The plan by prolific local hospitality developer White Lodging to build a 13-floor hotel at the southwest corner of East Fifth and Trinity Streets in downtown Austin heads for review at the city’s Design Commission meeting on Monday next week, meaning we’re now getting our first public look at renderings of the building — which will reportedly contain a 260-room hotel under Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand. (These renderings use the name Hotel Trinity, which may or may not be a placeholder.)
So far, so good — but what’s really useful about these design documents provided by Atlanta-based studio PFVS Architects is their helpful illustration of the height limitations imposed on the future hotel site, a roughly 0.4-acre assembly of property from 307 to 311 East Fifth Street owned by local investors the Finley Company. Due to the location of these tracts across the street from Brush Square, the hotel site falls under a little-known downtown zoning district known as the Downtown Parks Overlay, which limits the height of the building to 120 feet at its eastern face and imposes a 60-foot setback after that. Here’s how that looks:
We’ve already spent plenty of time laying out our hater thought process on why we think this parks overlay is pretty goofy stuff. The bottom line is that it’s dubious at best to argue a larger building would overwhelm the adjacent park when other green spaces manage to thrive just fine directly at the feet of taller towers, and these arbitrary limits on height and density in downtown — one of the few places in the city where people agree we’re supposed to build this stuff — are counterproductive to the goal of a vibrant and productive urban core. But it is what it is, and what it is is a 13-story hotel with approximately 6,400 square feet of restaurant space, including a corner bar at the street level and an additional poolside bar space at the roof.
Our frustration at the limitations placed upon this site doesn’t mean there’s anything particularly wrong with the building as seen here — it appears from these plans that it will function as a hotel just fine. But knowing there’s essentially a big dotted line hovering over this tower illustrating the larger building that could have gone here if it weren’t for the invisible wall projected by a fire station that happens to sit on city parkland is not an ideal situation for this corner. Now that we’ve said it, let’s see how the Design Commission feels about this one next week.