By all accounts, there is a 24-story tower under construction at the northeast corner of Fourth and Guadalupe Streets, just east of Republic Square Park. Still, there’s a chance you may have forgotten all about the Hotel ZaZa / Gables Republic Square project underway on the half-block located at 401 Guadalupe Street, a mixed-use building that should bring 159 hotel rooms, 221 apartment units, and bar/restaurant space to an extremely happening corner of downtown, all wrapped up in a charming brick exterior the likes of which we rarely see in Austin’s current glass-box-boom.
The reason you forgot about it was likely because the last time this project showed up in the news was 2016 — more than two years ago, but who’s counting? Inquiries sent to representatives of both Gables Residential and Hotel ZaZa regarding progress on this development have gone unanswered at time of publishing, and judging by the lack of publicity in other outlets, it seems the developers are keeping things pretty close to the vest.
Still, you can’t hide from the city — new development permits related to the building indicate that the structure’s tower crane will be dismantled by the end of the month, meaning the project is now topped out and ready for its finishing touches.
This whole thing, if you can believe it, was first announced in October 2012. Yes, that’s nearly six years ago, a stretch of time you might consider several epochs away from the current Austin you see before you. If you were kicking it in town back in 2012, you’ll remember just how different the skyline was — nearby towers like the Seaholm Residences, the Bowie, and the Independent hadn’t shown up yet, for one thing. Republic Square wasn’t nearly as nice, and we still thought Travis County was going to build a courthouse at the 308 Guadalupe block now preparing for the rise of the Republic office tower.
Anyway, things got hairy for the project pretty much immediately out of the gate, with residents at the nearby Plaza Lofts condo tower strongly opposing the building and the various big bads it would create for existing owners — although it’s unclear whether they were against the building blocking their views, increasing traffic, making noise, or having too much parking. My money’s on views being blocked, which, well, I’m sympathetic and all, but maybe don’t buy a condo that looks out over a parking lot? We tend to build stuff on top of those, and it generally rules.
Anyway, the development’s legal team and the Plaza’s residents hashed out a deal by early 2013, and the project also scored the approval of City Council in the form of a zoning change allowing for a higher floor-to-area ratio. At this point, the building was still supposed to break ground in 2013 and deliver by 2015, which very clearly did not happen considering that it is still under construction now! In fact nothing happened for a very long time at the site — despite updated reports that a groundbreaking was imminent in 2014, all that took place that year was the demolition of the Ginger Man bar formerly located on part of the block.
The site remained fenced off and undisturbed until 2016, when, at long last, the project began excavation — and promptly began to fill with water from an underground spring. Less than a month later, construction crews hit a gas line at the site, forcing streets around the project to close. We’ve talked about developments having bad luck before, but this is ridiculous!
Finally, by the end of 2016, one year after the building was originally intended to deliver, the site’s crane was assembled and construction began in earnest. The project began to poke above the street by the spring of 2017, and has slowly — and brother, I mean slowly — risen since then.
Despite the lack of an announcement and general radio silence from everyone involved in its construction, the building must have topped out sometime this summer, since the crane’s headed down at the end of the month. Still, considering the level of progress on display here, it’s pretty weird that there’s no real web presence or updates of any kind regarding the building. You’d think they’d want to pre-lease some of its residential units at this stage, but what do I know?
This is usually the part where I give you an updated completion date, courtesy of the folks behind whatever building we’re talking about — but that’s not happening this time, kids. Regardless, I’m thinking this building’s going to be ready to roll by 2019, unless the interior finish-out takes as long as its actual construction. In that case, I’ll buy you a drink in the hotel bar when it opens in, say, 2025.