joined by the Austin Fire Department. ATCEMS, the local chapter of the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, Department of Public Safety, and the Round Rock Police Department for support.
Though Austin Travis-County EMS originally reported it as an active shooter situation, police now believe the incident was an isolated domestic event.
"This is still an ongoing and active investigation and we do not have this individual in custody yet," Chacon said during the first press briefing. "We would ask if you have your neighbors, phone numbers, call or text them check on them and make sure that they're okay. We are concerned that he might possibly take a hostage and be himself sheltered somewhere waiting for us to leave."
At this time the Great Hills Trail scene is still active. We are still asking residents to shelter in place and report suspicious activity. While a suspect is still at large it appears this is a domestic situation that is isolated and there is no risk to the general public. -PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
Three helicopters and SWAT teams were sent to the area, as well as 18 ATCEMS response assets. According to Austin Police, the incident occurred at an apartment complex near Great Hills Trail and Rain Creek Parkway.
#texasshooting #masshooting Arboretum shooting Austin. pic.twitter.com/SkIsgDoYHt
— Jamie Hammonds (@jamie_hammonds5) April 18, 2021
APD announced at 1:02 p.m. that Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewood Springs to 183 due to the incident. The roads will remain closed until law enforcement is able to wrap up the crime scene and units demobilize.
TRAFFIC UPDATE: Loop 360 will be shut down in both directions from Spicewoods Springs to 183 due to ongoing incident. - PIO8
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
This is a developing story.
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Formula 1 is returning to Florida for the first time since 1959, announcing that the brand-new Miami Grand Prix will join the calendar in 2022 and Austin will no longer be the only F1 race in the U.S.
Held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, this will be the first race in the Sunshine State in 62 years. With a new track setup, F1 will loop the stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Excited for @F1 @f1miami @HardRockStadium - a Global Entertainment Destination. This event will bring opportunities for so many and will be world-class. Thank you to @gregmaffei #chasecarey #stefanodomenicali @MayorRHarris @Ogilbert @CommishDiaz @MayorDaniella pic.twitter.com/n6dDDD1cPX
— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2021
The new 3.36 mile circuit has 19 corners, three straights and potential for three DRS zones, with expected top speeds of 198 mph.
Now with two races in the U.S., F1 President Stefano Domenicali said they will avoid having back-to-back events by keeping the Miami Grand Prix separate from the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
The date of the race has yet to be confirmed, though Domenicali said he expects the first race in a 10-year deal to take place in the second quarter of 2022. Austin's race will take place on Oct. 24 this year.
"The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the U.S. which will be further supported by this exciting second race," Domenicali said.
Miami will mark the 11th race location in the U.S. since the Championship began in 1950: Circuit of The Americas in Austin; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Sebring, Florida; Riverside, California; Watkins Glen, New York; Long Beach, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Detroit, Michigan and Phoenix, Arizona. COTA was first opened in 2012.
Domenicali said F1 will be working with the FIA and the Hard Rock Stadium to leave a lasting impact on the community: discounted tickets for residents, a program to support local businesses and a STEM education program through F1 in schools.
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