Compared to the rapid growth along other more industrial corridors in East Austin, the stretch of East MLK Jr. Boulevard near I-35 has maintained a pretty quiet pace of development over the last few years, with large tracts like Oakwood Cemetery and the UT baseball stadium at UFCU Disch–Falk Field occupying large stretches of land closer to the highway, along with inward architectural landmarks like John S. Chase’s 1965 Phillips House and 1959 David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
With the majority of growth in the region concentrated around the MLK Jr. MetroRail station, mostly with projects inside the Chestnut Plaza TOD area, almost any development closer to downtown is notable around here — so we thought you might like to note that earlier this week, the neighborhood saw the official groundbreaking of a three-story, 30,021-square-foot office building by real estate giants JLL on behalf of local investors CB Capital at 2105 East MLK Jr. Boulevard, replacing the 0.76-acre vacant former site of the Medical Plaza retail center.
Designed by local architecture and engineering firm Cushing Terrell and set to be constructed by general contractors Sabre Commercial, the project’s permit documents also use the name “The Ferdinand” for the building, owing to its location near Ferdinand Street. (The project is also directly across the street from the famous “You’re My Butter Half” mural, if you like that sort of thing.)
When these projects break ground, people tend to ask us why on earth anyone would build more offices when the post-covid era has many of us rocking the 24/7 work-from-home setup, and we’ve noticed that nearly every commercial real estate press release announcing one of these buildings does its best to answer that burning question, even unprompted — count how many times they do it below:
The three-story building has been thoughtfully designed with a biophilic approach that will feature multiple outdoor spaces. The building will also incorporate high-end amenities, including a UV purification and ionization HVAC system, touchless faucets and soap dispensers, showers, bike storage and parking. The central location provides convenient access to multiple shops and restaurants nearby.
According to JLL’s Q2 Office Outlook, the U.S. office market is stabilizing and capitalizing. Falling unemployment rates, rising consumer spending, greater mobility and improved vaccination numbers are all setting the stage for pent-up office demand. Additionally, JLL’s recent Worker Preference Barometer report found that increased numbers of employees are experiencing virtual burn out and seeking the structure, engagement and collaboration gained from working in an office.
— 2105 East MLK Press Release, JLL / CB Capital
Your mileage may vary on this depending on your personal levels of introversion, but we don’t think they’re wrong that working from home constantly can start to feel a little isolating, assuming you aren’t lucky enough to have so many rooms in your house that you can change your background scenery every once in a while.
The rise of so-called “biophilic” office design in response to the pandemic is certainly a fascinating branding exercise, but we wonder if these features have a measurable impact on in-person employee retention when remote work is also on the table — we’ll probably find out as these buildings come online. The 2105 office project is currently scheduled for completion in Q4 2022.