After 20 years of unrealized development plans for the approximately 3.3-acre property at the southwest corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River Streets near the Rainey Street District of downtown Austin, the latest contender for a tower at the site would be the first in the city to qualify as a “supertall” skyscraper — the tallest in Austin by a country mile, but possibly also the tallest building in Texas. Don’t freak out yet, but here’s everything we’ve learned about the project called Waller Creek.
A current view of the project site at 98 Red River Street.
We’ve known since 2019 that coworking outfit WeWork and its Japanese parent company SoftBank Group Corp. were pursuing tower development in this area, having purchased 4.7 total acres on opposite sides of Red River Street back around the beginning of last year. The 3.3-acre western tract, with Waller Creek running down its west boundary, is where this tower’s headed — the other 1.4-acre site east of Red River Street (and just north of the Quincy project) is currently a parking lot, and expected as the site of another tower project by the WeWork folks sometime in the future.
Plans for the western tract, also known by the address 98 Red River, were leaked along with some renderings earlier this week by a user named Paco Jones on development website Houston Architecture Info, showing a 74-story tower containing a total of 2.7 million square feet. This development, like Austin’s current tallest tower project at 6 X Guadalupe, is a joint effort of firms Lincoln Property Company and Kairoi Residential, with design from New York-based international architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
You might know architect KPF’s work best from New York’s massive Hudson Yards development, along with six of the world’s 11 tallest towers. Dallas-based studio HKS, Inc. will serve as the architects of record for the project, with local firms TBG Partners and Nudge Design respectively handling its landscape architecture and urban design.
We’ve confirmed with Seth Johnston, a senior vice president for Lincoln’s Austin office, that the details of the tower posted online and seen here are “relatively accurate” and generally reflect the developers’ current plans for the site — and although the project’s exact height isn’t entirely clear, Johnston also confirms that the building will indeed qualify as a “supertall” tower of 984 feet (300 meters) or taller.
The question of this tower’s exact height is even more important than usual — because the building could very easily become the tallest in Texas, full stop. The plans posted earlier this week include a height of 1,474 feet for the tower, but that’s describing its height above sea level. Downtown Austin itself is about 450 feet above sea level in this area, so subtract that height from the big number above and you’re looking at a building that could be, very roughly, 1,024 feet tall.
Remember, the tallest building in Texas at the moment is the JPMorgan Chase Tower in Houston at 1,002 feet — so, even if you fudge the numbers, it’s looking very possible that Waller Creek will take the crown as Texas’ new tallest. Even if not, our supertall confirmation means the building will be taller than anything in Dallas.
According to the original post containing information about the building and generally confirmed by its developers, the project will be a mixed-use tower containing a 240-room hotel, 25 floors of office space, and 34 floors of residential space containing 363 total units. The first and second floor will include an office lobby, a hotel lobby, and retail space, with a 1,780-space parking structure occupying three levels below grade and 12 levels in an above-ground podium, likely above the ground-floor lobby.
It appears the parking podium, much wider than the tower above, will also contain the hotel section of the building. Atop the podium is an outdoor amenity deck space, possibly for workers in the office tower section above. The tower section also includes residential amenity spaces on levels 41, 42, 43, and 74 — these are the deck-type areas providing outdoor access (and unbeatable views) you can see in the renderings. Again, this information is absolutely preliminary and subject to change, but considering the detail on display in the renderings it’s clear these numbers aren’t made up either.
With the pandemic and election currently taking up most of our brainpower, the revelation of a possible supertall in Austin that might actually become the tallest tower in the state is blowing what’s left of our minds — trying to process this plan in the context of everything else going on in the news makes our brains feel like we’re downloading a 4K movie on dial-up internet. If built, it would be the most important development ever covered on this site, not just a game-changer for Austin’s skyline, but for the city’s status nationwide — we’re honestly at a loss for words, but we can’t wait to find out when this new benchmark for local growth expects to break ground.