EXTREMELY IMPORTANT UPDATE: In a classic twist of dramatic irony, mere hours after publishing this article the Republic tower project showed its first city permit activity in roughly two years — if we didn’t know better, we’d think it had something to do with us pestering the folks at Lincoln for this story all week. This new permit doesn’t contain much beyond a description of the Republic project as now containing “office, retail and museum” uses, and that last one is news to us. The last time anyone mentioned a museum at this site was in 1997, so you’d better believe we’re excited to see where it goes — considering our timing today and the fact that we brought up the merits of art galleries in new buildings last week, we’re either really on the ball or several miles off it. The other stuff in this post is still good.
We’re not often in the business of following the development world over in Atlanta, Georgia, but as dedicated fans of North Carolina-based architecture studio Duda Paine — you know, the folks that designed the Frost Bank Tower and the slightly more divisive 405 Colorado molar — we couldn’t help noticing that the firm’s recently-announced design for a 45-story office tower in downtown Atlanta looks suspiciously similar to its design for Austin’s 46-story Republic office tower plan. Take a look:
The towers obviously aren’t exactly alike, with the outdoor amenity levels of the Atlanta tower extending out much further, along with some different “facets” in the origami-like folds of the exterior glass that have become almost a trademark for Duda Paine — but they’re unmistakably similar, even for two buildings by the same firm.
Each structure has roughly 800,000 square feet of rentable space and similar floor counts, though estimates from marketing materials appear to show the Atlanta tower rising 50 feet or more beyond the height of the Republic. Both towers include substantial structured parking podiums containing approximately 15 garage levels, but the Republic’s parking component doesn’t protrude so far from the rest of the building — which deprives us of a very large rooftop amenity space, but does less harm to the tower’s overall appearance. As you can see from the slightly misleading rendering below, the structure looks much better when that parking bit is hidden:
The Atlanta tower, known as FIFTY Ivan Allen — yeah, looks like they’ve got wacky building names in Georgia too — is a project of Australian real estate fund Drapac Capital Partners with additional involvement from Stream Realty Partners, which you may recall has another office building underway in Austin at the moment. If we’re comparing features, the FIFTY project might have the Republic beat — it’s got a multi-floor interior garden space on the top level designed with a climbing wall:
In the edge of downtown Atlanta, 50 Ivan Allen is amid walkable amenities, transportation options and 24/7 activity. Two iconic towers create a transparent V-shape that holds two-story interior gardens and present a unique profile amid the city’s tallest buildings. The full-block project highlights the street level pedestrian life with a two-story lobby featuring retail and dining. Interior vegetation and climbing walls surround upper-level social spaces for an active work culture.
The Republic project in Austin, on the other hand, is a joint effort of developers Lincoln Property Company and Phoenix Property Company — and Lincoln in particular has a lot on its plate at the moment, with stakes in both the 6 X Guadalupe tower currently under construction and the record-breaking Waller Creek supertall that appears to be rapidly moving through its pre-development phase.
With all of those projects on the developer’s drawing board and no major updates on the Republic’s status for the better part of two years, we were thinking the building, though not necessarily dead in the water, was going to be a lesser priority for Lincoln until some of its other downtown work wrapped up. Depending on the timeline of the FIFTY project’s construction, that means we could potentially see a tower that looks a whole lot like the Republic go up before the Republic. The unfairness of it all!
There’s also the sadder possibility that the Republic project is truly defunct, and Duda Paine is simply shopping a similar building to another developer now that its Austin plans have changed. We certainly hope that’s not the case — the Republic is one of the most architecturally interesting towers proposed in our most recent cycle of downtown growth, and another building with similar design in a different city doesn’t change that. Representatives of Lincoln weren’t available for comment on the status of the Republic’s development, but we aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.
It might come as a surprise, but Atlanta already has two buildings that match bits of the Austin skyline, thanks to developer Novare Group. Its Spire residential tower completed in Midtown Atlanta in 2005, though more than 100 feet shorter, is a dead ringer for the 360 Condos Novare opened here back in 2008 — and the company also brought us a SkyHouse apartment tower in the Rainey Street District in 2014 with the exact same design as Atlanta’s SkyHouse Midtown, which makes sense because all of those buildings literally look the same.
A third lookalike in a city nearly 1,000 miles away isn’t going to hurt us — as we’ve pointed out before, there’s no such thing as architectural plagiarism, particularly when it’s the same firm repeating a striking design motif we happen to enjoy, thank you very much. No matter which tower arrives first, we just hope the Republic and its charming Georgia cousin both end up getting built.