Proposed Austin Hotel on Congress Ave.
Austin City Council this week is expected to hold a public hearing on the planned boutique hotel, located at 800-804 Congress Ave, which “pit some of the city’s biggest landowners against each other,” as the Austin Business Journal put it.
The applicant, developer David Kahn, is proposing a mixed-use mid-rise hotel that will include office space, restaurants, meeting space and live music. The site is the current home of the Hickory Street restaurant and a three-story historic building. The developer intends to keep the historic facade and construct a new 30-story building behind it.
The developer wants to reduce what is called a “step back.” On Congress Ave, buildings must create a “step back” 60 feet at about nine stories. Like so:
However, the developer wants to build a building like this:
Austin Hotel CURE request
A host of powerful people are opposing allowing this to happen.
The Austin Chronicle published an in-depth story about it just this month, where Kahn, said “I really think that it’s all about our office building. If we were not building an office building, One American Center [Sixth & Congress] would not be spending money to protest this.”
Height comparison of proposed hotel vs One American Center & the Austonian (source: SkyscraperPage.com)
Yellow box shows how Austin Hotel’s proposal would relate to Congress Ave. The site is not in a state-protected Capitol View Corridor.
Council should approve the project design. Here’s why:
1) According to city staff, the developer’s request is in line with the Downtown Austin Plan, which city council adopted unanimously, after years of public input and refining, in 2011. The Downtown Austin Plan, in fact, states that 60 feet is greater than necessary to protect the character and view of the Capitol corridor on Congress Avenue. If the downtown community want to spend years developing plans, then when they are adopted – unanimously by city council – the community should abide by them.
2) For council to enforce a 60-foot step back flies in the face on consistent precedent. Whether or not you want them to in this case, the facts are that four properties have requested a reduction of 60 feet to 40 feet on Congress Avenue and they have all been granted by city council. Adding 10 additional feet, the height of a basketball goal, is not realistically going to impair the view or experience for anyone living in, working in, or admiring downtown.
3) This section of Congress Avenue is a veritable ghost town on weekends, bogged down by blighted buildings at 9th Street and void of many pedestrian-friendly amenities for locals or the countless annual tourists visiting the Capitol. Adding a vibrant, high-quality and diverse development will boost not just the block, not just the area, not just Congress Avenue, but all of Downtown Austin.
4) All downtown office tenants and residents risk having a once-immaculate view blocked by new developments. It’s a bummer, but it is the price we all pay for living in the fastest growing city in the country, going on three years straight. The holistic downtown community would rather see additional development, bringing tourists, businesses, and residents into downtown, reducing sprawl, protecting the aquifer, and generating tax revenue. People choose to live in downtown and to relocate their office from the ‘burbs there because it is alive. To stifle that life in this case is short-sighted, because it reduces the quality of downtown Austin for future generations.