Though ground hasn’t even broken on the project, it’s still been a wild ride for the building planned by Cousins Properties, Ironwood Real Estate, and Riverside Resources at 300 Colorado Street in downtown Austin. What once was described as a 44-story residential tower is now a 31-story office tower, with its 377,500 square feet of office space entirely leased to oil and gas drilling firm Parsley Energy.
Now that it’s gotten serious and changed its major to business, the project appears to be moving forward in earnest, with an all-new design by architecture firms Pickard Chilton and Kendall/Heaton Associates. It’s on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the Design Commission, where, if all goes well, it will be ruled in compliance with the city’s Urban Design Guidelines — a requirement for eligibility in the Downtown Density Bonus Program, which will exempt the building from the 8:1 FAR limit of its site’s zoning. The developers are seeking an FAR of 15.71:1, which actually doesn’t take full advantage of the program’s capabilities — if approved, the 300 Colorado Street site’s CBD zoning would allow for a maximum FAR of 25:1.
Don’t worry if this all makes you glaze over — the important part is, we now have access to new renderings of the tower, included in its density bonus application documents filed with the city. We’ve only seen a few drawings of the building’s new office appearance before now, so here it is in full technicolor for the first time:
Boy, that sure looks like an office building, doesn’t it? Here’s another view of the tower in context with its surroundings:
It certainly looks like a good neighbor to Colorado Tower! I’ve got to admit I’m a little disappointed by how small that “notched” section is on the building’s western elevation. If they deepened and widened its shape, similar to Pickard Chilton’s 300 North Lasalle building I mentioned last time, the tower might gain a bit more character — or at least that facade would look a little less flat.
The 9,655 square feet of restaurant space on the building’s first two floors will be leased by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, the parent company of the Sullivan’s Steakhouse that will soon be demolished to make way for the tower. Sullivan’s will not return in the new building, however — this time, it’ll be a Del Frisco’s Grille, which appears to serve roughly the same food.
The only defining features, outside of its street-level appearance, are the terrace spaces seen on levels 16 and 30. They’re very similar to the outdoor areas built into 500 West Second and the upcoming Block 71 towers, aren’t they? It’s great to see new buildings reclaiming parts of their rooftops, especially when so many new towers neglect to take advantage of the space at all.
Though the building isn’t particularly striking, its designers still took a little time to consider the building in context with its surroundings from a historical perspective, according to its density bonus application:
The project is not designed to replicate any historical styles and will be a contemporary design compatible with surrounding developments that references the warehouse windows of the past without mimicking their appearance.
The building façade design at the ground level draws from the context of the Warehouse District. The ground level glazing system is a modern interpretation of the dark colored steel framed windows commonly found in historic warehouse structures.
— 300 Colorado Downtown Density Bonus Application
You know, they’ve got a point. Those dark steel frames around the windows of the tower do improve its looks, but not quite enough to blow the minds of the Design Commission’s Planning and Urban Design Working Group, which declared the project compliant with the city’s guidelines — but only just:
Concerns of this project focus on the streetscape; including inadequate overhead protection for the pedestrian, lack of activity due to minimal space allocated to retail, and the unfortunate situation of tearing out an existing Great Streets. Restricting parking for office tenants only is another concern. Hundreds of parking spaces will remain unused during the evening. We would recommend opening these spaces to the public at night to mitigate the construction of new parking garages downtown.
We have determined that this project, as presented, is just in substantial compliance with the Urban Design Guidelines. However, we would ask you to please address the non-compliant items to improve the project before presenting to the full Commission.
— Design Commission Working Group Memo
We’ll see how things go tonight, but I’m not expecting too much drama. Though they may not be huge fans of the building, if it’s compliant, it’s compliant — as far as I can tell, the commission’s issues are with the tower’s street-level engagement, not its appearance.
Speaking of warm, I’m so sick of all these identical blue buildings downtown. I know it’s not as easy as it looks to design a tower with interesting colors — but I’ve got an idea for one you guys could use.