More than 2 years ago, the city approved a master plan for the redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant site on Cesar Chavez near Lamar. The $117.2 million project, a partnership between the city and Southwest Strategies, is supposed to result in a 22-story hotel, 60 condo units, and 180,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.
More than a decade in the works, the original plan was for the new project to begin construction in 2009 and to open in 2011 with the 150,000-square-foot decommissioned power plant as the centerpiece of the 7.8-acre property. Needless to say, the project is delayed.
While the project remains active, a variety of obstacles have prevented development from moving forward. In particular, the City is in prolonged negotiations with Union Pacific over development of portions of the lot which the railroad controls. Apparently, the company is concerned about dense development in the area immediately surrounding active railway lines. With a dramatic increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic across the tracks, the company is appropriately concerned about safety.
The second issue hindering construction is the slow development of a city-funded 315-space parking garage on an awkward corner of the site. The City, which already allocated $3.8 million for the project, must find a way to fit a large number of spaces into a small irregular site without building high. Since the site is within the Capital View Corridor, the height of the garage is limited to 40 feet.
Once these obstacles are overcome, the lot can be split and the private development of the site may proceed. For the private developers, however, there is another major obstacle: they have not raised the necessary funding to begin the project. In this tough environment — and with two major proposed office buildings sucking up potential tenants — financing will be no easy task.
Despite the obstacles, Seaholm remains one of the most desirable and important downtown development projects. While the economy and the difficult commercial financing environment pose serious challenges for any project, Seaholm has a high probability of completion once the obstacles have been resolved and the financing environment improves.
With offices, extensive retail, and more than 3 acres of open space, Seaholm will further shift the heart of downtown to the west once it is completed. While downtown life used to center around 6th street between Congress and red river, the warehouse district, 2nd street district, and Whole Foods have shifted the balance. With Seaholm, the downtown action will increasingly be centered between Congress, Lamar, 5th, and Town Lake.
The most dramatic part of the project is the redevelopment of the Seaholm facility itself. When complete, the historic art deco structure will include nearly 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.