The Employee Retirement System of Texas occupies one of the more creatively-designed buildings in the Texas Capitol Complex at 200 East 18th Street, but the agency seems to have outgrown its home, with plans for a major expansion underway.
The main building, a five-story 1979 structure shaped like a Chinese wood puzzle, will remain as the agency’s main office. However, a much shorter 12,800-square-foot annex building on the east half of the block will be knocked down. The project name for the replacement building is ERS 200B.
ERS intends to build as big as the restrictions on this block will allow. Two Capitol View Corridors intersect the property, and the city’s Planning and Development Department estimates this limits the height of a new building to “130 feet, or about 11 stories.”
The scope of work being asked of the design team confirms ERS intends to get as much as it can out of the height limit. The number of stories isn’t currently specified in available documents, but it will be at least twice the height of the main building. ERS is requiring 145,000 gross square feet of office space, and 33,000 square feet of mixed-use space at ground level intended for a restaurant and retail uses.
In addition, the agency wants a 162,000-square-foot parking structure, enough to hold 420 vehicles.
“The work shall include the design and construction of the entire building shell, with an additional estimated 20,000 gross square feet of finish-out for use by ERS,” the agency stated in a 2017 request for qualifications.
While the ERS does need some more space for staff and future operations, the agency is looking at a project of this size for its commercial potential.
“Successful completion of the work will provide ERS with adequate space for existing staff, accommodate future growth, and provide a source of income from lease spaces. If ERS has tenants under contract prior to the closeout/commissioning phase, ERS may be responsible for finish-out of those spaces,” the RFQ said.
Katherine Loayza, an attorney with Jackson Walker, submitted a request May 22 for a zoning change from CS-1 (office) to CBD, which allows the site to be used for office, restaurant and retail.
“The owner would like to redevelop the property to expand the administrative office use and provide pedestrian oriented restaurant/retail uses on the ground level,” Loayza said.
The Planning Commission took up the request at its June 12 meeting, but agreed to a staff recommendation in favor of the zoning change without discussion. Staff justified its recommendation because the conceptual plan increases diversity of uses.
“In addition, the property is located in the identified area along San Jacinto Boulevard, and has the potential to redevelop with the rezoning and the increased entitlements of CBD zoning,” staff said.
ERS Executive Director Porter Wilson also informed the board of directors last month that Ryan Companies US Inc. and STG Design will be the primary players in the new building’s design and construction. The agency began its search for a design-build firm last November and whittled down the 11 competing companies down to one team in March. The contract award to Ryan Companies is valued at more than $3 million, according to state records, and ERS put a cap of $52 million on the total project cost.
In terms of architectural style, the new building will have to adhere to the 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan. ERS is also looking for energy efficient and sustainable design elements. In addition to incorporating Austin Energy Green Building requirements, the design-build team is instructed to pursue LEED Silver certification.
The design team is now in the schematic design phase and is scheduled to begin design development by mid-summer. Other milestone dates in the project schedule include starting the permit process by the end of September and beginning demolition on the existing annex structure by December. The estimated building construction phase will run from February 2019 to the end of August 2020.