We’ve said this before, but the region of downtown Austin sandwiched between the eastern edge of the Capitol grounds and I-35 is one of the city’s most interesting areas for potential growth. There are projects in the pipeline both in and around it, but for clarity’s sake let’s focus on the box formed by East 15th and East 11th Streets; San Jacinto Boulevard, and the I-35 Frontage Road.
Straddling the north end of this imaginary box, you’ve got all the potential growth imagined in the Medical District — also known as the “Innovation District,” I guess — that should also eventually replace the impressively ugly Frank Erwin Center, among other cool things. The ongoing Waterloo Park project is right in the center of this region, Red River Street is getting rerouted, the Alexan apartment tower is already in an early stage of construction at 700 East 11th Street, the Huston apartments have broken ground just across the highway, and something called the Hotel Mirabeau is theorized for the old Brick Oven pizza joint on Red River Street — we haven’t heard about that last one for years, though it’s clearly still a prime site to build something.
But perhaps the most interesting upcoming development here is at Symphony Square — no, not the recent renovation of the amphitheater space by the Waller Creek Conservancy, but another project surrounding it that’s also currently going by the name “Symphony Square” in city filings. Don’t let this confuse you, my friends.
Information’s trickled out over the last few months regarding a development by multifamily firm Greystar atop a 1.7-acre land assembly including the Austin Symphony Orchestra offices at 1117 Red River Street, and the large drive-through Velocity Credit Union and garage facing Sabine Street at 610 East 11th Street, which occupies the whole eastern half of the block between East 11th and 12th Streets. Previous rezoning and demolition applications for these properties have given us a few hints about what to expect, but recent city filings on behalf of the developer from local engineering firm Big Red Dog help us flesh things out a little more.
Simply put, this is a mixed-use building with design from national firm R2L Architects — which coincidentally has an office branch here in town — but it might be better described as a “complex.” It’s also kind of “complex” to describe it without renderings or other images, which we don’t have yet, but we’re doing it anyway! The structure includes 391 residential units — almost certainly apartments considering Greystar’s portfolio — plus offices, a hotel, and retail space. At least some of that office space will house the new headquarters for the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Many of these uses share floors in some capacity — for example, there’s garage space on the first nine floors of the building, but none of them are exclusively dedicated to a garage. There’s also a significant elevation change between the Red River Street and Sabine Street sides of the plot, meaning the design is sort of split-level in nature — the ground floor on the Red River Street side is technically three stories below the ground floor on the Sabine Street side.
The project includes retail facing Red River Street, then rises for two more floors on that side with office and garage space. That brings us level with the Sabine Street side, where you’ll find additional retail space along with residential, hotel, office, and garage uses. After the ground floor level at Sabine Street, office, hotel, and garage space rises to the fourth floor, then there are two levels of just hotel and garage uses. Previous reports indicate the hotel here will only contain 24 rooms — but that seems low considering the total amount of hotel space listed in these recent documents, 111,570 square feet, unless each room is the size of a McMansion.
So, if you’re still following, here’s the twist with this building that we weren’t sure about until now. A large percentage of this site is constrained by two overlapping Capitol View Corridors, meaning a building here can only rise a few floors at best. But the southeastern corner of the block, currently occupied by the credit union’s parking structure, avoids the corridor — this is the same reason the Alexan apartment tower currently under construction one block east of here can rise 30 floors with the help of a slight angle in its design to avoid the path of the CVCs. Take a look:
Due to the newest documents for the Symphony Square project, we know now that a residential tower will rise 33 floors at this corner, while the other parts of the complex occupy what is essentially a real big podium, constrained by the view corridors over the north half of the site — it’s extremely similar, at least by the numbers, to the similarly CVC-avoiding design of the Block 87 tower plan we haven’t heard about for a concerning amount of time.
The bedroom counts of the building’s 391 residential units and some other info regarding the square footages of its various uses also show up in the site plan:
From Sabine Street to the fourth floor, the podium occupies most of the block, presumably since it’s under the view corridors — about 47,000 square feet per floor. From the fifth to the ninth level, the total size per floor goes down by about half, to 25,000 square feet apiece — that sorta tracks with the size of the non-constrained area of the site on the southeast corner.
From the 10th to the final 33rd level, all of which are residential, the floor plates are even smaller at 14,875 square feet each, which implies the tower component itself is pretty slim. Here’s a recent site plan for the building’s ground levels, marked up with as much explanation as possible:
Hey, that reminds me — back before the orchestra’s office space was in play, real estate firm Aquila Commercial marketed a potential tower at the Velocity site with conceptual renderings from architects Gensler Austin. While this version of the project is clearly no longer happening, it shows us how the development of this area is driven by the CVCs passing over it, so it’s still relevant to the new design:
Anyway, you know we couldn’t see this information without mocking up another green box for the tower! This one, again, is a little complicated — the massing below shows the 33-floor, 379-foot tower component, but doesn’t include the shorter podium around it. We’re also not sure of the shape of the tower, so this model just follows the property lines and boundaries of the site’s view corridors — meaning what’s seen here is accurate in terms of height, but probably way bigger than the actual tower will end up.
For context, we’ve placed a second massing in the images below for the Alexan apartment tower going up one block east of the Symphony site, which should be fairly accurate to its expected height and shape — we actually have renderings for that one, which makes things a whole lot easier.
Considering the lack of additional info on this project, our understanding of its appearance is even murkier than usual, but this is still clearly a pretty significant improvement for a relatively quiet corner of downtown. The only remaining detail on these latest documents is an estimated start date for construction: October 2020. Hopefully we’ll see some better views between then and now.