We’ve known a multifamily project by developer Transwestern was in the cards for Block 36 of the original downtown Austin plan since the beginning of this year, but that’s about it — not nearly as exciting without a picture, is it? Good thing we’ve got some drawings now, thanks to recent city utility filings for the site:
The building’s designer is Wilder Belshaw Architects, the Addison-based firm specializing in multifamily projects like Austin’s own Arnold and Indie apartments. The landscape architect for the job is local firm TBG Partners, which does some solid work around town as well — they’re behind the pretty dope-looking exteriors at the upcoming Republic office tower, for what it’s worth.
The roughly 1.6-acre assembly, all parcels of which are now owned by Transwestern, is bound by East Third and Fourth Streets, the I-35 Frontage Road, and Waller Creek. The project itself, according to city filings, is using the address 710 East Third Street.
Earlier this year, the info we had on the project stated a height of only a few floors, and these new drawings confirm that, showing a four-story apartment building with two levels of underground parking. But that low height isn’t a developer decision — the site is intersected by Capitol View Corridors #15 and #17, putting the kibosh on anything too tall.
According to these new utility filings and a press release by Transwestern about the project from earlier this year, the building will bring 263 “micro-unit”-style apartments to market:
Transwestern Development Co. bought 1.6 acres in downtown Austin on which to develop Block 36, a 263-unit micro-apartment complex. The development will also include a 3,000-square-foot restaurant on the ground floor.
The project will break ground in January 2019 between East Third and East Fourth Streets on Waller Creek, with delivery slated for the first half of 2020. Block 36 will consist mostly of studios, with 14% of the complex dedicated to two-bedroom units. The apartments will average 443 square feet.
On-site amenities will include a resort pool, bike storage, fitness center, clubroom and business lounge and an elevated courtyard. “As one of the most expensive zip codes in Texas, downtown Austin has few options for those who want to live alone for less than $1,500 a month,” said Transwestern Development’s Ty Puckett. “Block 36 will fill that supply gap.”
— Transwestern Press Release, May 3, 2018
The building will also include 142 parking spaces, plus room for 66 bikes.
Directly adjacent to this block on the western side is Waller Creek, which will soon see some Waller Creek Conservancy-sponsored improvements to its trail system in this area in the form of a pedestrian bridge over the creek, just behind this new building. There’s also some improvements in store for the stretch of Fourth Street just north of this site, as part of work on Capital Metro’s new downtown MetroRail station.
The map above produced by Capital Metro — as usual, we’re sorry about the potato quality — shows what’s planned for the area surrounding the Block 36 site, and labels the Waller Creek improvements on the west side of the building as the “Waller Creek Trailhead.” Keep in mind, this block is directly north of Palm Park, which the Conservancy has big plans for, so you might consider this whole area as a sort of showcase for the creek. The improvements will certainly represent a nice amenity for Transwestern’s new building and its occupants — you can see from the landscape plan below just how close the building is to all the anticipated Waller Creek work:
Hey, between the elevations at the top of this post and the landscape plan above, did you notice this building’s most interesting detail yet? I can’t get anyone at Transwestern or the other associated firms to comment on this project for the time being, but it certainly looks from these plans that the entire building is designed around the existing billboard on the property, which faces north and southbound traffic on I-35. The part of the building around the billboard is set back in order to not block the view, and I think that’s honestly kind of funny. The billboard, it seems, is powerful and worthy of our respect.
Of course, there is naturally a good reason for this — for one thing, that billboard’s highway-adjacent location probably generates a lot of advertising dollars. Perhaps more importantly, the previous owner of this property before Transwestern picked it up earlier this year was Lion Outdoor LLC, an entity associated with William K. Reagan, best known as the head honcho at Reagan Outdoor Advertising — if you weren’t aware, that’s basically the billboard company around here. Reagan does all kinds of stuff, and I can only imagine the sale of this land to Transwestern for development included some stipulation ensuring the preservation of this billboard. It’s an understandable condition, but it’s still hilarious to see this new building shrinking away around a billboard like it’s some kind of nail house.
One last thing. Beyond its oddly billboard-centric design, I don’t have much to say about this building’s look since renderings haven’t arrived yet. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little FOMO regarding this site after talking to the folks at Gensler Austin about their previous plans for this area. In addition to the aborted Block 35 development — which might have been a hotel — directly across Waller Creek to the west, Gensler cooked up a concept a while back for a project at Block 36 called “The Garage:”
“The Garage is a mixed use entertainment center designed to dynamically serve as a public park by day and a live music destination by night. Named after its evolution, the project began as an infill parking garage to serve nearby hotel developments and Austin’s convention center.
Seeking to capitalize on the park’s prime location adjacent to Palm Park and Waller Creek redevelopment, the client asked Gensler to explore using the roof as a park an event space. Seeing the potential, and knowing Austin’s demand for live music destinations, the program soon evolved to include parking, retail and restaurant use, and a full-blown outdoor concert and event center.”
— Gensler Austin
If that’s not enough to bum you out, here are some renderings for the project, which will never be anything more than renderings. You can see some of Gensler’s unrealized Block 35 building on the left side of the first image below:
You can intuit pretty clearly from these renderings how the project, as a semi-public amenity, would have integrated well with both the improved Waller Creek landscape and its surrounding area — for one thing, it’s playing nice with Block 35’s probable hotel next door and the added public space of Palm Park to the south. Gensler worked with local design firm dwg. on the project’s landscape architecture, with various “green roof” installations and other plantings complimenting the adjacent creek:
No matter how well the new Block 36 project is designed, it’s not going to engage with the creek as meaningfully as this project appears to — not by any fault of its own, but simply because it’s a private apartment complex with only one retail space. Still, it’s certainly better than nothing, which is basically what’s there now!