Everyone wants to know what’s up with Block 185. It’s the final undeveloped parcel of the former Green Water Treatment Plant, situated at the convergence of the emerging Seaholm and 2nd Street Districts, and represents the final piece of the puzzle for an area that now includes the New Central Library, the Northshore apartments, the Austin Proper condo/hotel tower, and two office developments: 500 West 2nd and Third + Shoal.
Back in 2012, plans for the Block 185 parcel appeared to show a 39-floor residential tower, a twin to the Northshore project next door. Since then, we’ve heard almost nothing for nearly five years. Well, sort of.
Over the weekend, some folks in Austin’s extremely vigilant community of skyscraper enthusiasts stumbled upon renderings for a tower at the Block 185 site by David Epstein, an architect at Gensler.
The renderings appear to date back to 2015, but weren’t discovered as far as we can tell until just a couple of days ago — the reason for that is unknown. Beyond the fact that they show an incredibly attractive building, these illustrations have everyone excited for one reason: height. Even a conservative estimate puts the height of this building very close to 900 feet tall, with more than 65 floors — meaning it wouldn’t just be the tallest tower in Austin, but perhaps even competitive with the tallest buildings in the region.
— Justin Baudoin (@justinbaudoin) June 24, 2017
Okay, I can’t stall anymore — it’s time to pop the balloon. This hurts me more than it hurts you, since I really love the design of this building. In fact, I love it so much, I got in touch with George Blume, design director at Gensler Austin, to see if he’d shed light on the mystery rendering. His reply? I’m reading between the lines here, but I think we need to cool our jets.
“We can say with great confidence that the images circulating will not be realized.”
— George Blume, Gensler
This notorious rendering appears to be part of research for the site Blume calls “extremely speculative and hypothetical.” Oof.
Of course, that doesn’t rule out something else exciting in the future for Block 185. Though he wasn’t keen on providing details at this time, Blume says Gensler is currently working with developers Trammell Crow on a “completely different” design for the site. In fact, banners covering the fences around the current empty site describe it as the future location for a “luxury mixed-use” development.
And just like that, the mystery continues.