We already knew West Campus was going places, but it turns out the Autograph Collection and AC By Marriott Hotels planned for 1901 San Antonio Street aren’t the only hotels slated for the region. According to new city filings, Marriott International has its sights on another prime location along the Drag — the abandoned Jack in the Box restaurant at 2552 Guadalupe Street. The space has remained empty for about two years now, complete with a slightly unhinged anonymous blog documenting its continued abandonment.
So what’s the project? It appears the small plot, which measures just under .39 acres, will house an Austin outpost of Moxy Hotel, Marriott’s latest emergent hotel concept — 154 rooms, a bar, and lots of tech like keyless room entry via smartphone, which is something we also saw with the similar Arrive Hotel project.
Moxy is part of the emerging trend of mid-priced hotels marketed aggressively to millennials, comparable to brands like Aloft, Tru by Hilton, and others. The Moxy brand already has locations in Milan, New Orleans, Frankfurt, and Tempe, Arizona, for some reason — with many, many more on the way.
It’s especially interesting that the hotel plans to squeeze in 154 rooms and a parking garage to the tiny plot, considering that the University Neighborhood Overlay district rules for the site limit development height to 60 feet — which isn’t any more than five stories. Of course, there’s always the possibility of a variance, which would allow the project to grow to a fairly impressive height for the district. On the other hand, the project’s 200 square foot rooms just might fit under the height limit. We’ll have to wait and see, since the development is only in the preliminary design phase with zero plans or renderings available at this time.
Now, on a more personal note: Being a millennial means I essentially have access to a crystal ball that predicts what people like me will spend money on. In a just world, this gift of second sight would entitle me to gigantic sacks of money from various marketers in exchange for my perfect ideas on how to bilk every last dollar from people around my age. But since life ain’t fair and the world is mean, all I can do is comment on millennial-targeted marketing that already exists, and guys — this is not so great.
The aggressive cynicism of Moxy’s marketing strategy throws everything it thinks it knows about millennial culture at the wall and doesn’t pause to notice what sticks — Selfies, CrossFit, useless hashtags, yoga, “good vibes,” sex, more selfies — don’t stop now, I’ve almost filled out my bingo card!
I’m sorry to all the marketers who #adultedlikeaboss to craft this dreadful brand. But Austin, a city already groaning under the weight of its own self-aware sense of hipness and irony — an identity mostly created by people at marketing firms and ad agencies thousands of miles away, mind you — deserves much, much better.
With weekday room rates sitting at around $150 for the New Orleans and Tempe locations and weekend rates climbing closer to $200 or beyond in some cases, the Moxy’s rates aren’t wildly different than other midrange hotels in the city.
The only remaining question is why West Campus is suddenly the epicenter of a hotel boom driven, at least for the moment, solely by Marriott. I guess lodging with a reasonable proximity to the Capitol isn’t such a bad idea, but I always thought the scarcity of hotels directly adjacent to campus was a reflection of (lacking) demand rather than a problem needing a fix in the form of 501 new rooms between the Moxy and Autograph Hotel / AC by Marriott projects.
Of course, it’s possible someone at Marriott International is reading the tea leaves better than me — considering recent efforts to revitalize the Drag, maybe the area is set to become the next big scene for affluent millennials looking to relive their college glory days. Just don’t screw up the Hole in the Wall and we’ll be fine.