As you might imagine, most tall buildings in and around downtown Austin are designed by architects from Texas. But looking at projects either planned or under construction in the central city, you’ll notice Chicago pops up a lot — not exactly a close neighbor, but as a hotspot for architecture (and towers in particular) it seems the Windy City’s helping steer the ship around here more than you might imagine.
Austin currently sports approximately six downtown or downtown-adjacent developments in the pipeline featuring design from architecture firms in Chicago, and five of those projects involve towers — oddly enough, three Chicago-designed towers are planned along a single three-block stretch of Brazos Street, meaning those folks are basically defining the look of a downtown district. Who knew? Let’s take a look:
Fifth & Brazos Tower
This 32-story hotel and apartment tower by Magellan Development Group and Ryan Companies, currently in an advanced stage of construction at 501 Brazos Street, features design from Chicago outfit bKL Architecture. This is the firm’s first Austin project, with many more examples of its work in Chicago — not to mention a completely bonkers 2,000-foot plan for what would be the tallest building in China.
Construction views of @bKLarchitecture's 5th & Brazos in Austin. Thank you to the team: @ryancompanies @MKA_Inc @tke_americas @thompsonhotels #tommiehotels @MagellanDev @GeoloCapital #BLGCapitalAdvisors #WanxiangAmerica https://t.co/Msdu0AI2tK pic.twitter.com/ihyl9fMPIU
— Thomas Kerwin (@thomaspkerwin) June 10, 2020
Fourth & Brazos Tower
One block further down the very popular Brazos Street we discover the recently-revealed tower plan at the northeast corner of Fourth and Brazos Streets, bringing 60-something floors of offices and apartments to the neighborhood in a strikingly weird package designed by Chicago architecture firm Goettsch Partners. Those folks have done some impressive buildings in the past, so we’re excited to see more views of this plan if it does move forward.
Hanover Third & Brazos Tower
Again, just one more block south at the southeast corner of Third and Brazos Streets you’ll find the future home of a 44-story apartment tower by Houston multifamily developer the Hanover Company. Despite its Texas roots, Hanover seems to like Chicago-based architects SCB for its tower projects — along with Third & Brazos, the company designed Hanover’s Northshore apartment tower completed here in 2016, along with the Hanover Republic Square tower we’ll look at in the moment. With three towers potentially to its name, SCB will be the most represented Chicago architecture firm in Austin unless somebody else comes along with big ideas.
Hanover Republic Square
Like we said above, developer Hanover likes Chicago firm SCB for its towers, and the 44-story Hanover Republic Square project looks almost exactly the same as the Hanover Third & Brazos tower, just with a different podium. Another difference between this tower and Hanover’s Third & Brazos project is that this one’s already under construction!
The grand plan by Endeavor Real Estate Group to redevelop the approximately 19-acre tract just south of downtown now home to the headquarters of local paper the Austin American-Statesman comes courtesy of acclaimed Chicago architecture outfit SOM, one of the largest firms in the world behind an absurd amount of iconic buildings including a little ol’ tower called One World Trade Center. The mixed-use SOM plan for the Statesman site, though still in the planning stages, should feature a number of towers — we’re really hoping the whole pandemic thing doesn’t stop this from eventually happening, because it could change the downtown area forever.
This last item isn’t a tower project, but we’d feel bad not giving mad props to Chicago design firm Studio Gang for its 2018 plan to adapt the former intake facility for the Seaholm Power Plant on the shores of Lady Bird Lake into a venue and community park space. Like the Statesman plan, we’re concerned a recession could harm our chances of seeing this project in the real world — but if built, it would be one of Chicago’s greatest contributions to Austin’s urban environment. Fingers crossed!