Rainey Street is probably Austin’s most interesting urban planning experiment. The starting gun for the area’s rapid transformation was a 2005 rezoning of what used to be a working-class neighborhood of single-family homes, allowing commercial projects like bars and multifamily developments to rise.
Now, the Rainey Street area is practically unrecognizable from its past life, and despite its relatively small size, there’s so much development going on in these few blocks that we’re busting out the roundup. Giddyup!
The Alibi – 96 Rainey Street
The new identity for the shuttered Bar 96 is The Alibi, which opened this month in the charming bungalow at 96 Rainey Street. It has 12 televisions and I assume you’ll find plenty of drinks there, along with a new food truck serving rice bowls and various forms of Loco Moco, which is one of the best things on the planet to eat while drinking.
Anthem – 91 Rainey Street
Across the street from Alibi, you’ll soon find Anthem, an Asian-inspired American restaurant and bar taking over the vacant ground-floor retail space at the Millennium Rainey Street Apartments. You’ll find 40 beers on tap when it opens, which should come as a relief to all the people struggling to find a place that serves beer on Rainey Street.
Banger’s Expansion – 81 1/2 Rainey Street
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden has apparently sold enough liters of beer and miles of sausage to finance a massive expansion of their existing restaurant and beer garden space, with a new 15,000 square foot building underway even as we speak.
The coolest thing about this project are the weekly update videos posted by the restaurant — there’s a surprising amount of depth here, and it’s a genius marketing opportunity that keeps excitement high through the long construction process. Give everyone associated with this idea a raise, or at least free beer and sausage.
The Villas on Town Lake – 80 Red River Street
In 2017, the Villas are a charming anachronism for the area — built in 1982, these low-rise apartments are something you just don’t see this close to downtown anymore. It’s a wonder they’ve hung on this long as towers and hotels and bars climbed all around them, but the ride’s finally coming to an end, with the property purchased by Dallas developers Genesis Real Estate Group and demolition on the horizon to make room for a 40-story residential tower (or two).
If you really want to know how much this area’s changed, just remember that before the Villas got there, the site was home to a chicken plucking plant.
Cambria Hotel – 68 East Avenue
We’ve heard very little since the beginning of this year about the 14-story hotel project destined for a vacant lot at 68 East Avenue, other than that it’s designed by Rhode Partners and backed by Choice Hotels, the same guys behind chains like Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, etc — Cambria is their semi-upscale brand, it seems. We’re still waiting to see what happens here.
Homewood Suites – 78-80 East Avenue
This project, just up the street from the Cambria site, is much less of a mystery — that’s probably because it’s pretty far along in construction.
There’s not much in the way of official renderings for this building, but a simple Google search for “Homewood Suites Rainey” leads to the LinkedIn account of an architect who may or may not be associated with the project, and this photo:
This actually matches the elevations we’ve seen previously for the building. As you might imagine, I’ve got lots of opinions regarding its design — maybe I’ll save them for a future article. Yeah, that’s probably a good call.
48 East Avenue
Despite clearly not being Rainey Street, East Avenue is kind of an insanely hot part of the Rainey Street area right now, with hotels and residential towers planned for many of its vacant lots, as you’ve already seen on the map.
48 East Avenue is currently occupied by a small office building, but a residential tower is in the cards, with design courtesy of the architects at STG, who you might recall from the redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant. We’re still waiting to see movement on this project, since we first dropped a story about it two years ago.
Though it took ages to get off the ground, progress at the site of the 34-story condo tower at 70 Rainey is finally chugging along at a pretty good clip this summer. I feel like I notice a new floor every time I walk by.
East Avenue Apartments
A tiny .36-acre plot of land south of the Holiday Inn just before I-35 crosses the river is somehow enough space to build a 32-story apartment tower, and it’s got some neat design features to both fit its tiny site and avoid the flood risk of its close proximity to the shore. We’re waiting to see progress on this development as well — gee, it’s starting to look like a trend, isn’t it?
Speaking of the shore, fingers crossed that this project, whenever it kicks off, will push forward improvements for the boat ramp across the street — it’s basically untouched at this point.