We’ve waited for a rendering of developer Transwestern’s Block 36 apartment project in downtown Austin for the better part of two years at this point, so long in fact that we have all become skeletons sitting patiently in our chairs. But the wait is over!
Recent marketing materials for the project give us our first good look at the planned five-story building, which is currently scheduled to bring 260 “micro-apartment” units and restaurant space to market at 710 East Third Street by May 2021.
Thanks to Capitol View Corridors, we knew this project wasn’t going to be very tall. It’s admittedly harder to get excited about a five-story building than a 55-story building, but it appears the Block 36 designers at Wilder Belshaw Architects are still working to connect this community with its surroundings like a downtown project rather than a suburban project, with features like retail and trail access — and its design seems to go further than those suburban projects in terms of the quality of its materials, assuming the renderings paint an accurate picture. Here’s a view from the west at Waller Creek:
Sharp-eyed readers may notice the snazzified Waller Creek seen in the image above is the same area we saw in earlier concept illustrations for the second phase of the creek’s improvement — remember, this is between Third and Fourth Streets:
Speaking of which, the site of the development — backing up against Waller Creek between East Third and Fourth Streets by the I-35 frontage road on the far east edge of downtown — is situated next to a bunch of interesting stuff. We will now break this stuff down with bullet points for your convenience.
- As we mentioned a million times already, you’ve got Waller Creek running along the western side of the building, an area that will soon be blessed with trails-and-such from the Waller Creek Conservancy’s second phase of improvements.
- Palm Park, occupying the full block south of the apartment site, will also eventually see upgrades from the conservancy.
- Not to mention whatever happens at the Palm School site, one block further south.
- You’ve also got the new downtown station for the MetroRail Red Line one block east from here, which will eventually connect with a revitalized Brush Square to create a nicely contiguous, walkable downtown public space.
- Just north of the apartment project site along Fourth Street, a new bridge over Waller Creek, expanded sidewalks, and other streetscape improvements will compliment the downtown MetroRail station’s construction and accommodate its expanded train tracks.
- The Lance Armstrong Bikeway also runs down Fourth Street, and all the downtown station work described above will improve it based on what we’ve seen from the city so far. Also, we’ve asked this (probably rhetorical) question before and we’re absolutely doing it again — why are we still calling this path the Lance Armstrong Bikeway? Here is a radical idea for you to consider: The Tony Diaz Bikeway.
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on here. We’re always going to miss the wild Gensler Austin concept for this site, but at least this project includes a restaurant space — other midrise apartments without any retail, we’re looking at you!
One final note — if you saw the earlier architectural drawings for the building, you’ll know that one extremely amusing feature of Block 36 is that it’s essentially designed around two billboards located along its eastern frontage facing I-35. As described in an Austin Business Journal article from earlier this year, preserving those billboards was quite seriously a condition of the property’s sale:
Delk said the Block 36 project had some design challenges, as two billboards on the property had to be incorporated into the site plan. He said the previous owner of the 1.6-acre site along the I-35 frontage road stipulated that the billboards must remain on the property.
According to Travis County public records, Lion Outdoor LLC sold the site to TDC Block 36 LP in early 2018. The preservation of at least one billboard was included in the warranty deed.
In fact, though it’s artfully de-emphasized, we’re pretty sure you can actually see the edge of a billboard in one of these new renderings — compare the images below:
Billboards are uglier than any building, which is why it’s interesting if not exactly shocking that certain members of Austin’s billboard industry would seemingly prefer looser regulations on the former and more obstacles to the development of the latter. That Block 36 is designed with visible deference to advertisements for Burger King and 2.89 percent APR car loans should make you wonder why we can’t follow Mopac’s shining example and get rid of every single one, but until then, you just have to laugh.