The 34-story apartment tower known as Annie B planned at the northeast corner of West 12th and San Antonio Streets in downtown Austin’s west end has reached a critical milestone towards construction this week, with the city’s Design Commission voting to recommend the project for its density bonus at its meeting Monday. Rising 400 feet at 416 West 12th Street, the tower plan by local developer Stratus Properties finds its unique name from Annie Webb Blanton, the first female president of the Texas State Teachers Association and one of the founders of the Delta Kappa Gamma society that has operated its headquarters at the nearly half-acre tract since 1956.
The pending demolition of the midcentury DKG building was a point of contention for local preservationists concerned that the tower project would erase the organization’s long history as a professional society for women educators — an ironic position considering the primary advocates for the tract’s redevelopment were the current members and local leadership of DKG, who argued the new building would maximize the value of their property and ensure the nonprofit’s future. The structure’s presence on the National Register of Historic Places gave members of the Historic Landmark Commission pause, but the lack of a supermajority vote to initiate historic zoning on the site and subsequent downtown mixed-use rezoning approvals by the Planning Commission and City Council ultimately gave the project a green light.
The tower itself, known internally as Block 150 after its number on Edwin Waller’s original city plan, is the work of Chicago-based architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz, along with local assistance from landscape designers Blacksmith Collaborative, architects and interior designers Clayton Korte, and civil engineers GarzaEMC.
The structure contains an estimated 316 apartment units above ground-level retail space and an eight-level parking podium with 340 spaces — that’s a parking ratio of 1.07, with the roughly 150,000-square-foot garage not counted against the building’s density bonus area of 345,421 square feet, although we could easily change that.
The project’s total ground-level amenity space of nearly 9,000 square feet is split between a public art gallery at the base of the tower — something we’ve seen around here a few times before — and a unique detached restaurant space next door to the tower inside the historic A.O. Watson House, which is part of the land assembly being developed and will be preserved and converted for public use. The building’s density bonus application also mentions an outdoor “commemorative garden” celebrating the history of the DKG society.
While we’re never going to get too excited about the parking podiums incentivized by our current development code, the dark masonry design of the tower’s lower levels is an attractive use of materials reminiscent of some of the better warehouse-inspired projects we’ve seen recently in East Austin — but when viewed in full with its upper glass tower portion, the overall form of the building reminds us of nearby midcentury masterpiece Westgate Tower, not a bad nod to the modernist past of this property or the architectural character of many other buildings in the region.
At 400 feet, Annie B represents a new milestone for height on the quieter west side of downtown. That’s a trend we’ve long expected, and with multiple taller-than-usual projects in the works west of the Capitol, we’re thinking this is only the beginning — after all, Project Connect’s new rail line running down Guadalupe Street just one block east from this tower site expects to build a station serving this region somewhere between 12th and 14th Streets, making this area downright transit-oriented. We’re just going to leave these two parking articles here for you to read.