You might have already caught wind of this if you’ve been through the neighborhood in the last few days, but the old First Texas Honda dealership at 1301 West Koenig Lane is no more. The 5.4-acre site, assembled from two lots bound by by Woodrow Avenue to the west, Koenig Lane to the north, and Grover Avenue to the east, is currently being cleared in preparation for the construction of a 383-unit multifamily project developed by entities of real estate firm Ledcor Group, reportedly at a cost of roughly $48 million.
The four-story apartment community, which will be called The Pearl according to city documents, is designed by the architects at Rhode Partners in the classic, though generally uninspired “Texas Donut” style. Still, it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect from the building based on these massings and single rendering alone, and it’s certainly a more active use than a car dealership regardless of what it looks like.
The building, which should contain about 345,000 gross square feet, will not bring any ground-floor retail space to the site — but it will have 462 parking spaces contained within its rear garage structure. The development will preserve several heritage trees and other green space at the site’s northwest corner.
We don’t have a firm groundbreaking date for the Pearl at this time, but judging by the recent demolition, it looks like it might be ready to move forward in earnest. We’ve known about this project since earlier this year, when its developers successfully sought a variance with Austin’s City Council for the building’s construction despite some parts of the development falling within a floodplain area — the developers will allegedly develop a flood safety plan for residents in order to mitigate these concerns.
First Texas Honda, which occupied the site since the grand opening of its dealership in March 1986, was allegedly at that time the largest Honda dealership in the world. Car dealerships, which are essentially extremely well-monetized parking lots, aren’t exactly the most attractive use of such a large plot of land in an area like Brentwood, so it doesn’t seem like anyone’s too sad to see it go — but still, the circular building was kind of charming in its own way.
It always reminded me of an uglier version of the midcentury American Bank building in Waco, or maybe even architect Leonard J. Lundgren’s iconic (and only slightly ridiculous) round Holiday Inn building on Town Lake. Austin could use more odd, round buildings, but it also desperately needs housing, so I think the neighborhood’s coming out ahead here. Still, it’s a bummer this new building’s not going to have any retail — this area is slowly growing more walkable, and it’d be awfully nice to have some new stuff to walk to.