Within the last couple of weeks, a New Orleans-based developer began its application process with the City of Austin’s Development Services Department to build a 204-room hotel at Lavaca and West 17th Streets, according to city documents.
The company, HRI Development, has carried out some impressive adaptive reuse projects on historic buildings over the last 36 years, converting the Liberty Title Building, originally constructed in 1925 in Philadelphia, into an Aloft hotel; and the 1929 Art Deco Holston House in downtown Nashville into a luxury Hyatt hotel.
That’s nice to know, and it would have been great if HRI had utilized its adaptive reuse makeover experience on one of Austin’s historic buildings. But for the company’s first project in downtown Austin, the developers decided to build on a surface parking lot instead.
Little is known of the project at this time, with HRI having submitted an outline of its concept to the city only two weeks ago. The development’s current name, 17th Street Hotel, is likely a working title destined to be replaced by a major hotel chain’s flag once it opens. Partnering companies that HRI has worked with before include various Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott brands.
The project’s site — two blocks distant, diagonally, from the John Reagan State Office Building — is remarkable, in that it is about as close as anyone can develop to the Capitol grounds without encountering the limitations of our city’s Capitol View Corridors. Bounded by Lavaca Street to the east and 17th Street to the north, the HRI site is currently occupied by an LAZ Parking lot, with the address 1622 Lavaca Street.
This is a small plot of land — totaling two-tenths of an acre, or a mere 8,712 square feet. Given the fact that HRI plans 204 rooms for the hotel, this implies a fairly tall building, certainly taller than the nine-story Hampton Inn & Suites that stands across Lavaca Street northeast of this site.
HRI might experience a bit of a learning curve with this project, considering it’s the company’s first in Austin in 20 years, and its prior developments here weren’t downtown. The firm has built a few projects in Dallas, but the majority of its developments have risen in states east of the Mississippi River. Here’s hoping HRI has a positive experience on this project — enough so to possibly consider renovating one of the city’s historic buildings next time.
One thing is certain — the mannequins on the balcony at the Hampton will be keeping a close eye on this project. Has anyone reminded HRI that Austin likes to keep it weird?