Thanks to new city filings, we’ve got fresh renderings and more for the 36-story office tower and complex planned at Block 71, a 1.75-acre downtown block owned by the University of Texas and bordered by West Seventh, Colorado, West Sixth and Lavaca Streets. The site is also currently home to an office tower formerly used by the university, which will be demolished to make room for this new project.
The development will make significant efforts to integrate the historic Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall, a former city post office on the southwestern corner of the block used until recently as office space by the university.
New filings with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission from developer Trammell Crow Company and architect Page Southerland Page give us a better look at both the preservation of the historic building on the block, and the new office tower that will rise alongside it.
From these plans and the detailed tower elevations above, we can make a few deductions about the project. For one, the existing fountain and plaza on the southeast corner of the block will be reconstructed in some capacity on the northwestern corner instead, with the office tower rising from the plaza’s former site and connecting with CTJ Hall on the historic building’s eastern side.
In fact, it appears that the historic building will serve as the entrance to the office tower. Hey look, there’s also a restaurant!
Restoration and demolition plans for CTJ Hall describe the removal of carpet and tile to reveal the building’s original wood and marble flooring, along with the demolition of most of the structure’s interior dividing walls.
From these plans, it appears that the historic building will gain a large interior open space, perhaps suitable for events or some other use. It also looks like the original United States Post Office signage on the front of the building will be restored as seen in these elevations:
Earlier plans for the Block 71 site described two towers on the site, one commercial and one residential. These plans raise the question of whether that’s still something in the pipeline. It’s possible that the developer is preserving the option of later building a second-phase residential tower in the plaza space on the northwest corner of the site, or even using the restored historic building as a first floor for a future tower project.
It’s actually not out of the question — earlier plans for the site retained the facade of CTJ Hall, but built the block’s residential tower component on top of it. But the restoration plans we’ve seen here appear much more extensive. Kinda makes me wonder what they’ll use new space in the restored hall for, other than a grand entrance to the office tower.
Everything I’ve seen so far about this project is right up my alley. It demonstrates, at least to me, a perfect balance between historic preservation and development — recontextualizing an old building without completely reducing it to its facade, while connecting it to a modern project in a meaningful way as a bonus. Hell yeah, let’s do more of this.
One last thought: I’m kind of tired of harping on skyscraper colors, but it’s nice to see these renderings showing a building with a pretty dark shade of blue — yeah, I think it’s gonna be blue, but it’s kind of a gray blue. Like I said before, I’ll take what I can get.