East Austin boasts more development than any other part of the city, but you could be forgiven for not paying full attention to what’s going on past, say, Robert Martinez Jr. Street, or even off the main drag of East Sixth. Stuff going on inside the Plaza Saltillo TOD also has a way of getting everyone’s attention. But look further out, and you’ll find developers taking advantage of the way the wind is blowing.
You may think spots like Justine’s, or Lustre Pearl East are a little oddly far away from the current center of the action, but the cool kids will tell you that the Govalle neighborhood is going places.
The Rail Spur Building, a commercial office development at 618 Tillery Street, backed by Calhoon Properties and designed by Delineate Studio, is the next big thing for the region.
It’s a warehouse conversion project on a nearly 6-acre plot (!), an amount of space that’s practically unheard of for most mixed-use developments. This gives the 75,000 square foot building ample parking and about 60,000 square feet of open working space. Sure, it’s a bit further out — but it’s also only a 2.5 mile trip from the CBD.
The site has frontage on Tillery and East Fifth Streets, allowing for easy access — and, according to Delineate Studio architect Bart Whatley, the potential for a phase 2 development creating additional retail on East Fifth. The neighborhood could use some thoughtful new retail, as long as it isn’t just another yoga studio.
The building was originally an industrial warehouse with frequent truck traffic, a feature area residents weren’t exactly stoked about. All they had to do was wait for both East Austin and warehouse conversions to get popular enough for this new development to happen — it’s been about 17 years since the issue came up in city council, but their patience is finally rewarded!
All jokes aside, it’s nice to see development out east that takes advantage of the existing structures that gave the area its character in the first place. The warehouse’s rehab preserves a large amount of the existing building, but also adds greenery, an expanded front roof overhang, and a deck for multi-tenant access and storefront space. It’s planned to include substantial rainwater collection via the tanks on either side of the structure, along with solar panels and other potential sustainable design features.
The project appears close to completion, and I’m looking forward to finding out which (undoubtedly very hip) companies are setting up shop here. If any developers are watching, this is what you should do to warehouses. You really don’t have to tear them all down! See?