You and I will likely never understand exactly how it feels to bomb down Castle Hill on a skateboard, which is nearly as sad for our collective joie de vivre as it is deeply comforting to our insurance providers. All you really need to know is that despite its character ranging from million-dollar homes to interior design studios, the stretch of West 12th Street spanning both sides of North Lamar Boulevard from roughly Baylor Street to West Avenue hosts one of Austin’s more vibrant and youthful skate scenes, a sentence that makes me feel pretty old just for typing it.
This guy’s probably not winning any Nobel Prizes, but you’ve got to appreciate the audacity.
No-Comply Skate Shop, located since 2007 in the center of this action at 812 West 12th Street, probably has a lot to do with that — and the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skate Park opened just around the corner in 2011 on the site of the former Austin Recreation Center building at 1213 Shoal Creek Boulevard doesn’t hurt either.
But even the the geography of West 12th Street itself assists local skaters by helpfully including both the aforementioned death-defying hill west of North Lamar Boulevard, and a gentler eastern slope from West Avenue down to Shoal Creek Boulevard:
Practically across the street from the district’s longtime skate shop is 827 West 12th Street, a roughly .55-acre tract currently occupied by four buildings including the headquarters of Dynamic Reprographics Inc., retail bookshop 12th Street Books, and two smaller office spaces. Though the land is currently owned by Dynamic Reprographics president Lisa Jean Tipps, recent city filings indicate this property will soon see a mixed-use residential development by Houston real estate firm Transwestern, bringing approximately 175 “micro-unit” apartments and ground-floor retail space to the site — a plan that sounds fairly similar, at least in the broad strokes, to the developer’s upcoming Block 36 project elsewhere in downtown.
Though renderings or even drawings aren’t yet available for the project, a rezoning case for the property from earlier this year approved a change from Commercial Services (CS) to Downtown Mixed-Use (DMU) zoning with a conditional overlay limiting the height of any building here to 60 feet — or roughly five to six floors at most — which means the least we can do is mock something up for your viewing pleasure with one of our famous green box massings:
The height of the 3D box in the images above is as accurate to 60 feet as we can get it with the wildly varying elevations of this area — but the Austin Community College parking garage directly across the street is 75 feet high, if that gives you a better idea.
Documents related to the rezoning of the site and its subsequent development indicate Transwestern has worked with the Downtown Austin and Old Austin Neighborhood Associations to hash out the details of a private restrictive covenant agreement on some additional terms for a building here — namely that the project would provide Great Streets improvements along its West 12th Street frontage, along with screening and architecturally integrating its above-ground parking structure into the overall building (seemingly in an effort to avoid the dreaded “plinth” look).
We are excited about the prospect of having new residential neighbors at this site, and we’re glad the planned parking ratio is relatively low (0.7 spaces/unit). While we would prefer that the parking be below-grade, adaptable for other uses, and available from the beginning to other users, we still believe that this project, with the restrictions outlined above, represents a significant step forward for the neighborhood.
— Dan Keshet, DANA Policy Committee Chair
There’s no groundbreaking date for this project, or even any indications of demolition for the existing buildings at the site, so we don’t have much to work with beyond what you see here — still, this side of downtown isn’t generally considered a hotbed for residential development, so anything happening over here is noteworthy. We hope 12th Street Books finds a new location for its incredible collection of rare texts without too much trouble, though it would be even better if Transwestern had the heart to give the store some space in the ground floor of the new building — after all, a physical bookstore surviving in 2019 is almost as weird as skating Castle Hill.