For years Congress Avenue north of about 7th Street was a dead zone after business hours, a statement punctuated by the Chipotle occupying prime real estate at the corner – shuttered promptly at 8 p.m. and closed on weekends.
That is all set to change with the Statesman reporting yesterday on a 30-story apartment tower — void of the normally ubiquitous parking garage pedestal — planned at the southeast corner of 8th & Congress.
Coined “The Avenue” the project will reportedly break ground in May 2017, taking two years to complete, and costing about $60 million. This is a landmark project taking advantage of the City casting aside minimum parking requirements downtown. The Avenue will replace the decade old plan envisioned by Sinclair Black for 721 Congress Avenue.
The capital markets which fund large residential projects have a historic refrain that goes: “it’s gotta have parking, or you get no money!”
Still, I remain cautiously optimistic this one could happen.
Also on Congress Avenue
New life is sprouting up elsewhere, but at the cost of a long time downtown stalwart: the Austin Shoe Hospital. The bright side is the building at 720 Congress was bought by the guys who created East 6th Cocktail Bar “Whislers” and will be a quality establishment drawing a good crowd. Whislers 2 — for lack of a better name — is located directly next to the Townsend, an equally classy cocktail lounge that opened in 2015 that can also accommodate shows housing 100-plus people.
One block north, at 800 Congresss, the partnership between ParksideProjects and Shawn Cirkiel has wrapped up its redevelopment of the the home of longtime Austin restaurant Hickory Street Bar & Grill. However, the site seems relatively dead still, but that may change as it matures after only being open a couple months. (Casual observers of downtown will note mixed opinions about this site, after a faction of downtown heavy-hitters mustered to block a hotel planned there).
By the looks of it the sidewalk cafe at 804 Congress, it should be operational soon. A thinly credible rumor — attributed to an anonymous, but well-groomed, youth vaping on the sidewalk there — places another Caffe Medici, or another coffee shop starting with “M”, at the location. #GrainOfSalt
Elsewhere on Congress
At 9th and Congress, construction has wrapped at the Texas Public Policy Foundation headquarters. More than just an office building, the new space houses the state-of-the-art Joe B. Hogsett Theater and the Red McCombs Event Center which keep the corner lively later into the early evening.
Sadly, some things on Congress never change, including the terrible eyesore of boarded up facades between 9th and 10th. However, with life creeping north on Congress, I feel it is only a matter of time before whatever disagreements are preventing progress are overcome by the value of development there.
p.s. Yesterday I toured the Fairground Austin’s construction site at Congress Avenue & Cesar Chavez. I am now certain it will be one of the most impactful downtown projects, benefitting the most people: residents, workers, visitors alike.