A 49-story tower project planned in the heart of the Rainey Street District will bring 644 apartments along with several new bars and restaurants to this fast-growing downtown neighborhood — and with a number of public-facing features including the preservation of two bungalows currently occupying its site, the development appears more willing than most to accommodate the anxieties of Austinites concerned that Rainey’s ongoing boom might detract from its original charm.
Known only by the address 80 Rainey Street for the time being, the project is bound for an assembly of adjacent properties between 78 and 84 Rainey Street, where a nine-story mixed-use building was formerly planned by owners Sackman Enterprises, also behind the development of the adjacent 70 Rainey condos. The new tower plan for the site is the work of local developers Lincoln Ventures, a firm previously known mostly for high-end student housing projects in West Campus, including the 30-story Waterloo apartment tower setting a record for height in its neighborhood.
Though Lincoln Ventures is presently pursuing office and multifamily projects elsewhere in town that aren’t directly targeted at students, the 80 Rainey project will be its largest development for the general public so far at 550 feet in height, and the company’s founder David Kanne is determined to make a good first impression — after all, this tower will be uniquely visible due to its mid-block location on Rainey Street, rather than the corner sites home to 70 Rainey and potential new towers like the Modern Austin and River Street Residences that have yet to break ground.
The building’s design from major Chicago-based architects Pappageorge Haymes is eye-catching, particularly by way of the unusual geometric metal canopy at its crown, but it’s clear from the project’s initial design narratives that its developers would like us to look at the tower from a pedestrian point of view, since it’s here that you’ll find the majority of its efforts to win you over as an addition to the neighborhood. “It is our intent to add to Rainey and not take away from its charm as so many projects have,” Kanne says. “Rainey’s success is in part due to the bungalows that characterize the street, and as Austinites we know that we need to maintain these iconic buildings.”
The tower site is home to two of the neighborhood’s original bungalows on either end, with a food truck park in the middle — the white bungalow at 78 Rainey Street now operates as bar Reina, with the blue bungalow at 84 Rainey Street used for offices. Lincoln’s current plans, which have been submitted to the city’s Design Commission to evaluate their eligibility for the Downtown Density Bonus Program, will preserve both original buildings by keeping the white Reina bungalow in its current location and moving the blue office bungalow across the site to a space behind the existing bar and converting it into another cocktail lounge, as seen in the map below:
Between the two preserved structures and the new building, Lincoln plans a pedestrian paseo linking the bungalow bars with restaurant space occupying the double-height ground level of the tower, which also includes a 3,000-square-foot basement “speakeasy.” Altogether, the project currently anticipates 6,023 square feet of restaurant space and 6,778 square feet of bar space mostly divided between these multiple locations around the building’s base, along with an outdoor pool deck and bar located on the 11th floor above the parking podium that Kanne describes as Rainey Street’s first publicly-accessible foray into the sky.
With streetscape design from local landscape architects TBG Partners, the 80 Rainey project will repair and improve sidewalks linked to its interior paseo, with features like benches, lighting, planters, and public art all in compliance with the requirements of the Great Streets program necessary for securing its density bonus. The developer plans to transplant several mature trees to line its frontage facing Rainey Street, an improvement described as offering a more immediate sense of place than the small trees often planted to satisfy the minimum standards of local code.
Apartments here will range from studios to 3-bedroom units, with resident perks including an amenity deck stretching between the 11th and 13th floors offering features like a co-working space, plus a rooftop pool and lounge on the 49th floor — and an estimated 20 or more units will be designated as affordable housing, per its developers. The parking podium, clad in dark masonry complimentary of the color schemes at nearby towers 70 Rainey and the Hotel Van Zandt, will be accessed from the rear alley rather than a curb cut on Rainey Street — which, along with its obvious benefit of not increasing traffic on the street itself, could be an acknowledgement that the full pedestrianization of this entertainment district is only a matter of time.
The 80 Rainey development team also includes civil engineers Wuest Group, land use attorneys Drenner Group, and general contractors JE Dunn. With its density bonus application submitted, the project will likely appear on the agenda of an upcoming Design Commission meeting, which could offer further details — but for now, its developers at Lincoln Ventures say the tower should break ground sometime next summer, with an estimated completion date of summer 2025.