Demolition could kick off as soon as later this month in downtown Austin at the southwest corner of East Fifth and Trinity Streets, clearing a path for a hotel project by well-known local hospitality developers White Lodging. Those guys aren’t available for comment, but the city’s recent approval of the demolition and excavation permits for the roughly half-acre assembly of adjacent tracts from 307 to 311 East Fifth Street speaks for itself, with the removal of the existing buildings at this site expected to kick off potentially before the end of the year.
Those buildings, though deemed ineligible for historic preservation by the city’s Historic Landmark Commission, are still pretty old — each storefront dates back to roughly the 1920s, serving over the last century as everything from auto parts stores, furniture warehouses, dance clubs, art galleries, and finally the already-defunct Trinity Hall event venue and neighboring Russian House (or just “House”) restaurant, which has also closed in this location. (If you’re missing the House’s eclectic feel, check out Rosé Gosé in North Loop — don’t these folks have a flair for names?)
The project on deck for the East Fifth and Trinity site will reportedly open as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a group of “upper-upscale to luxury” hotels. That’s all well and good, but we’re still frustrated that this particular development in the heart of downtown is rising only 13 floors, which isn’t all that much for a central downtown site unencumbered by Capitol View Corridors.
As we’ve whined before, the site is still obstructed by the setback requirements of the Downtown Parks Overlay, a little-known regulation requiring buildings adjacent to downtown’s public squares to pull back their frontage 60 feet after rising to 120 feet — in this case, to ensure the pavement around Central Fire Station 1 gets enough sun.
This reduces the potential contiguous floor plate size of the property assembly to a degree that a shorter hotel building makes more sense here than another taller type of building, which seems like kind of a missed opportunity. Still, we’re happy to see almost any downtown project ambling towards a groundbreaking these days, especially one that will bring a larger population to the doorstep of the newly updated Brush Square — have you paid a visit to downtown’s latest park space yet?