Hey, remember that one hotel in the middle of downtown Austin? The one your brain subconsciously edits out of the skyline when you’re walking down the Congress Avenue Bridge? You might not need to do that much longer — the downtown Radisson Hotel at 111 Congress Avenue is about to get some work done and reemerge as the Line Hotel. We’ve known about the hotel’s acquisition by a group of investors for a year or so, but the remodeling project should kick off in earnest any time now.
So, what’s in store for this old building?
With locations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the Sydell Group’s Line Hotel brand has quickly established its expertise at rehabbing older buildings into boutique hotels without sacrificing their original design. The Line Hotel in D.C. is integrated with a 1912 neoclassical church building, while the LA hotel occupies a midcentury hotel tower originally built as a Hyatt in the 1960s. The look of the LA hotel before its makeover is quite similar to the original design of the downtown Radisson — after all, they were built in the same decade.
The Radisson on Congress Avenue opened in 1965 as the Crest Inn, and received an addition in 1998 — one that, in my opinion, significantly diminishes the look of the building.
The spare look of the single tower with those unmistakably ’60s arched windows was a timeless, interesting design, and the additional tower and parking structure weighs the building down.
But my biggest design beef with the building is the tacky little arched turret that rises at the corner of the two towers, proudly sporting a Radisson logo that really cements its straight-outta-the-1990s look.
This kind of architectural feature is more suited for an airport motel, not a hotel on one of the choicest pieces of land in Austin’s urban core. I’m not really sure if the Line Hotel folks plan to change the layout of the roof, but these elevations from one of their site plans give me hope for a better silhouette:
I’ve done everything short of outright begging for the Sydell Group to share with us their plans for rehabbing the Radisson, but the only response I’ve heard so far is to expect a design fairly similar to that of the LA hotel. That’s enough for me to move forward with a little idle speculation.
My favorite aspect of the LA Line’s design is a subtle but striking feature: Curtains of a few different colors installed on the windows of each room. When they’re drawn, the various color patterns change the exterior look of the building’s facade, ensuring that the building will never look exactly the same.
This is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that strokes of genius that hopefully got somebody paid the big bucks — an interior design feature that also transforms the building’s outside appearance? It’s madness! Though I have zero confirmation that this same feature will be included on the Austin hotel, I decided to fire up Photoshop and see what the building might look like with it anyway.
Woo! But since my editing skills don’t extend past “coloring things different colors,” we’re going to have to dig into the hotel’s filings with the city to get a better idea of what to expect. The current improvements listed include a new bar and possible restaurant space, along with general landscaping additions and improvements to the outdoor pool and patio area on the building’s south side.
One of the more curious details is that the hotel’s exterior facades will be reglazed, and the new glazing will be pushed further out from the current window depth, enough so that the building’s overall interior size will increase. If I’m making sense of this language correctly, this means it’s possible those sunken arched windows will instead be made flush with the outside of the building, leaving that neat arch shape but making the building’s actual facade flatter than before.
Of course, this may not be as big of a deal as it sounds, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on things. No matter what the Line Hotel ends up looking like, it’s nice to see some of our city’s older buildings get a new lease on life rather than an instant wrecking ball.