An application for a planned unit development (PUD) at an approximately six-acre land assembly on South Congress Avenue could represent the next step towards building out the South Central Waterfront planning area directly south of the river near downtown Austin. Filed with the city earlier this week, the PUD concerns a collection of three adjacent tracts located around 500 South Congress Avenue, containing the 115-unit South Congress Square apartment complex and two office buildings at 510 South Congress Avenue and 105 West Riverside Drive.
New York-based international development firm The Related Companies, best known for massive projects like Hudson Yards but now turning its interest to a number of sites in South Austin, purchased these properties out of bankruptcy for $65 million from perpetually struggling local firm World Class Holdings last summer. The eventual plan for the site is some sort of mixed-use redevelopment, but now that the owners appear to be kicking off the PUD negotiation process with the city for the land, we’ll probably soon get a better idea of precisely what’s in store for this uniquely large site. Local land use law firm Armbrust & Brown filed the PUD application with the city earlier this week, but no details of its scope have been made public at this point.
What we can examine at this stage are the likely demolitions any large project here will entail. With the removal of the site’s existing 115 apartments almost certain, we hope any development here contains a significant new residential component to offset this loss. While we doubt any Austinites will care much about the demolition of the site’s two nondescript ’70s-era office buildings, it’s what’s beneath one of them that concerns us — hidden in the parking structure of the Congress Square offices at 510 South Congress Avenue is karaoke bar Ego’s, a beloved windowless hideout for all stripes of Austinites including a uniquely bipartisan collection of state lawmakers.
The new owners will make no friends displacing this bar, but we also have no idea how you might spare it while redeveloping the office building above it. Unlike tearing down a Hooter’s or replacing a parking lot, there’s a genuine claim to some Austin culture here, so we hope The Related Companies is paying some consultants big bucks to figure that one out. The firm’s executive vice president Mike Iannacone has big ideas for the South Central Waterfront, and it’s certainly plausible that includes dive bars:
Iannacone, who confirmed he has moved to Austin, said Related anticipates to South Central Waterfront area serving as a sort of connective tissue that can extend downtown and better connect it to “all of the great things on South Congress that make Austin, Austin.”
“I think the South Central Waterfront district is going to be kind of the new downtown,” Iannacone said. “It’s very rare in a city of this size that you have an undeveloped district in the core of downtown.”