The still-uncertain impact of the last year’s pandemic on many of the tower projects previously announced for downtown Austin has us watching several sites around town with more anxiety than usual, and the Travis at 80 Red River Street was near the top of our list for towers we weren’t quite sure would survive. But in this case, we’re more than happy to turn out wrong — over the last week or so, increasing excavation work and preparation for a heritage tree relocation at the site appears to be solid evidence that site prep is now beginning for the Travis Phase I.
Remember, this project is imagined as a multi-part development that would eventually raise two towers at this site on the far western edge of the Rainey Street District near the shores of Waller Creek, an approximately 2.3-acre plot previously occupied by ’80s-era condo community the Villas on Town Lake, which was vacated at the end of 2017 but not demolished until 2019.
When the two-tower project was first announced, the sole developer was the Dallas-based Genesis Real Estate Group, but a press release earlier this year indicated the second-phase tower at the site would bring in M2 Development Partners, an outfit associated with Washington, D.C. developer Timothy Morris, to construct an 802-foot mixed-use apartment, condo, and hotel tower designed by globally-acclaimed architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Our only view of the design is below:
This second tower is allegedly scheduled for completion by 2025, but the announcement didn’t give us much info regarding the first-phase Travis tower, designed by GDA Architects and containing an estimated 414 apartments in its 50 floors along with a small ground-level retail space of some kind — and judging by the location of this new site work at the property along with the latest city permit activity associated with the address, it’s preparation for this tower that we’re currently seeing.
They’ve smoothed a large area for reasons I don’t understand, but it looks like that tree is nearly ready to move. pic.twitter.com/MES67eP9qJ
— Stephen Ratke (@steveratke) April 13, 2021
It’s not exactly a surprise, since that’s how phases generally work, but after more than a year of silence from its developers and that second-phase tower hogging all the spotlight with its all-star architects a few months back we were starting to wonder how this whole site was expected to take shape. Site prep is just another step on the road to breaking ground, but with a lot of previously-announced towers currently in an uncertain state and some notable recent changes in downtown priorities throwing other exciting plans into limbo, we’re just happy to see some dirt moving over here.