Facebook could be the first tenant at Austin's soon-to-be tallest building, the Austin Business Journal reported Tuesday.
The social media giant is reportedly in negotiations to lease multiple floors of office space at 6 X Guadalupe on 400 W. Sixth St. as it nears completion. The addition would greatly boost Facebook's presence in the Texas capital: as it stands, the company holds its fourth-largest office at nearby 607 West Third St. and 300 W. Sixth St. downtown locations and employs over 2,000.
A source told the Business Journal that Facebook is within 60 to 90 days of closing the deal, but it could keep looking elsewhere. In March, the company was in negotiations to take up all of the 300 Colorado tower but later walked from the deal.
If completed, Facebook would expand from the 476,500 square feet of space it already has in the Austin metro, including the two downtown towers and a warehouse in Pflugerville.
The social media corporation isn't the first to want more space downtown: video sharing platform TikTok is reportedly eyeing the 300 Colorado tower expanding its presence in Austin.
Facebook is the first to show public interest in the 6 X Guadelupe tower, which will become the tallest tower in Austin once completed in 2022. The 66-story tower will have around 590,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail space, nearly 35,000 square feet of amenities and nearly 350 residential units once complete.
If the company's "advanced talks" go according to plan, the company could occupy the space by sometime in 2022, though no specifics have been decided, the source told the Business Journal.
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Partners Group and Presidium, the corporations behind the development, said in a press release the new plans include:
- Two office buildings with a combined total of around 420,000 square feet that will include fitness areas, parking for electric vehicles and bikes and access to the outdoors
- A 370 unit mid-rise apartment community with affordable housing implemented at 60% of the area median income; the complex will include a clubhouse and rooftop pool.
- 12,000 square feet of retail space to begin the shopping center
- Nearly 1 acre of open space and parkland area open to the public
River Park has garnered criticism from East Austin residents and those worried about gentrification, but the company says it is working to ensure that affordability and community are implemented into the project.
The space will eventually incorporate the entire "live, work, play" dynamic, but it'll be a long time before the project is finalized: River Park's 10 million square foot plans aren't set to be completed for the next decade or two.
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East Austin's exclusive club, The Pershing, brings luxury and comfort to Austin's most influential residents
A local musician, a comedian and a tech startup CEO all walk into a bar. It's not in a high rise or even on the new Music Lane like Soho House, instead, it's in an unassuming warehouse-like building built on an old home and lumber barn in East Austin.
The Pershing, a low-profile but highly-coveted luxury club tucked away on East 5th Street and Pedernales, is the watering hole of some of Austin's most famous creatives and elites. It's even been said to be the host of a certain business executive with a keen interest in cryptocurrency.
The Pershing likes to air on the side of mystery. The "Keepers of the Austin Flame," as they call their members, can reach out to management to show interest, then they are approved based on their involvement with the community. To officially become a member, the club charges an undisclosed fee. That doesn't mean they aren't inclusive though, General Manager Kyle Lauterbach said; the club just wants to create a family.
"There's two things that I think are great for somebody that wants to belong to this space," Lauterbach said. "They see a value in the community that we're building, and they're somebody that's creating positive change. That's it."
Opening in 2018, the club is named after the neighborhood in which it was originally built, and retained the original three-story house and barn structures. The club has since slowly filled to nearly 350 members (nearing capacity) mainly by word of mouth.
Here's a look at the club-slash-private concert hall that nearly 350 of Austin's most influential residents call home.
The Pershing's clubhouse mixes luxury with comfort. Downstairs, bartenders greet members by first name from behind a dark marble bar. The bar itself is stocked with sustainable liquor brands hand-selected by Director of Beverage Adam Bryan, who "helped bring craft cocktails to Austin" and permanently changed the way business development director Dannye Donnell views martinis.
As members venture farther into the space, they enter several unique rooms, each with their own unique flavor. Dark greens, golds and browns give the space a sophisticated feel. A poker room sits just upstairs; Donnell said plenty of banter is found between guests after business hours. The white room, which Donnell said is the most popular, gives the feel of being outside without the oppressive summer heat.
There are spaces for companies to work throughout with organizations often renting out the conference room to host events throughout the day. Once laptops are shut off, however—Lauterbach says at about 5 p.m.—members can head up a ladder to the hookah lounge, the ultimate child's fort decked out with floor pillows galore.
"I've had members eat their lunch here and do their work for a little bit, call friends over for dinner and play poker and next thing they know it's one in the morning," Lauterbach said. "It's really a place you can spend several hours of your day and not feel stuck."
Across the courtyard is the gallery hall, a private concert venue converted from the property's old barn. Gary Clark Jr., who is also a member, has performed in this space, as have other famous musicians and members of local artist collective Black Fret. The club has branched out, too, introducing comedy shows and new genres to the space every week.
