After changing hands earlier this year with a negotiated buyout of its 38 condo units by local real estate firm Wilson Capital, the Avenue Lofts at 410 East Fifth Street seem to be moving quickly towards a larger tower development at this extremely desirable 0.8-acre half-block site in the heart of downtown — the address now appears on the agenda of the Historic Landmark Commission’s February 28 meeting, with the owners seeking approval of a permit for the building’s total demolition.
Like similar recent applications downtown, the age of the Avenue Lofts building at more than 50 years old requires the HLC’s review before any demolition takes place — the structure, originally built in 1943 as offices for the state health department with the help of Public Works Administration funding, was only adapted for residential use in 1999 by developers the Sutton Company and local architect Charles Fisk.
While its subtle New Deal-era stylings have character, the transformation of the property into condos — including Fisk’s addition of those memorable porthole windows, which fit the look of the building so well that people are often surprised to learn they aren’t part of the original design — has adapted the original structure so heavily it’s unlikely to merit any historic preservation efforts.
The site itself has plenty of interesting backstory, which we had fun digging through a couple of years back, but its location near both the Austin Convention Center and Capital Metro’s downtown rail station will only become more prominent with the construction of additional stops for Project Connect, and makes the development of a tower here a pretty obvious move — particularly since the half-block site in question is unencumbered by Capital View Corridors and could potentially accommodate a new building of nearly one million square feet, according to previous sales listings.
Plans by Wilson Capital to develop the site after the current building’s demolition are unknown at the moment, but with unencumbered height and the potential for an FAR of 25 to 1 through the Downtown Density Bonus Program, there’s room for an extremely visible tower at this property. We’re just hoping whatever goes up here pays some homage to the interesting curves of the original building — that already sorta seems to be the trend around here lately, so keep those fingers nice and crossed.