Between Republic Park on fourth street and the new AMLI tower on third street sits a run-down parking lot with a tumultuous history. For many years, the lot has been owned by the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), a local art institution split between a storefront location on Congress Avenue and a mansion near 35th street and Mount Bonnell.
Over the years, AMOA has worked hard to build a permanent home on the downtown lot that has become one of the most choice central Austin parcels. First, they proposed a free-standing museum which was scratched after the technology bust of the late 1990’s scuttled a $65 million capital campaign. In a second iteration, the museum partnered with local developer Tom Stacy in 2006 to build a museum & condo tower on the lot. The building was proposed as a 30-story condo tower to be designed by world-renowned Pelli Clarke Pelli architects. Sometime last year, likely after the summer credit crunch, that deal fell apart.
Now, in a third and hopefully final project, rumors suggest that AMOA is close to announcing a new project which would combine an 40,000 square foot museum facility with an adjacent 425,000 feet of commercial office space in a new 465,000 square foot project on the AMOA-owned site. This would be the first new downtown office project since the 33-story 525,000 square foot Frost Bank Tower was completed in 2004.
As Austin’s downtown core develops, the best scenario is a natural balance of retail, residential, commercial, cultural institutions and hotels. With the condo boom of the last two years, the quantity of residential and retail space downtown has grown substantially. While the addition of downtown commercial capacity takes a bold investor, new downtown office space is a good thing for the city. When Cousins Properties announced plans for the speculative development of the Frost Bank Tower at the height of the tech bust, everyone thought they were crazy. Just a few years later, the sale of the project set a new texas record.
The best news about the AMOA tower is that it will finally create a major downtown art museum. With the adjacent Ballet and the new Austin City Limits venue on Block 21, there is new hope that this corner of downtown will also become a new cultural center for the city.
Here is the summary from today’s Austin Business Journal:
Sources say AMOA is close to inking a deal with Hines Interests LP of Houston to develop the downtown block south of Republic Square Park owned by the museum.The towering project would likely feature about 400,000 square feet of office space, with about 80,000 square feet of that set aside for the museum’s new digs. It’s unclear whether or not the project would include a residential component as a previous incarnation did. But, if realized, it would be the first new office property in downtown Austin in four years since the opening of the Frost Bank Tower.AMOA, which has a total of 35 employees, has been housed on the ground floor of 823 Congress since 1995.