New documents submitted to the City of Austin’s Design Commission bring us an unexpected, but welcome piece of news — the planned downtown office tower known as The Republic will be significantly taller than we thought.
The tower’s new application to the Downtown Density Bonus Program, submitted by developers Lincoln Property Company and Phoenix Property Company as part of the backup files for the Design Commission’s August 27 meeting, replaces a previous design that would have been presented at the commission’s cancelled July 23 meeting. These new documents describe a 709-foot, 46-story building — which represents a 123-foot, 8-floor increase over the tower’s earlier reported height of 586 feet and 38 floors.
Judging by the documents available, the design of the tower, which is planned at the downtown block/parking lot bordered by West Third, San Antonio, West Fourth, and Guadalupe Streets, hasn’t significantly changed beyond its new height. The layout of the ground-floor retail spaces and public plaza facing Republic Square across Fourth Street all look the same, and you can check them out in detail in our previous post about the project.
Needless to say, this additional height makes a significant difference in the tower’s look, though the general design of the building remains the same. This height increase would up the structure’s floor-area-ratio from 9.12:1 in the original design to a pretty snazzy 11.92:1, and provide 901,300 gross square feet of office space — an increase of 219,829 gsf over the original design’s 681,471 gsf. Of course, with this office boost comes a boost of another sort — the new tower parks 1,916 spaces over the previous design’s 1,644. That’s a big parking podium!
To increase a tower’s height after its announcement isn’t unheard of, but it usually tends to go the other way in Austin. I’m not enough of a guru to tell you exactly why the developers might have made this decision, but considering the general large-scale leasing trend in the downtown commercial market over the last couple of years — think Google at 500 West Second, or Facebook at Third + Shoal — the newfound confidence the folks behind this tower seem to have regarding their ability to fill an extra few hundred thousand square feet of office space could imply they’ve already secured an anchor tenant for a large portion of the building.
I don’t really care too much about the inside baseball going on here, because “building gets taller” is already enough to get me pretty jazzed up. Just look at it! It’s a massive improvement over the original design, which I already liked, and it’s nice to see Austin’s towers finally getting the height they need for their design to really breathe — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grumbled about the lovely Frost Bank Tower deserving at least ten more floors. The competition for downtown’s next signature tower gets fiercer every day, doesn’t it?