The first of two tower projects by local real estate firm Cielo Property Group set to transform a full downtown Austin block will break ground this year, according to an announcement from the developers. With Cielo now in control of the block between Fourth Street, Fifth Street, Brazos Street, and San Jacinto Boulevard, the first phase of the site’s development will commence on the southern half of the tract currently occupied by event venue Brazos Hall and a small office building, with a 46-story, 750,000-square-foot office tower planned to break ground at this site before the end of summer 2022. The project, which recently received an approval of its site plan from the City of Austin, is scheduled for completion in late 2025.
Previous renderings of the project presented to the city’s Design Commission while seeking its density bonus late last year gave us our first look at the surprisingly curved and timber-heavy tower, designed by an all-star team including architecture studio Perkins & Will, acclaimed locals Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, and the Austin landscape architects at Ten Eyck — but new views released with this announcement of the tower’s upcoming groundbreaking provide a more detailed view than ever.
The tower is going by the name “Perennial,” inspired by the open-air greenery of its “Sky Garden” tenant amenity space on the 20th floor along with numerous exterior plantings. With three floors of ground-level retail space adding up to a whopping 37,000 square feet, the building is also bisected by a pedestrian paseo running from Fourth Street to the alley splitting the block, providing internal access to retail spaces and a path to the second building Cielo plans on the north half of this site.
The developers say the paseo includes a “28-foot waterfall spilling into a sunken garden” — you can see that in the background of the first rendering below:
Each of its office floors contain landscaped outdoor space on balconies ranging from 1,200 to 4,500 square feet, creating a curving stripe of green down the facade in an effort to break free from what Cielo calls the “glass fortress aesthetic” in downtown and blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor space.
The marketing for Perennial calls this “biophilic design,” a phrase we’ve heard more often since the pandemic’s impact on the office market — the plush-‘n-lush amenity packages included in many recent tower plans now seem more purposefully intended to entice remote employees back to in-person work. Cielo describes this without ever dating itself by using the word “pandemic,” smartly choosing “wellness” instead:
“The needs and priorities of companies and their workers have changed significantly over the last two years and people are placing a higher priority on wellness. The Perennial is designed to make the office a place where workers want to be because it provides a healthy and engaging environment where they can do their best work.”
— Bobby Dillard, Co-Founder, Cielo Property Group
Between the ground-level paseo, “Sky Garden” amenity, and office balconies, the Perennial contains approximately 100,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space. Although it’s hard to ignore the impact of a 17-floor parking podium, the Perennial’s architectural ambition along with its notable assortment of ground-level retail spaces and pedestrian activations together represent perhaps the most ambitious office tower currently planned in downtown Austin — we’re hoping these incredible renderings do it justice, especially considering the talent on display in its design team. Other firms on the tower’s development team include civil engineers GarzaEMC, general contractors JE Dunn Construction, and leasing agents Aquila Commercial.
Cielo’s plans for the northern half of the block aren’t officially announced, but according to the developers the site could accommodate a potential tower project of up to 886,200 square feet. While the original intent for this northern tract was a second office building, Cielo now expects to pursue a mixed-use residential and hotel tower at the site to provide more activity on nights and weekends — it’s an especially welcome addition considering Project Connect’s plans to convert Fourth Street into a pedestrian-friendly transit axis. Hey, any chance we could future-proof that garage podium by designing its parking levels to be easily converted into something else?