A one-acre downtown property currently occupied by the former headquarters of a state pension fund is up for rezoning at tonight’s meeting of the Planning Commission, with city staff recommending the zoning change for the site, located at East 12th Street and the I-35 Frontage Road, to a central business district (CBD) designation — paving the way for a plan by an unknown developer, described in the review sheet document for the case as a tower project containing 350 residences and 35,000 square feet of retail space in the heart of Austin’s newly-formed “Innovation District.”
The two office buildings currently on the property at 1200 North I-35 represent the former home of the Texas Municipal Retirement System, a state pension fund offering retirement and disability benefits to municipal employees in approximately 900 Texas cities. The program relocated to new offices at the Grove development last year, and immediately began seeking potential private buyers for the old headquarters, planning to offset the cost of the Grove relocation by reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of the property into its pension fund.
The rezoning case for the site at tonight’s Planning Commission meeting only lists TMRS and land use law firm Drenner Group as applicants, but minutes from meetings of the fund’s board of trustees earlier this year indicate the organization has already received an initial round of offers on the property, and the highly specific details of the project mentioned in the case documents — the aforementioned 350 units and 35,000 square feet of retail — seem to imply more concrete plans for the site. In any case, the property’s lack of Capitol View Corridor restrictions could allow a tower of notable height, with many comparable residential towers rising into the 400-foot range.
This site’s location in a rapidly-growing district of downtown makes its rezoning from general office and neighborhood commercial (GO-LR) classification to central business district (CBD) zoning highly likely, as multiple nearby developments have previously sought the same change. The main catalyst for this region’s expansion is the nearby Central Health redevelopment, its nearly-completed “Innovation Tower” overlooking the reimagined Waterloo Park and numerous other projects on the way in the area.
Developing a tower here would likely require demolishing both office buildings currently standing on the property, the first closer to the highway dating back to the 1970s, the second on the western half of the tract built for the TMRS back in 2005. While we’re not sure if demolishing a building that’s less than 20 years old in favor of a taller development actually constitutes a new Austin record, it’s certainly an interesting factoid to tell your friends about the rate of downtown’s growth.