At 51 stories, the recently-announced 44 East Avenue project could soon become one of the tallest Austin condo towers built so far. Although a tower project at this address, located on the south end of the rapidly-developing Rainey Street District, has been anticipated for quite a while, the sheer size of the planned building is more than we ever could have expected. 51 floors isn’t just Rainey Street tall, it’s Austin tall — and even after the completion of the 6 X Guadalupe and Republic towers, it’ll still be pretty high up in the top ten. If plans stay on track, 70 Rainey will only enjoy about four years as the Rainey Street District’s tallest tower, with 44 East Avenue set to deliver in 2022.
Although the certainty of all these buildings actually being built varies somewhat, it’s striking to see the potential future skyline of the Rainey region, based on the addresses and floor counts of towers planned in the area so far. It’s especially fun to mock it up, so I make a new visualization of the district’s next crop of towers every time another is announced — as you can see, 44 East Avenue really changes the game:
— James Rambin (@JamesRambin) October 3, 2018
But even though it’s enlightening to track the development planned all over the district, I find both the history and future potential of East Avenue to be one of the most interesting parts of the whole thing. A block removed from Rainey Street proper, East Avenue, like Red River Street, is the actual conduit connecting the district to the rest of the city.
Rainey Street itself is insulated from downtown by its lack of a direct connection with Cesar Chavez Street, while East Avenue receives traffic from the I-35 frontage road, intersects with Holly Street — which is rapidly becoming a corridor in its own right — and travels under the highway bridge on the north shore of the lake to connect the Rainey Street District with the RBJ Center / Holly Shores complex, both of which will likely grow in popularity pretty soon as plans for their redevelopment move forward.
The wildest part of the 44 East Avenue tower announcement is when you remember that there’s another condo tower planned literally right next door, a 33-story joint by developers Pearlstone Partners at 48 East Avenue. When you put massings of those two towers together, along with the existing Windsor on the Lake tower directly to the west of the 44 East Avenue site, the south side of the Rainey Street District starts looking like its own little downtown. Remember, these massings are just 3D models based on the stated height and property lines of these developments, and don’t necessarily reflect the look of the finished tower. We’re pretty confident in the accuracy of the heights, however, and the effect is striking:
But we’ve got to pull the camera back even further and drop more massings in. Even though its development isn’t the surest, or even the fifth-surest thing, there’s supposedly an office tower in the works at the World Class Capital-owned building at 56 East Avenue — not to mention a third residential tower, likely apartments, in an unknown planning stage even further south down East Avenue by the Holiday Inn at the north shore of the lake! (That one’s also got a new name: One Austin.) There’s also unfortunately an Austin Energy electrical substation planned smack dab in the middle of all this action, at 55 East Avenue — but it doesn’t have to suck! When you assemble all these possibilities, it’s clear East Avenue has the potential to become a sort of district in its own right, though not as dense in bars and entertainment as Rainey Street proper:
There’s also significant development potential on the stretch of East Avenue north of River Street. Homewood Suites, a strange building of unknown purpose, is wrapping up its construction at 78-80 East Avenue, and once upon a time, two additional hotels were planned along this stretch — a Kimber Modern property, and a Cambria Hotel. The Kimber plan, formerly bound for 62 East Avenue, is clearly dead in the water, but the Cambria project’s a little more up in the air. An Austin Business Journal update from earlier this year stated the Cambria project, planned at 68 East Avenue, was still in the “pre-development and early design phase” — but considering the hotel’s parent company, Choice Hotels, has started developing Cambria hotels elsewhere in Austin, I probably wouldn’t hold my breath. Still, considering its proximity to Rainey Street, this part of the avenue seems ripe for hotel development.
The above map of upcoming development and other properties on East Avenue should give you a better idea of the street’s potential. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on over there, and we’ll enjoy keeping up with it as this far end of downtown finds its legs.