We’ve already gotten one peek at what’s planned for the Travis, a mixed-use project building two towers at 80 Red River Street in downtown’s Rainey Street District, which could break ground as early as later this year — but remember, the project’s developers, Dallas-based Genesis Real Estate Group, say they’re building this thing in phases. We saw the Phase I tower back in April, but recent documents filed with Austin’s Design Commission have blessed us with a better view of the whole shebang:
From the perspective of the image above, we’re looking at Phase I of the Travis on the left, and Phase II on the right. The Phase I tower, at 53 floors and 595 feet in height, will contain a reported 414 apartment units. Fun fact, the exterior of the Phase I tower looks slightly different than what we saw earlier this year — here’s a quick comparison between the two images, both by the project’s designers GDA Architects:
The real shocker from these new images is the reveal of the 61-floor, 695-foot Phase II tower, which will contain a 200-room hotel, an estimated 220 condo units, and a small retail space intended for some sort of coffee bar. Between the two towers, the final stated size for this project is 1,236,806 square feet, which is a very large number.
Let’s talk about that Phase II height again real quick — 695 feet is incredibly tall, not only for the Rainey Street District but in Austin overall. For one thing, that’s a full five feet taller than the Independent, the city’s current height champion. Even bigger buildings are already on the way elsewhere downtown, so there’s not much chance Phase II of the Travis will ever be the actual tallest building in the city, but it’s still a crazy amount of height for the area. We thought the 51-floor towers planned at 44 East Avenue and 90 Rainey Street were the new normal for the growing Rainey Street District, but if the second Travis tower happens it’s going to raise that bar once again.
Additional images of the Travis’ design include views of the backside of the tower, seen above with what appears to be some outdoor space. The building’s main entrance, at the corner of Red River and Davis Streets just across from the Hotel Van Zandt, is also shown off — along with a view of its substantial screened parking structure facing that corner, which will reportedly contain a total of 1,243 spaces when both phases of the project are complete:
In the image above, you can just barely see the side of the Hotel Van Zandt on the far left — we’ve embedded a street view from roughly the same perspective below to give you a better idea of how this whole thing is situated. As you know if you’ve kept up with this project, the Villas on Town Lake condos seen in the view below are gone:
It’s going to be interesting to see if the increased access to this small, nigh-unknown stretch of Red River Street will encourage its expansion in some way. We hope the city punches it through the Mexican-American Cultural Center’s parking lot to improve the Rainey area’s struggling connectivity, but we’re open to ideas!
Speaking of ideas, the building’s designers may have to come up with a few more. The new images seen here are from the developer’s application to Austin’s Downtown Density Bonus Program, which requires tower projects to meet certain design and sustainability requirements to attain the extra height they need. The Travis is up for discussion at the June 24 Design Commission meeting next week, with a vote expected on whether the project is in compliance with the city’s Urban Design Guidelines — basically the first step of the Density Bonus Program.
We won’t know for sure until it happens, but the backup documents for the upcoming meeting include comments from the commission’s Planning and Urban Design Working Group, which express some concerns about whether the Travis, as designed, is meeting those requirements enough to give it the green light:
The Working Group does not consider the project mixed-use due to the primary use being residential/hotel with a very small retail use that is not placed or sized to emphasize accessibility to the public. With the location of the coffee shop on the opposite end of the primary public pedestrian path, the shop is “tucked-in” and away from the public eye and appears to be associated with the hotel and residences and not the public realm.
— Comments, Design Commission Planning & Urban Design Working Group, June 11, 2019
The 80 Red River Street property is admittedly a challenging site to work with, but there are likely still some modifications the developer could make to encourage walkability and public access. With so little space to work with in the Rainey Street District, it’s critical that every project does its part to improve the human-level environment of the neighborhood, and we hope the Travis keeps that sort of thing in mind — especially if the Design Commission rules the building not in compliance at its meeting next week. We’ll just have to hide and watch.