You may have heard the saying, “the mockingbird may be the State Bird of Texas, but the City bird of Austin is the tower crane.”
It is undeniable that the construction trade is booming in Austin, Downtown as much as anywhere. However, even within Downtown Austin, there is a staggering concentration of new development and redevelopment in what is known more specifically as the Seaholm District.
The Seaholm District is named after the decommissioned Austin Energy Power Plant’s Generator Building, which in turn was named for former City Manager, Walter Seaholm. This historic, art-deco style building sits at the heart of the District. The District boundaries are Lady Bird Lake to the South, 5th Street to the North, Lamar Boulevard to the West and San Antonio Street to the East. It’s a part of Downtown where the typical city street grid is a bit disjointed, but it would equate to approximately 30 typical City blocks. Today, there are six tower cranes flying in the District.
Among the buildings currently under construction, in just this portion of Downtown alone, include:
- The new City Library, scheduled to open in Q2 of 2016,
- 300 Bowie, a high rise building, which will open this fall, featuring both ultra-modern office space and luxury rental apartments,
- Green Water Treatment Block 1, which will also be a luxury high-rise apartment building, scheduled to open in Q4 of 2016, and
- The three buildings that make up the Seaholm Redevelopment Project (see below).
The Seaholm Power Plant is an adaptive re-use project that will feature more than 100,000 square feet of high tech office space, a 10,000 square foot restaurant, and a 3,000 square foot coffee shop and public viewing gallery. In addition to all of that, two other buildings are in the Seaholm project. The first is a 70,000 square foot retail and office building that will open later this year. The second is a luxury high rise condominium building scheduled for completion in Q4 of 2015. It is noteworthy that this is the first condominium project to be developed downtown since the recession that began in 2008.
In addition to all this vertical building work, there is an enormous amount of public work and utility infrastructure being installed in the District. Among the more noteworthy public works projects are:
- The eastern extension of 2nd Street from San Antonio to West Avenue,
- The southerly extension of West Avenue from 3rs Street to Cesar Chavez,
- The southerly extension of Nueces Street from 3rd Street to Cesar Chavez, and
- The northerly extension of Walter Seaholm Drive from 2nd Street to 3rd Street.
Sound like a lot? That’s just what’s happening right now! Other projects in the pipeline, meaning real projects having real dollars spent this quarter, include Green Water Treatment Block 23, which will be a high rise office building breaking ground in early 2015, and the redevelopment of the former Austin Energy Control Center Site, which is reported to be a 50 story condominium tower. Lastly, there are two separate infrastructure projects dedicated to bicyclists & pedestrians. These include the Bowie Underpass, which will connect 3rd Street to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, and the 4th Street Bridge, connecting 4th Street to the Shoal Creek Trail over the creek.
It looks like, at least for the foreseeable future, the Seaholm District will remain the preferred habitat for the unofficial City Bird of Austin.
Written by Bill McCann, Vice President