Another Austin project — the W Hotel & Residences — took an important step forward yesterday with a lavish ground-breaking ceremony. Not unlike the Austonian which created a pile of dirt to be shoveled for the ceremony, the Block 21 development team and a world-famous basketball player and investor (Magic Johnson) used unusual guitar-shovels for the ground-breaking. The theme of the event, as far as I can tell, was “Keep Austin Weird.”
Block 21, a former vacant lot in the heart of Austin’s Second Street District, is moving from planning to reality. Upon completion in early 2010, the new home of Austin City Limits, a 2,200 seat, state-of-the-art theater and music venue, will also incorporate the W Austin Hotel & Residences, a 35-story tower designed by Arthur Andersson with 196 condos, 250 guestrooms, spa and restaurant; plus approximately 47,000 square feet of ground and second floor retail. Unfortunately, the project will no longer contain the Austin Children’s Museum which pulled out of the project — an unfortunate loss for an otherwise great project. Supposedly, the developers made it very difficult for the Dell Children’s Museum to affordably create the sort of space they needed for the facility.
The $260-million project is seeking Platinum LEED Certification for its implementation of green building techniques, materials and operational standards under the guidance of Gail Vittori, Co-director of the Austin-based Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. There are only a handful of mixed-use projects and hotels in the world that have achieved LEED Platinum Certification.
Here is the latest rendering of the project which will clearly have a huge, positive impact on the second-street district: