When the proposed Austin Fairmont mega hotel project swooped in to the news a couple years ago, snatching the spotlight from the JW Marriot mega hotel, there was a healthy dose of skepticism about it would get off the ground.
A lack of visible activity on the site has been quietly stoking perceptions that the Fairmont will end up anything more than pretty drawings. The site filed a site plan in October 2012, which is still in review, but site plans are never guarantees of construction.
There had also been some chatter that a proposed sky bridge over Waller Creek, connecting the hotel to the convention center, had caused a project-stalling rift between the developer and the Waller Creek Conservancy.
But fret not!
Apparently, Doug Manchester, president of Manchester Texas Financial Group, which is developing the project, told the February monthly meeting of the Urban Land Institute’s Austin chapter, the project will break ground this October, with a 2016 opening date.
(The ABJ reported that Manchester wants to also champion a “major push” to develop the Austin Convention Center into a more competitive convention space to take on the like of San Diego, but that’s another story for another day.)
That the president of Manchester talking a big-picture, long-term view and ensuring a room full of people the project will break ground this year is about as much proof as you need to know this is a real project.
With that in mind, it is will remarkable how this project changes the entire scope and scale of Downtown Austin. Besides altering the skyline (the Fairmont will rival the Austonian’s height), this project absolutely transforms one of the major eastern gateways into downtown.
For more Fairmont hotel renderings, follow this link to download a PDF presentation from 2012.
Coupled with the SuttonTowers project on the north edge of the Rainey Street District, Austin will literally be unrecognizable in that area compared to what it had been in the past. Before those nostalgic feelings take root, consider: This is all part of a plan, which the community has gotten behind and a lot of careful thinking.
The Rainey Street District is supposed to become a dense cluster of skyscrapers. The Waller Creek district is supposed to become a world-class tourist destination, with a landmark hotel.