Because many members are creatives themselves, Lauterbach said that every experiential concert is so absorbed by its audience that the entire space could hear a chip drop.
"It goes to show how much your members care about music when you walk in there and it's completely silent," Lauterbach said. "People are so dialed in."
The outdoor courtyard is host to evening fun in the summer. The club hosts Tiki Thursdays every week—when Austonia visited, Donnell was out finding coconuts, and Lauterbach was wearing a festive Hawaiian shirt.
During the pandemic, the club was only closed for two business days, thanks to innovative planning from Lauterbach. Lauterbach introduced "Ten Foot Happy Hours" in the summer, installed UVC air sanitation systems, and even offered pina coladas while members waited for their COVID test, which was offered daily. When Lauterbach noticed that many service workers were overlooked during early vaccination, the club even offered a vaccine drive that saw over 4,000 in the industry get vaccinated.
"We're passionate about helping with vaccination—the service industry really got brushed over, (and) they were some of the most vulnerable people in this timeframe," Lauterbach said.
While the club is partnered with other clubs across the world and many hotels within the city, a slate of new upgrades will allow the club to become a self-sufficient haven.
In 2022, the club will break ground for plans including a swimming pool, courtyard gardens, private cabanas, co-working spaces, and private casitas for residents to stay. A new steam room and sauna will be introduced and outdoor spaces will expand as well.
While head chef Chris Bissell is now operating his fine dining out of a food truck in true Austin fashion, the club will also begin work on a new kitchen in July to expand event capabilities.
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Austin is facing a worsening worker shortage that spans industries and could prove more economically damaging than the pandemic.
In April there were 1.5 unemployed Texas residents for each advertised vacancy, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. This shortage is not unique to Austin or Texas. Instead, it's a "national economic crisis that is getting steadily worse," according to a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week. The lobbying group found that there are approximately half as many available workers for every open job as there have been on average over the last 20 years and the ratio continues to fall.
(U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
Although Texas is impacted, it is doing better than some states, notable South Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont, where there are fewer potential workers than available jobs, according to the same report.
A widespread problem
"Now hiring" signs are commonplace in local restaurant windows. The restaurant and hospitality jobs site Poached lists more than 1,000 jobs in the Austin area posted within the last month. The city of Austin is short 600 lifeguards and is unable to expand opening hours or open additional pools as a result. Local residents may have noticed higher rideshare costs as both Uber and Lyft are facing a driver shortage as well, according to KXAN.
Skilled trade and manufacturing industries are also facing a hiring crunch, leading to project delays. A 2020 projection shows Austin will be short 3,130 workers across its 10 most in-demand trade and manufacturing occupations over the next decade, according to a recent report by Workforce Solutions of the Capital Area.
Many business owners lay blame for this worker shortage on pandemic-era unemployment benefits. In a recent survey conducted by the Texas Association of Business, 80% of the 177 business respondents said the $300 federal weekly unemployment benefit should be eliminated, citing it as a barrier to hiring. "This (shortage) is strange because there are still a lot of people out of work," CEO Glenn Hamer said. "It doesn't seem to make sense."
Aware of these concerns, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last month that Texas will opt out of this benefit effective June 26. But economists told Austonia that multiple factors are at play in conjunction with unemployment benefits, including low wages, school and child-care closures that keep parents at home and fear of COVID-19.
Juan Benitez, director of communications for Workers Defense Project, which represents low-wage, immigrant workers in the construction industry, said essential workers are looking for jobs that offer essential protections, such as a living wage, health insurance and safe working conditions.
"This has been a pretty disastrous year for workers," Benitez said, citing a 2020 study that found Austin construction workers were five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than workers in other occupations. "Instead of going back to quote-unquote normal, we should be thinking about, 'How do we actually address a lot of the issues that COVID has shed new light on?'"
Workers Defense Project members participated in a third strike outside of the Texas Capitol last month. State lawmakers approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from mandating benefits such as water breaks and paid sick leave. (Workers Defense Project/Workers Defense Action Fund)
A workers' market
Local businesses are offering increased wages and new benefits in an effort to entice workers.
The median pay for Austin Uber drivers is $33 an hour, before tips, CEO Dara Khosrowskahi said during the company's first-quarter earnings call last month. Local companies P. Terry's and JuiceLand also recently raised their wages, the latter in response to an ongoing worker strike. "There's newfound worker power and people power and more reason to organize around labor," Benitez said.
Hamer is optimistic that the combination of "all-time high" wages, an end to the temporary federal unemployment benefits and the continued reopening of the economy will coincide with increased interest in open positions. "There has never been a better time to enter or reenter the labor force," he said.
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