The 47-floor residential tower planned by local development firm Manifold Real Estate at 506 and 508 West Avenue on the west end of downtown Austin is pushing forward after securing a height-friendly rezoning earlier this year. The project is headed for the city’s Design Commission at the beginning of next week, seeking a ruling of compliance with the requirements of the Downtown Density Bonus Program necessary to reach its desired floor-area ratio of 20 to 1, which would enable the tower to rise to its full height of 565 feet.
That’s also great news for us, since it means we’re getting our first good look at the tower’s design from the architects at Gensler Austin — thankfully, these renderings don’t disappoint. While it’s too early to tell whether the Design Commission will determine the tower is in substantial compliance with the various requirements of the DDBP, from these views of the building’s design we can already tell it’s unlike anything currently on Austin’s skyline, and we think you’ll agree:
Alongside Gensler Austin’s seemingly signature curved corners, the 506 West tower’s reddish-brown, possibly even rose gold exterior color is a welcome change from the blue glass curtain walls all over downtown — it’s reminiscent of our state’s beloved pink granite, but also feels like a throwback to the earth-toned designs we saw from Austin’s ’80s towers without being fully, y’know, beige. Like the Symphony Square tower’s striking cobalt blue cladding on the other side of downtown, it’s fantastic to see a new project taking even a mild risk with this unusual exterior palette.
The tower as currently planned will contain 359 residential units, along with approximately 2,480 square feet of commercial space and a small additional cafe directly at the street level facing West Avenue — the site’s location in the Shoal Creek floodplain puts a few constraints on streetscape design, namely that the main ground-floor restaurant space won’t directly face the street but instead be located at the north end of the tract, elevated slightly to avoid the floodplain. The architects hope to still meet design requirements by including features like preserved heritage trees, a patio overlooking Shoal Creek, and murals by local artist Emily Eisenhart.
As part of the DDBP’s requirements, the developers propose roughly $3,566,000 in community benefits as part of the project, including a payment of approximately $1,783,000 to the city’s affordable housing fund and another $1,783,000 donation to the nearby Cypress & Shoal Creek public space plan. That might not soften the blow for fans of Irene’s or Taquero Mucho, which will both need to be torn down to make room for the tower’s construction, but it’s still a whole mess of cash.
We’ll be interested to see whether the Design Commission shares our enthusiasm for the tower’s looks next week. They’ll probably focus more on practical stuff like sidewalks and driveways — but just once, we wish it was appropriate within the confines of Robert’s Rules and whatnot for somebody on the dais to officially note on the record that this tower’s color is, quote, “real good.”