Having topped out its Natiivo project at 48 East Avenue in the Rainey Street District just last week, Austin firm Pearlstone Partners has an only slightly different address on its mind at 84 East Avenue, where the developers’ 284-unit downtown Austin condo tower plan currently known by the placeholder name The East Tower is quickly passing through the permitting stages on the way to a groundbreaking currently scheduled for the second quarter of 2021.
This 41-story plan, which Pearlstone is developing in partnership with New York-based ATCO Properties, received the unanimous approval of the City of Austin’s Design Commission at its meeting last night for inclusion in the city’s density bonus program that will allow the structure to rise its full 446 feet atop the 0.4-acre site assembled from two small adjacent tracts at 82 and 84 East Avenue.
Although the structure’s appearance from local studio STG Design is reminiscent of other podium-and-tower-style residential designs such as the Hanover Company’s Republic Square and Brazos Street projects elsewhere downtown, the East Tower distinguishes itself with an interesting red-brown exterior cladding reminiscent of weathering steel, along with a 120-foot green wall on the structure’s northeast corner and a 650-square-foot space on the ground floor described by the developers as a public gallery featuring work from local artists — satisfying the design requirements for its density bonus in lieu of a traditional ground-floor retail component, a feature we’ve also seen across town in the plan for the Linden condo tower.
This gallery space, and a large mural on the west-facing wall of the building’s ground level, will be visible from Rainey Street by looking east through a covered alley passing through the Camden Rainey Street building to the larger, soon-to-be-paved alley that splits Rainey Street and East Avenue — you can get a better idea of what we’re talking about by comparing the rendering and current street view below:
This is the sort of interaction between buildings and ground-floor spaces that gives Rainey Street its character, so we’re happy to see the project taking advantage — the paving of that alley is really going to change things around here, isn’t it? It certainly elegantly addresses one of the project’s biggest headaches, which is that its location facing the part of East Avenue that’s technically also part of the I-35 Frontage Road puts its eastern frontage under the jurisdiction of our friends at TxDOT — rather than the city — meaning it’s not possible to design the tower with typical Great Streets-style sidewalks and other landscaping improvements in this area.
You’ll still be able to access the building from East Avenue, of course, but the backside entrance off Rainey’s alley might actually be a better solution in the end — still, to provide a better streetscape the developers have voluntarily pulled back the tower further than necessary on the east side, providing extra space for pedestrians than provided by the TxDOT right-of-way, as you can see in the site plan above.
The tower’s resident amenities include an outdoor space atop the structure’s parking podium at the 12th floor, and a rooftop pool deck at the 41st floor — both feature design from our friends at local landscape architecture firm dwg.
Strange as it may sound, the East Tower’s condo units are targeted for price ranges that, for both Rainey Street and downtown proper, might actually qualify as “missing middle” housing — according to Pearlstone CEO Robert Lee, the tower aims to price most of its condos between $499,000 and $999,000, which he says would make the project the city’s “lowest-priced new build, downtown high-rise” for the moment.
The building’s obviously still targeting an affluent segment of the market, but one that might not be able to afford similar projects nearby — an approach not unlike what Pearlstone’s trying at Natiivo. The project would also include an estimated 11 units designated as affordable housing by the city, and the developers will pay an additional affordable housing “fee-in-lieu” of more than $800,000.
Other firms included in the project are local civil engineers Wuest Group, construction outfit AECOM Hunt, and interior designers McCray & Co. Though you’d expect the pandemic to slow things down, if Pearlstone and AECOM Hunt’s performance keeping Natiivo on schedule stays true for this nearby project, we could see the doors open at the East Tower — or whatever its official name is — by the end of 2023.