An office tower by national commercial developer Ryan Companies will rise 41 floors — 633 feet and 11 inches, to be exact — at the southeast corner of West Fifth and Colorado Streets in downtown Austin, according to recent city permit filings and statements from the developers. Occupying nearly a quarter-block, the project contains 463,723 square feet of offices and 1,722 square feet of ground-floor retail space, along with pedestrian improvements and a sidewalk cafe area at its corner.
The address used for the development is 425 Colorado Street, but plans indicate the tower site will encompass essentially the entire corner, only leaving out the shuttered former hot dog outfit Frank at 407 Colorado Street — meaning there will be a small gap between this tower and the 405 Colorado office project rising directly south of it.
Known for the moment only as Tower 5C, almost certainly a placeholder name and pretty obviously short for its intersection of “Fifth and Colorado,” the plan’s been an object of curiosity in the local real estate community for a month or two at this point — but now, as the project advances through the city’s permitting process, we’ve scored our first look at the building’s height, design, and other details.
The four line drawings seen above, showing the building’s appearance straight-on from all sides, is our only current view of the tower’s design by the architects at Gensler Austin. Besides the impressive swoop of its crown and what at least appears to be curves at the corners of the facade instead of hard edges (note the southern end of the floor plan below), you’ll notice other details including an amenity level on the 19th floor — and yes, there’s 16 levels of internal parking included. At least it seems to be hidden well, with no ugly podium in sight.
One interesting detail from these illustrations is the apparent preservation of the 1920s-era brick building at 409 Colorado Street, perhaps best known as the first home of the now-legendary Alamo Drafthouse, which opened here in 1997. It’s now used as office space for Walmart, and recently underwent an award-winning renovation.
From these plans, it’s unclear exactly how much of the building’s being preserved — the 5C project may simply integrate the old facade of the structure into the rest of the new tower’s frontage, which might not inspire preservationists but still helps maintain the dwindling architectural character of the Warehouse District, so we’re glad to see it.
Let’s talk about the shape and crown of this tower for a second, since if you’re particularly invested in local architecture they might feel vaguely familiar. It turns out the designers at Gensler have imagined at least two previous concepts for Austin that included very similar crowns and curved exterior corners to what we see here. You’ll hear the first echo in an unused design the firm proposed years ago for a tower complex at 308 Guadalupe Street, now the expected future home of the Republic:
It’s not a perfect match or anything, but the shared DNA is there — and you’ll see additional crown and exterior similarity in Gensler’s unbuilt proposal for a stadium and tower complex at the Austin American-Statesman site south of the river:
Representatives of developer Ryan Companies aren’t able to confirm much about the project at this early stage, so we can’t nail down a timeline for construction or the impending demolition of existing structures on the site — but we did hear this from David Knoll, vice president of real estate development for the firm’s Austin office:
Ryan Companies is excited to be working on Tower 5C in downtown Austin. The engaging streetscape / lobby design, stellar amenities, best-in-class open floorplans, and prime location along Colorado Street will make it a very desirable option for office tenants.
— David Knoll, Ryan Companies
In addition to the usual hoops of the city’s permitting process, the developers will eventually need to secure the recommendation of Austin’s Design Commission for the project’s compliance with the Downtown Density Bonus Program, in order to build the tower to the height seen here. Part of that process involves submitting 3D renderings of the building to the commission, so whenever that happens we’ll get our first really solid view of Tower 5C — still, those drawings look pretty cool already, right?
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