The restoration at the former intake facility of downtown Austin’s decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant celebrated a milestone earlier this afternoon, with city officials and the project’s stewards at the Trail Conservancy marking the completion of the renovation’s critical first phase with a ribbon-cutting and tour.
We are creating something so beautiful people are already coming by, I am so excited to dedicate Phase 1 of the Seaholm Intake Building, an iconic Art Deco design. Formerly the pump house for the Seaholm Power Plant and built of cast concrete in two phases in 1950 and 1955. pic.twitter.com/fksbJpf3U6
— Sabino Pio Renteria (@CM_Renteria) September 28, 2022
The building, which features the same austere 1950s Art Deco-style architecture of the larger nearby power plant, will eventually open along with its surrounding parkland as an indoor-outdoor public space to be known as the Seaholm Waterfront, a perfect spot for events, exhibits, and recreation with convenient water access, all designed as part of a 2018 vision plan by Chicago architecture firm Studio Gang — but for now, we’re just happy to see the first phase finished, which was more about getting the place scrubbed up outside and not insanely dangerous on the inside. Isn’t that nice?
As of September 2022, Phase 1 has been completed. Phase 1, funded through Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue and 2018 bond funding, restored the building to a level that allows small groups to now visit the site safely with the support of City or TTC guides. The scope of this phase included building exterior cleaning and removal of graffiti, window restoration, enclosing large openings in the floor with the installation of new flooring atop a modular steel system, noise reduction with the installation of new acoustic ceiling tiles, new interior and exterior lighting, ADA accessibility improvements, and a new roof. An accessory building was also updated, providing event restrooms and event staging.
Ultimately, full access to the Intake will begin upon completion of Phase 2, bringing the facility to life and providing the amenities and maintenance needed for daily operations. The Trail Conservancy, in partnership with PARD, is launching a $10,000,000 capital campaign in 2022 to fund Phase 2 and will begin the construction of this phase once the campaign goal has been reached.
In the meantime, the City of Austin Parks Department and The Trail Conservancy have planned a variety of public programs that will allow safe, limited access to the space and surrounding parkland. These programs include, but are not limited to:
- TTC Music on the Trail series
- TTC Flow & Thrive fitness series
- TTC Scavenger Hunt
- TTC ecological restoration volunteer events
- PARD family-friendly open house and historic tour events
The Seaholm Intake, upon completion of Phase 2, will be a community gathering space for daily use by the public.
The original building, constructed as a pump house for a working power plant rather than a chic industrial space, understandably had some gigantic holes in the center of the floor for its pumps and very little in the way of creature comforts. With phase one complete, the building now includes a whole laundry list of upgrades including fire sprinklers, a new roof, safety railings, new windows, improved ventilation and fans, lighting, ADA access, and some tasteful wood paneling covering those gigantic holes in the floor. Here’s how the interior of the structure used to look:
And here’s the view from today of the newly-renovated space:
As part of our tour, the Trail Conservancy included some helpful reminders of what’s coming in the second phase of work — the true creation of an amenitized public space in this building, which will provide handy lake access from the front of the structure:
As you might imagine, the first stage of renovations completed here involved a lot of exterior work beyond the life-safety improvements inside. With several decades of graffiti and grime to carefully blast off the historic structure, you may have recently noticed the outside of the building hasn’t looked better in most of our lifetimes — that’s all thanks to general contractors Balfour Beatty Construction.
While we still wish the renovation of the Seaholm Power Plant itself had included this much interior public space, we’re happy to see the city learn from its prior mistake and plan to make this structure open to everyone — it’s the kind of fascinating historic architecture often hidden in plain sight around here, and we want everyone to enjoy its potential as Austin grows into a older and wiser city. Maybe consider a donation?