Less than a year ago, the Austin Museum of Art announced a new project which would combine an 40,000 square foot museum facility with an adjacent 425,000 feet of commercial office space in a new 465,000 square foot project on the AMOA-owned site adjacent to Republic Square Park in the center of downtown Austin.
Yesterday, the developers option on the project expired. While the project was supposed to commence construction in early 2009, Hines Interests, LP has been unable to secure the funding required to develop the new building. As a result, AMOA’s latest plan for a significant downtown home are no longer viable.
The project, which was to be designed by the world renown architecture firm, Pelli Clark Pelli, would have been the first major downtown office building since the Frost tower was constructed in 2004. While the cancellation is not surprising in this very difficult commercial financing climate, it does represent a major setback for AMOA which has abandoned multiple plans for a new downtown building over the last decade. Yet, with a prime downtown block under their control, AMOA should be able to find a future partner to revise the project. Even with a development partner, however, it will be difficult for AMOA to rally its patrons to support another capital project after so many failed attempts.
Here is a summary from the Austin Business Journal:
The economic downturn has claimed a major downtown Austin project as victim, the proposed Museum Tower office building and the Austin Museum of Art’s proposed new home.
Hines Interests LP will not renew its option on the land owned by the Austin Museum of Art when that option expires this afternoon, the last day of 2008. That land had been slated for a 30-story, 425,000-square-foot office building dubbed the Museum Tower and a new home for AMOA.
AMOA had planned to sell a portion of the block it owns just south of Republic Square Park to Hines for the tower. As part of the deal, the Houston-based real estate company was also going to build a new 3-story, 40,000-square-foot home for the museum.
In response to questions from the Austin Business Journal , Hines released a statement from Travis Overall, Hines vice president, saying: “Due to the uncertain economy, we made the difficult decision not to renew the option in 2009. However, Hines is still interested in developing an office building in Austin when the market recovers, and we hope it will be in conjunction with AMOA and its museum. The project will not restart until the market improves. Our hope would be to get a new deal together in 2009 or 2010, and then move full steam ahead. We see great potential in the long-term viability of the city of Austin.”
The Museum Tower would have been the first new, large-scale office project in downtown since construction was completed on the Frost Bank Tower in 2004.
For the museum, the project also represented a chance to achieve its longstanding dream for a new downtown home. The new museum space was planned to double AMOA’s exhibit and education space from the 16,000 square feet it currently inhabits at the 823 Congress office building.
“Hines has been an excellent partner, and AMOA looks forward to building a new home for AMOA-Downtown when economic conditions become more favorable,” AMOA officials said.
This is the latest blow for AMOA, which has been trying since the late 1990s to develop a new facility downtown. In August 2006, AMOA said it was planning to partner with local developer Tom Stacy on the creation of condo tower and new museum on the site south of Republic Square. But the deal never materialized. The museum ultimately had to taper its wishes — and even cut staff — when the economy went south after the dot-com bubble burst.