So we’ve already heard the major details on the residential tower project planned at the former site of the Villas on Town Lake, a condo community built in 1982 in the pre-Rainey Street boom era. The complex sold to the Sutton Company last year, but now Dallas-based developer Genesis Real Estate Group has taken the reins, with a 40-story tower planned and a second tower in the pipeline further down the road.
According to the Statesman, the site used to be a chicken processing plant — sorry, a “chicken plucking” plant. Anyways, this project is near and dear to us in a literal sense, mostly because the TOWERS office is directly across the street from the site.
What can we expect the towers to look like? The renderings floating around for the project are almost certainly NOT a good indicator of what’s in store — they’re older speculative work from back when Sutton owned the property, and we have it on pretty good authority that they don’t reflect the future of the site.
The project architect isn’t clear at this time, but let’s make a few educated guesses. Genesis recently worked with Houston architects EDI International on Katy Station, a 30-story residential tower currently under construction in Dallas.
If this tower looks vaguely familiar, it’s because EDI also designed the Windsor on the Lake apartment building at 43 Rainey Street, a 31-story tower completed in 2008 and originally known as Legacy on the Lake.
EDI certainly seems like a candidate, if Genesis doesn’t pick a local architect. EDI and Genesis also worked together on the Mercer condo tower in Houston, which follows the same design notes to the letter.
The design of both buildings is fine, with a relatively low amount of glass and steel and a variety of earth tones. Some might call this style “ugly,” but others would find it tastefully restrained — which certainly seems to track with this quote from Genesis president Gordon Ip in the Austin American-Statesman article announcing the project:
Ip said Genesis has “no desire” to build the tallest building in Austin, nor does it aspire to be “the hippest property.”
“We want to respect what’s around us, which is Waller Creek and Lady Bird Lake,” Ip said. “We want to do something that’s respectful and appropriate and allows residents to enjoy access to Lady Bird Lake.”
— Gordon Ip
If taken at his word, then a reasonable question is: what does a “respectful” building look like?
Genesis has worked with Dallas architecture firm GDI on multiple projects in Texas, including the Renaissance on Turtle Creek condos in Dallas and The Mark condo tower in Houston. GDI has a decent presence in Austin as well, with The Whitley apartments and the upcoming Fifth + West residential tower.
We probably shouldn’t take our interpretations of the “respectful and appropriate” quote too far at this stage. These buzzwords don’t really mean much beyond wanting to fit in with the neighborhood – or the desires of Waller Creek Conservancy – but it certainly gives us something to speculate about.
Downtown Austin deserves more iconic buildings.
The opposite of the value-engineered beige-box apartment buildings downtown Austin too often receives. In this case, the Rainey Street neighborhood is the first part of downtown that people see when approaching the city from the south on the highway, and we’re also the backdrop to the thousands of daily visitors watching the bats from Congress Avenue.
If “respectful” design means anything, then I believe it promises something thoughtful and significant. There is no higher profile downtown development site than this to deliver on that promise.