New York-based real estate giants the Related Companies announced its entrance to Austin’s commercial market in style last week, revealing plans for a stunning 15-story office tower replacing a surface parking lot on the south shores of Lady Bird Lake — and although we’ll obviously follow the One Lady Bird Lake project with great interest, the developer’s announcement also mentioned a second, smaller office building bound for the edge of the entertainment district on South Congress Avenue, going by the name 901 South Congress.
Although it’s a bit smaller in scale than the first half of the announcement, we’re really liking this five-story plan designed by Gensler Austin for its use of mass timber, a sustainably-forested engineered wood product we’ve seen used in various forms at other recent projects like T3 Eastside, 901 East Sixth, the Juno modular apartments, and the nearby Hotel Magdalena.
Though already globally popular, mass timber has clearly become a local trend as well — the use of wood over concrete and steel is always appreciated for its visual appeal and other physical properties like enhanced sound absorption, but the Related Companies press release makes an even stronger case, essentially saying that this magic wood will fix whatever ails ya:
This will be Related’s first-ever sustainably forested mass-timber construction, generating 40% less carbon than traditional construction and saving 20 tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere. Timber construction has also been associated with numerous wellness benefits and as much as a 15% increase in productivity. Advantages of timber include: natural acoustic properties that dampen ambient sound, improved indoor air quality by moderating humidity and numerous positive physical and mental health phenomena associated with being surrounded by natural materials, ranging from reduced blood pressure to lower reported stress levels.
— The Related Companies
The offices, weighing in at 106,854 square feet and also including a ground-level space suitable for a retail or restaurant use, will replace three buildings and a surface parking lot of the larger Muse at SoCo apartment complex, according to a demolition permit approved earlier this summer for the site. While replacing apartments with a new office building isn’t exactly an ideal land use scenario, it’s evidence of just how far the possibilities have shifted for new development in the South Congress area — the buildings being demolished date back to only 1998, but these days they seem a bit out of place compared with the recent growth of their surroundings.
We do have to ding the Related Companies for one aspect of its press release, however — while the 901 building will contain 251 parking spots in several underground garage levels, we’re still a little salty that the announcement says the project is “…located within a five-minute drive of the South Congress District’s 79 bars and restaurants, 7 live music venues and 16 hotels.”
That’s technically true, but as you can see from the map above it’s also within walking distance, with even the district’s most remote attractions located a bit more than a half-mile away at most. You guys are supposed to be New Yorkers!