A 43-story residential tower bound for the corner of Rainey and River Streets in downtown Austin’s fastest-growing district announced its groundbreaking today — but considering that site prep and crane installation were visibly underway at this future building’s half-acre tract at 700 River Street since earlier this summer, we’re just glad to see its developers finally making things official. Formerly known by the placeholder name River Street Residences, the 400,000-square-foot tower now called 700 River is the vision of High Street Residential, a subsidiary of notable Dallas real estate firm Trammell Crow Company, working alongside Michael Dell’s New York-based national investment outfit MSD Partners and local developer River Street Partners.
Containing 377 apartment units ranging from studios to three-bedroom residences, the tower will include 3,400 square feet of ground-level retail and more than 30,000 square feet of residential amenity space. Followers of the blog might recall this project’s efforts to secure a right-of-way vacation for pedestrian access to the alley between Rainey Street and East Avenue — and although today’s groundbreaking announcement doesn’t mention this feature, likely out of an understandable desire to not sound like a huge nerd, we think it’s a real step forward for district mobility and street-level placemaking potential as Rainey continues to rise.
Considering that rate of vertical growth on Rainey Street in recent years, one of the more obvious benefits of the 700 River tower’s corner location is its unobstructed western-facing views of Lady Bird Lake, which should remain largely protected due to the presence of the comparatively low-rise Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center directly across the street — that facility isn’t expected to gain significant height, even as it plans to double in size over the next few years.
Since the plans we saw back in 2020, the tower’s size has been reduced slightly in this final version — from 571 to 500 feet, or 48 to 43 floors. The initial news of the development focused closely on the involvement of San Antonio architecture firm Lake Flato, known for projects like Austin’s new Central Library that integrate local materials and sustainable features to form a recognizably Texan design language.
That emphasis seems less prominent in today’s announcement two years later, with Dallas-based project architect HKS still working in collaboration with Lake Flato according to the press release, but with some changes to the tower’s design making the latter firm’s signature somewhat less obvious — though it remains a striking building, with a pitched roofline and on-trend amenity deck atop its parking podium. Compared with the final rendering above, here’s how the tower looked back in 2020:
With its nearly direct access to the Hike-and-Bike Trail on the lake as an obvious benefit to the tower’s residents, according to today’s release the 700 River project will partner with the Trail Conservancy — f.k.a. the Trail Foundation, if you missed that whole thing — as a sponsor for its upcoming Rainey Street Trailhead project, which we’ve followed almost obsessively for its potential as a premiere public outdoor space in a district that could always use a bit more.
700 River’s development team also includes general contractors DPR Construction, along with partners No Walls Studio, Civilitude, Thornton Tomasetti, Blum Consulting Engineers, Campbell Landscape Architecture, Clodagh Design, and Waldrop + Nichols Studio. According to today’s announcement, the building will seek LEED Silver and Fitwell Certifications, alongside a two-star rating in Austin Energy’s Green Building Program required by the Downtown Density Bonus Program. The tower is currently scheduled for completion by the end of 2024.