The downtown post office building may be the worst structure constructed downtown in the last century. It wastes a prime central block (Block 51) with an enormous elevated parking lot. It leaves all four sides devoid of retail, restaurants or cultural use. It places the structure in the middle of the block, far from the street and close to parked cars. It wastes a prime tall-building lot with a tiny 2 floor structure.
When Will Wynn was mayor, he led a campaign to rid the block of the dreaded post office. The post office won.
The Austin Downtown Post Office
This week, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it has come to agreement with Novare Group — the developer of 360 — to sell the site and to relocate the post office in early 2013. Novare will partner with Austin-based Andrews Urban.
Once the Post Office is gone, Novare will redevelop the block for much denser use. Apparently, all options are still on the table including condos, apartments, office, hotel and retail. 19 months ago, Novare announced preliminary plans for two new towers to rise one block west of the downtown post office. The new plans called for construction of a 250 unit 28-story condo tower and an adjacent 16-story office tower on the 1.2 acre site bounded by Fifth, Sixth, San Antonio and Nueces streets. That project, called Ovation, replaced earlier plans for a larger 400-unit condo development on the same site. Novare’s 360 was one of the largest and most successful downtown projects, selling out 430 units with strong pre-sales and minimal discounting.
The Post Office represented what Will Wynn called a “staggering underutilization of land.” While it remains to be seen what will follow, development of this prime downtown block will improve pedestrian flow through the area, will better frame Republic Square park, and will hopefully add new residents to downtown Austin.