Last week, we noted the second possible demolition of an Extended Stay America hotel in the central city to make room for taller growth, but that doesn’t mean the mid-tier extended stay hotel is obsolete in downtown Austin — ha ha, au contraire! City permit filings from this month indicate plans for the development of a 166-room TownePlace Suites Hotel at 502 East Eighth Street, a roughly 0.6-acre assembly of adjacent tracts near the corner of East Eighth and Neches Streets on the edge of the Red River Cultural District all currently occupied by surface parking lots. (For the record, Pelon’s Tex-Mex on the corner doesn’t appear to be affected.)
Since 2017, these properties have been owned by an LLC connected with hotelier Vijay Patel of area firm Humble Origins Hospitality Management, behind the development of more than a dozen chain hotels throughout the Austin area. TownePlace Suites, a Marriott brand known for mid-priced all-suite properties often located on the side of a highway rather than the heart of downtown, might not sound like the most exciting addition to the city of the eternal boom — but you’ve got to keep in mind that this part of downtown is almost entirely restricted by Capitol View Corridors passing over the region, keeping any new development pretty short.
The new TownePlace Suites building will rise a mere four floors to avoid those view corridors, placing its parking in two underground levels. It’s just another example of how invisible forces constantly shape Austin’s growth, with the Capitol View Corridors simply the most publicly-known feature at the top of a long list also containing more esoteric gibberish like “Downtown Parks Overlay.” While the presence of CVCs means the area around Red River’s beloved music venues and other attractions contains a lot of parking lots, those height restrictions are arguably responsible for the district’s existence in the first place, so it’s kind of a mixed bag.
While we’ve complained in the past about similar mid-budget hotels taking up a lot of space on East Avenue, that’s simply because we’d prefer something taller and more iconic in their place, which isn’t possible here. That makes anything more than a parking lot at this highly constrained site a win for downtown, regardless of what’s inside the building. (More affordable hotel chains downtown also allow a wider range of travelers to stay somewhere interesting, instead of in a building near a frontage road out by the airport.) There’s no indication yet of when this project will break ground, but its construction probably won’t take as long as we’ve come to expect in downtown — you can put four floors up pretty quick!