The designers of 405 Colorado, a striking 25-story office tower with a 14th level Sky Lobby, were pressed to reconsider their concept this week.
The development team was scheduled to present their concept before the Design Commission, but postponed instead.
The developer, Brandywine Realty Trust, is seeking the commission’s blessing to make use of the Downtown Density Bonus Program, which allows exceptions to height and density limits in exchange for community benefits.
The project has been a topic of conversation for downtowners ever since Brandywine launched a website last May to lure investors. However, the concept underwhelmed the working group of the Design Commission.
Evan Taniguchi, chair of the Design Commission, explained their absence at their Jan. 23 meeting.
“That project has been a big concern of mine,” Taniguchi said.
As presented, 405 Colorado does not meet the spirit of the urban design guidelines, he said.
“It was 13 floors of parking and 12 stories of office. To me, it seemed like they were using the Density Bonus to increase their parking,” Taniguchi said. “That’s not the spirit of the Density Bonus. It’s to bring people downtown, not cars to park.”
However, when Taniguchi queried staff for clarification, he couldn’t get any. As a result, he told the commissioners they may need to consider an amendment to the urban design guidelines to ensure that increasing residential density, not vehicle density, is the overriding priority in the central business district.
Michele Haussman, owner of Land Use Solutions LLC and the agent for Brandywine on this initiative, corresponded with the city beginning last summer.
The total square footage is 233,146 square feet, or more than 23,000 square feet more than what was described when the project was first unveiled.
Haussman told the Planning and Zoning Department that Brandywine proposes about 228,606 square feet of office space, with 3,300 square feet of ground floor area for a restaurant. A feature of the restaurant will be an additional 1,240 square feet of patio space.
There will be a 12-level parking garage sufficient to hold 530 vehicles. The building sits on the northeast corner of Colorado and West 4th Street, and the parking entrance would be from Colorado at the structure’s northwest side.
The tower height is proposed to be 363 feet. The east wall faces the alley between Colorado and Congress Avenue.
In order to meet the density bonus requirements, Brandywine will participate in the city’s Great Streets Programs, providing wide sidewalks along Colorado and 4th Street, street furniture, trees and other pedestrian friendly features. Coleman & Associates of Austin prepared the sidewalk landscape designs.
Great Streets has since reviewed the proposal and issued a statement finding the development is “deemed compliant.”
Also in keeping with pedestrian needs, Haussman stated, “The project will make use of way-finding signage to provide easy access to the parking. Along with way-finding, the project’s close proximity to bike-share facilities and CapMetro bus stations encourage the use of alternative modes of transportation.”
Brandywine also intends to comply with the Austin Energy Green Building Program, going for a 2-Star rating.
A groundbreaking date for 405 Colorado is dependent on pre-leasing, which began May 2016. The project site is not in the capitol view corridor.
Brandywine enlisted Duda | Paine Architects of Durham, North Carolina for the designs and Stantec is the project manager. One of the more unique features of this project is a glassed-in Sky Lobby on the 14th floor that would overlook downtown and be available for social events.
Downtown Austin’s warehouse district has seen a handful of new office towers built along Colorado Street in the past two years, notably Colorado Tower and 5th & Colorado.