An Austin development group has changed course on plans for a “car-free” residential tower in downtown Austin and instead will build a 230-room hotel on the site, the group said Friday.
In 2016, Congress Development Partners announced plays for The Avenue, a 30-story mixed-used tower at Congress and Eighth Street, next to the Paramount and State theaters. Developers at the time said the tower would be the first “truly car-free luxury development in downtown Austin,” and that it would not include a parking garage or any space for auto parking. Plans called for 135 luxury apartments, office space, a restaurant and a bar. The development team, led by architect Brad Nelsen, originally targeted a May 2017 groundbreaking.
Plans have since changed, however. The now-31-story tower will still be dubbed The Avenue, but it will be home to a Hyatt Centric Hotel, a boutique brand being developed by Hyatt, developers say. It will be the second Centric Hotel in Texas, and will join new properties in Madrid, Istanbul, Montevideo, Lima and Tokyo.
The upper floors will be hotel rooms. The ground and second floors will house a locally operated restaurant and bar, and a second bar/lounge and a roof terrace planned for the eighth floor overlooking Congress. Like the previously planned project, the new tower will have no on-site parking, developers say.
Construction is scheduled to begin by mid-year, according to the developers’ news release. A projected cost for the project was not released.
Nelsen, managing partner of Congress Development Partners, said a development agreement with the Austin Theatre Alliance will make sure the Paramount and State theaters maintain their presence on Congress Avenue. The Austin Theatre Alliance, a nonprofit that operates the two theaters, will be able to use the tower’s basement and will have office space in the new building on a 99-year lease, at no cost.
“Our goal to engage the spirit of Austin by redeveloping a neglected site in the heart of the city is going to be realized,” Nelsen said in a written statement. “This site, which shares the block with both the historic theatres and the Contemporary Austin, is possibly our most important collection of cultural institutions in downtown. We must ensure the vibrancy and long-term viability of this block for future generations.”
The Avenue’s name comes from the original building on the site, the Avenue Hotel, which was built about 1880, according to Congress Development Partners. That hotel predated the current Texas Capitol (1888), the Paramount Theatre (1915), the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (1924) and the Driskill Hotel (1886), according to Congress Development Partners.
Nelsen, who is also founder of Nelsen Partners architectural firm, said that “without the ability to develop a future tower at the site of the existing theatres, they will never be torn down. It seems fitting that a new hotel will occupy this important site.”
Congress Development Partners includes Nelsen, Buzz Gosnell, Tom Howes and Nelsen’s son, Austin Nelsen.
Jim Ritts, CEO and executive director of the Paramount and State theatres, said he and Nelsen began pursuing a solution for the 721 Congress site “in a way that would significantly benefit downtown Austin, a vitally important block of Congress Avenue and the Paramount and State Theatres… We look forward to working closely with Hyatt as our new neighbor.”