Perhaps by now you’ve heard that the Salvation Army is selling its acre-sized downtown Austin property near the corner of Eighth and Neches Streets, occupied for years by the charity’s homeless shelter until an abrupt closure last month.
The site, now being marketed by commercial real estate giants CBRE, will probably need a fairly sensitive redevelopment to overcome the unfortunate optics of replacing a homeless shelter. But with a surface parking lot and retail storefront facing Red River Street included in the package, there’s definitely potential for something new here — with one caveat, which every article about this so far hasn’t bothered to mention and is driving us mildly crazy. Most of the site is constrained by Capitol View Corridors passing over the property, which would limit any development here to a few stories taller than the existing shelter building at most. CBRE knows this, of course, which is why the speculative renderings marketing the potential for new development at this property top out at no more than eight floors:
When you look at a map of the CVCs in the Red River area, you’ll notice it’s a real corridor-fest. That enforcement of low-rise buildings is partially responsible for the formation of an entertainment district in this area, since many of the old buildings here housing bars and clubs can’t really be redeveloped for anything else.
But you’ll also notice the two major city view corridors obstructing development of the Salvation Army site in particular, CVCs 14 and 15, end at I-35 a few blocks away — they are effectively protecting people’s views of the Capitol dome while they’re driving on the upper deck of the highway! Ignoring how silly that is for a moment, if you hold your nose and dive into the details of TxDOT’s Capital Express plan for the widening of I-35 through downtown, you’ll recall that part of the project is the removal of those upper decks, meaning these view corridors in particular won’t make much sense.
While we’re generally down with the unique designs encouraged by the existence of the Capitol View Corridors throughout downtown, these two in particular might be good candidates for removal once TxDOT tears down the elevated part of the highway. If the city goes through with taking away these and other effectively defunct corridors once the upper deck no longer exists, whoever buys the Salvation Army site might suddenly have a tower-friendly piece of land on their hands — there’s also a state corridor over the site, but a tower here could avoid it. There’s a good chance a few other people have noticed this, so we’ll be interested to see who ends up buying the property. It’s kind of a gamble, sure, but it’s our job to always bet on downtown.