A two-story building in downtown Austin’s curious agglomeration of low-rise regional banks might do a little growing in the near future, judging by city development filings from earlier this month. A site plan application dating back to April 10 indicates the building at 600 West Fifth Street — currently home to Horizon Bank and a fairly substantial parking lot for the downtown area — might soon be demolished to make way for what’s described in these filings as a “multi-story office building.”
The existing building, which opened as a Sovereign Bank in 2004 and occupies the northwestern corner of West Fifth and Nueces Streets, is smack in the middle of the rapidly-growing west end of downtown Austin, surrounded on all sides by new towers and other development in various stages — there’s so much getting built over here that Google Maps hasn’t had the time to update its 3D models for most of it, so we have to label them all on this map instead:
In February of 2018, we got our first indication of potential future development at this site in the form of a Capitol View Corridor height determination request filed by the property’s owner, Austin Leading Edge L.P., an entity connected with H and M Austin Management, Inc., which itself is a joint venture between longtime downtown land owners Richard Hardin and Michael J. McGinnis — gotta reckon that’s where the “H” and “M” come from in that company name, huh?
The request was withdrawn later that year for unknown reasons, but we still got our hands on a copy of this letter sent to the city’s Development Services Department by a member of a development firm seemingly representing the property owners, the late David Wardlaw of Development 2000 — you’ll notice it uses the address 608 West Fifth Street, not 600, but it’s still referencing the same site:
The most notable language in the above letter is the indication that the owners wish to “maximize the allowable square footage” on the Horizon Bank property, with the primary constraint being the limited height of buildings unlucky enough to fall within the path of a Capitol View Corridor.
It’s unclear why the request for a height determination was later canceled by the applicant, but perhaps they realized they didn’t need it — based on publicly available maps of the view corridor routes, this address just barely manages to avoid them all:
Still, considering last year’s request was withdrawn, all we really have to go on at the moment is the site plan filing from earlier this month, where the permit’s language explicitly names the speculated new tower to be a “multi-story office building.” Though this description might not be completely accurate, it’s plausible — we’ve seen plenty of single-use (sometimes even single-tenant, though they usually have some kind of ground-floor retail to mix things up) office towers on the horizon in downtown lately, from Block 185 to the 300 Colorado tower.
So, how tall are we talking here? Along with its apparent lack of view corridor restraints, the property’s density-friendly CBD zoning means here’s no immediately obvious reason a tower at this site couldn’t rise at least as high as its many neighbors currently pushing up downtown’s average floor counts in the district, assuming it meets the requirements of the Downtown Density Bonus Program. At 0.4 acres, the address is nearly identical in size to the tract at 501 West Avenue, just one block over, now home to the 39-story Fifth & West condo tower.
You know with a vague plan like this, we absolutely had to mock up a bunch of our famous green tower massings for this site. Problem is, this time the info we’re working with is so vague we don’t even know how tall to make this thing. Let’s just pretend it’s 30 stories, okay? That’s hopefully a (very) low estimate — it would be a whole lot cooler if it ended up being twice that tall — but it gets the job done for now:
For such an unconstrained piece of downtown land, surrounded by development with plenty more on the way, the rise of a tower here was honestly just a question of “when,” rather than “if” — and going by its recent site plan filing, we’ll probably learn more about this project’s “when” soon enough. Stay tuned!
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