In recent weeks, it’s been one downtown tower announcement after another. A 675-foot skyscraper on W. Sixth Street, a 65 story tower on East 2nd Street, and just east of the Frost Bank Tower, a 46-story office building with a sky garden.
While many of the new announcements come with mentions of restaurants or retail that families, students and legislators may enjoy, these buildings in downtown show an Austin that’s trying to keep up with more companies bringing their workers to the capital city.
Tyler Buckler, principal at Cielo Property Group, which is behind the tower with a sky garden, said that the office market in Austin is being driven by big tech. Cielo's tower will come fitted with a public paseo and waterfall spilling into a sunken garden to create an environment beneficial to the future tenant's mental health.
A rendering of the 46-story Perennial office tower planned to open in 2025. (TMRW.SE)
The tower brings the nature incorporated in Silicon Valley's massive big tech campuses with the amenities of being downtown, since Buckler said that is what tenants want.
“They're coming to Austin to go to downtown Austin because it has all the things that everybody knows are so amazing and great about downtown, which is not only live music, and great food and bar scenes,” Buckler said. “But it's also hey, we got a big awesome trail and lake in the middle of downtown, and we have all the things that really make Austin this unique city center for America.”
"When you see Facebook taking 600,000 square feet in one building, it tells us there’s still a lot of companies that want to have a presence in Austin,” Stein said.
Intracorp's One Oak groundbreaking (Sandra Dahdah)
He talked to Austonia after the company broke ground on a new development last week. Another they have in the works is what's set to be the second-largest tower that'll include a Hilton Conrad hotel and above that, condos where residents will have access to a fitness studio, pool and spa.
Stein described the workforce living and coming to Austin as “energetic, active and educated.”
“They want an urban lifestyle. They want to live close to downtown or in downtown,” Stein said. “And there’s not—if you look at it from a supply standpoint—there’s not a ton. There are some apartments and some condos, but there’s just not a ton. So we’re under-supplied from a residential standpoint for all the people that are moving and continuing to move to Austin.”
He said it used to be the case that startups and semiconductor companies moved into spaces outside of Austin. But now, he says, workers want easy access to downtown.
From 2010 to 2020, he said the growth in Austin was akin to a hockey stick on a graph, and since 2020, it went straight up.
“It’s exponential because there have been clear winners and losers that have come out of the pandemic in terms of cities, and Austin is a clear winner,” Stein said.
For some Austinites worried about rising rents there’s a question of whether this growth is a win. Developers mentioned feeling the perception that they’re changing Austin from the outside. And though they’re backed by a large North American developer, Stein said he’s lived in Austin for 20 years and pointed to his teammate who grew up in Austin.
“It’s a very local team that’s intentional about the communities we live in and our families live in,” Stein said.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.