The 58-floor office and apartment tower plan known as 321 West celebrated its official groundbreaking on Wednesday this week at the southeast corner of West Sixth and Guadalupe Streets in downtown Austin, even though its crackerjack development team of Ryan Companies and Tishman Speyer haven’t actually mentioned it yet — there’s been no media blitz, no hashtag, nothing. We actually respect the hell out of this, since a groundbreaking is nothing more than a symbolic ritual you do after weeks of real work prepping the site and/or demolishing what was there before, meaning the ground is pretty well “broken” by the time anyone starts swinging golden shovels around for a photo-op — but the developer assures us a press release is forthcoming.
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Demolition kicked off around this time last month at the corner site, clearing a very unpleasant drive-thru bank and the 1927 building formerly home to the now-relocated Maiko Sushi Lounge, making room for the 675-foot tower with 140,000 square feet of office space beneath 370 apartments in a structure designed by the architects at Page, working alongside national firm Handel Architects with interiors by INC Architecture & Design. As it turns out, that design has changed significantly since the last time we saw it — here’s how the tower looked in the earliest renderings from a few years ago:
And here’s how the project looks now, in a final rendering supplied by the developer:
It’s a pretty bold and unusual look compared to the original tower’s sleek, but somewhat unremarkable appearance — the earliest design’s most notable attribute was that its tower portion was interestingly narrow. That’s no longer the case in this final version of the project, which tops a large parking podium with several office levels beneath a double-height outdoor amenity space, with its upper residential tower section floating overhead on what appear to be angled concrete pillars similar to the amenity levels we’ve seen from towers like 70 Rainey and the Linden. Though this single perspective can’t tell the whole story, from what we see here the tapering lines of the tower as it rises gives the whole thing a sort of rocketship feel.
There is one attribute of the tower representing a clear downgrade from its earlier design, however. Previous renderings showed the parking garage at the base covered with the same glass as the rest of the structure — which is the best way to hide these invariably ugly features until the city takes action and modifies our code so these above-ground garages are no longer incentivized. In the new rendering seen here, the parking structure’s now clad in the same metal siding we think detracts from the looks of otherwise handsome new towers all around downtown. That’s too bad!
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Still, the tower reportedly contains street-level retail space, which is good news for the area’s pedestrian environment considering the amenities already on deck for the region at the Sixth and Guadalupe tower currently under construction directly across the intersection. There’s also the possibility of a Project Connect subway station near here or even inside the tower itself — how’s that for a ground-floor amenity?