It might not be downtown Austin’s first drive-thru bank, but the Horizon Bank building at 600 West Fifth Street is definitely our newest, originally opened at the northwest corner of West Fifth and Nueces Streets in 2004 as a Sovereign Bank — banks seriously love buying other banks, shuffling them around, changing the name on the sign five times in 10 years, you name it. Here’s how the corner looks now:
Though we’re not high on drive-thrus in downtown as a general rule, since their inherently auto-centric use represents a sort of natural predator to our regular hobbyhorse of walkable urban environments, we’ve still kept up with Horizon Bank’s redevelopment plans for this .41-acre site that first showed up back in 2019, which would replace the current smaller building and parking lot with a 16-floor tower containing office space, a larger drive-thru bank facility on the ground level, and approximately seven floors of structured parking.
That plan appears to be moving forward in earnest, having shaken off any pandemic-era anxieties, with a demolition application for the current bank structure and crane permit for the new construction both recently filed with the city and now moving through the approval process, along with the project’s site plan currently in review. Though we don’t know the precise date of demolition or the timeline for the tower’s construction yet, these documents provide us with our first rendering of the new building, from Beck Architecture with landscape work by the locals at TBG Partners:
Looking at this tower, particularly knowing that the site lacks any view corridors overhead or other height restrictions, you might ask yourself why it isn’t a bit taller — at least we do. When the development appeared on the scene two years ago, some of our industry sources explained that Horizon is self-financing the project, and didn’t want to take on undue risk with a larger tower, since this building’s office levels and ground-floor bank space adequately meets their needs — and though we haven’t confirmed that with the bank, it’s the best explanation for 16 floors we’ve heard so far.
This height also doesn’t require participation in the city’s Downtown Density Bonus Program, which would mandate a lot of design adaptations and street-level improvements. Though they ultimately make for much better buildings, these features raise a project’s overall cost and complicate the development process, so unless a tower’s gunning for a lot of additional density it might make sense to just stay under the limit — could a streamlined program make participation less of a headache?