Since many of you are still working from home, we’d be remiss not to inform you of the latest development in Austin’s ongoing race to the first downtown tower groundbreaking of 2021 — demolition is underway even as we speak at the southeast corner of East Third and Brazos Streets, the future site of the 45-floor Hanover Brazos Street tower project by apartment developers the Hanover Company.
Fences and other barriers now surround the 1904 masonry warehouse at 201 East Third Street, with the structure currently in a partial state of demolition clearing the 0.4-acre corner tract for development — seemingly matching previous reports from our sources indicating work was scheduled to begin at this site before the end of March. Depending on the length of the teardown, it’s highly likely this project will be the first to break ground in downtown since the start of the pandemic last year.
The project, bringing approximately 308 apartment units to market and listed on permit filings with a price tag of more than $123 million, is markedly similar in form to Hanover Republic Square, the developer’s other apartment tower currently underway on the opposite side of downtown at the southwest corner of West Fifth and Lavaca Streets. Both buildings are also comparable in height and unit count, with the Republic Square project expected to contain 310 units and 44 floors.
Each tower features design from national architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, but we definitely prefer the Brazos Street version’s appearance — featuring warm metal screening to gussy up its parking podium and the possible integration of design elements from the site’s former brick warehouse into the appearance of its ground level — over the relative simplicity of the Republic Square tower.
What’s perhaps most notable about both of these towers in the context of downtown Austin’s growth is that each is roughly the same height as the Frost Bank Tower, completed as Austin’s tallest building at 516 feet in 2004. Only 17 years later, these buildings aren’t anywhere near the top of the class — if you stacked Hanover Brazos Street and Hanover Republic Square on top of each other, their combined height would only exceed the “supertall” tower plan proposed on Waller Creek by seven feet.
But height isn’t actually the point of this “race” — after the pandemic cast some genuine doubts on the future of local development and the health of the city’s economy, not to mention killing at least a few promising design concepts along the way, the first downtown tower groundbreaking of 2021 is really about proving Austin’s growth isn’t going anywhere. We’d certainly rather see more towers than exurbs.