We’ve been writing the same story about the dramatic redevelopment of Seaholm for nearly five years. Back in 2007, we were excited to see construction start but then stop once infrastructure enhancements were completed. So is it real this time? Having seen so many downtown projects discussed and dropped, it is hard to believe that this is the last time that we will be discussing plans to build on this very critical downtown site.
According to the Statesman, “After several years of delays due in part to a recession that dried up financing for development, construction is expected to start on redevelopment projects at the former Seaholm Power Plant and the site of the former Green Water Treatment Plant east of Seaholm, said Fred Evins, the city’s project manager overseeing the public-private projects.”
Here are the key things that we know:
– The major projects in and around Seaholm will cost $2 billion to complete
– Seaholm and Green represent 13 acres of prime land for development
– Development will link to the second street district and restore some north-south streets
– A new central library is proposed for the site with a design by Lake | Flato architects
– A controversial art wall is still proposed for the site: A design was selected through a public process and than quietly replaced by a different design through a not-so-public process
– Seaholm will now include apartments instead of condos in a 300 unit high-rise with ground floor retail
– The Green Water Treatment site — now a giant green lawn at the end of second street — will support an amazing 1.8 million square feet of development
– The Seaholm site will include 450,000 square feet of development on the 7.8 acre site
– The historic art deco Seaholm power plant building “will be renovated to house a special-events center, offices, shops and restaurants” which will likely become a prime downtown destination
– In addition, “just west of Seaholm, Gables Residential plans to start construction early next year on a second phase of apartments with 222 units, next to its existing 294-unit Gables Park Plaza apartment complex. Gables’ second phase also will include about 14,000 square feet of retail space.”
So, will it happen? For the project to work, there needs to be a strong market for the buildings that are being built. The condo market is not going to support another major development now. Hotels are needed but plans for two other 1,000 room hotels — and the distance of the site from the convention center — make hotels an unlikely core component. Fortunately, the apartment market is white hot in downtown Austin — and that may be enough to drive development of the site.
As construction would begin on both sites next year at the earliest there will be plenty of time for additional details or delays to materialize.
The Historic Seaholm building will become a downtown gathering space with shops and restaurants
Plans for the adjacent Green Water Treatment Site include 1.8 million square feet of development. 360 is shown adjacent to the site.