If you’ve spent much time drinking big mugs of beer at Easy Tiger’s outdoor patio on the edge of Waller Creek in downtown Austin, you’ll probably have a vague familiarity with the Randerson-Lundell Building directly across the water.
A view of the Randerson-Lundell Building’s eastern elevation facing Waller Creek.
It’s not the prettiest historic building in town or anything, but you can certainly tell it’s been around a while — since 1896, to be exact. Used mostly as office space for various folks over the last few decades, the property at 701 East Sixth Street isn’t in fantastic condition these days, so it’s nice to see some recent city filings from local architecture firm Chioco Design related to the structure’s impending rehabilitation.
This work signals the arrival of some new office tenants here in the near future — Spectre Air Capital, a local aircraft leasing firm, and 4-Horn Investments, a holding company associated with investor Walter Naymola, who also purchased the Randerson-Lundell Building earlier this year through his firm Blackbird Interests.
To bring this senior space up to speed, Chioco plans additions including a rooftop amenity deck topped with a shade structure, a new steel exterior staircase, and a courtyard area on the south side of the building. Renderings shown off at this week’s meeting of the city’s Historic Landmark Commission — which approved the project’s certificate of appropriateness without any fuss — give us an idea of what to expect.
Alongside those new features are many smaller improvements including a much-needed exterior cleaning and a few fresh coats of paint here and there, which means the view from the beer garden across the creek is about to brighten up a little.
These improvements aren’t exactly earth-shattering — if they were, the Historic Landmark Commission wouldn’t approve them. But the rehabilitation of a historic property at the end of a frustratingly seedy stretch of East Sixth Street, preparing the building for office use instead of yet another bar, is worth getting excited about simply for its diversity of purpose. We’ve always said “Dirty Sixth” is overdue, historically speaking, for some big changes — maybe this could be part of that.
Originally built as a single-story grocery and feed shop by Austinite Cornelius Randerson in 1896, the building was swiftly purchased in 1898 by brothers John and Claus Lundell — which is where we get that mildly clunky name, of course. The Lundell family added a second floor of rentable rooms in 1910 to accommodate customers overnight who arrived by wagon from far-flung surrounding towns to purchase groceries, feed, and so forth.
The building operated as a meat market under various owners from 1922 to the 1960s, but in the 1980s the address was home to the Water Works, a charmingly sleazy spa lounge of sorts where customers rented hot tubs for private use in themed rooms — it appears the basement of the structure was fashioned into a cave-like environment:
For some reason, Chioco neglected to mention this critically hilarious aspect of the structure’s history in their new project’s documents, but you can’t bury the truth forever. As far as we can tell, the building has no remaining signs of either hot tubs or fake caves down in the basement these days, but we certainly hope the new owners take the time to scrub that area pretty thoroughly, if only for symbolic reasons.