Austin American-Statesman writes, "Like several big-name developers, a New York real estate firm has ambitious designs along a southern stretch of Austin's premier Congress Avenue.

The three high-profile projects by New York-based Related Companies are in a rapidly emerging waterfront area that is transforming the south shores of Lady Bird Lake across from downtown.

Related is a privately owned global real estate company with more than $60 billion in assets owned, managed or under development. It has major projects in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Abu Dhabi, and London.

Its Austin projects are planned along and near South Congress Avenue.

Two are south of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge where a famous colony of migrating bats hang out. The other is at the foot of the bridge, where the Hyatt hotel is located overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

Related and other developers are laying claim to their territory in what the city has named the South Central Waterfront District, an area spanning 118 acres of mostly privately owned land just south of the river.

In Austin, Related's latest announced project is a mixed-use development planned for the southwest corner of West Riverside Drive and South Congress Avenue.

Located behind a Chevron station at a busy intersection, the six-acre site is home to Ego's Bar, an older apartment complex, two older office buildings and a former restaurant site.

The addresses involved are 500 and 510 S. Congress Ave., 105 W. Riverside Drive and 407 1/2 Haywood Ave.

On Feb. 21, the developer briefed the city's Environmental Commission, an advisory committee that makes recommendations to the Austin City Council about developers' proposed projects.

Mike Iannacone, an executive vice president with Related Companies, lives in Austin with his family. At the meeting, he said Related wants to create "a great place for people and a great place for the neighborhood," and "a new central heart" for the South Central Waterfront District.

Related officials said Ego's potentially could be incorporated into its planned new project. The company also wants to build a pedestrian bridge that would connect its proposed project with the Texas School for the Deaf campus to the south. The goal would be to have students there gain work experience with businesses that would locate in Related's future project, Iannacone said.

Related executives told the Environmental Commission they "believe in Austin," and aim to "keep its soul and character intact."

What's on tap for Related's projects?

According to city filings, plans for the Congress and Riverside project call for:

  • About 800 residential units
  • A 225-room hotel
  • 200,000 square feet of office space
  • 90,000 square feet of retail space
  • 30,000 square feet of restaurant space
  • 25,000 square feet for a grocery store
  • Underground parking

The developer is seeking a maximum building height of 575 square feet, or about 50 stories.

Related's land-use attorney, Richard Suttle Jr. with Austin-based Armbrust & Brown, soon will be filing for a special type of zoning known as a planned unit development, or PUD. Such zoning allows developers greater flexibility in planning and building their projects as market conditions change.

Suttle said the proposed project "will be a natural extension of and improvement to the downtown area.”

“The Related project will add positive and quality development to the South Central Waterfront District," Suttle said. "The design is walkable and has the appropriate human scale and density to complement the district and future rail project."

A planned connection to the School for the Deaf, proposed improvements to nearby Bouldin Creek and other features and enhancements "will improve the pedestrian experience throughout the project and the district," Suttle said.

Related also plans another high-profile project, this one a residential development on the property where the Hyatt hotel is, at 208 Barton Springs Road overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

Related formerly planned a 15-story office tower on that site, but since has changed course. Related now envisions a project with almost 300 residences — 98 condos and 199 rental units —along with about 15,000 square feet of retail space.

In addition, Related previously has said it plans to build an office building at 901 S. Congress Ave., on the site of a former apartment complex. The site is located just north of Music Lane, the upscale-mixed development that includes high-end retailers and restaurants and a members-only SoHo House.

In addition to Austin, Related has major developments in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Abu Dhabi, and London.

Zohaib "Zo" Qadri, the Austin City Council member whose district includes downtown and the nearby Travis Heights and Bouldin Creek neighborhoods to the south, declined through a spokesman to comment on Related's proposed project at this time.

Kathleen Corless, a spokesman for Related, said company officials declined to answer additional questions about its Congress and Riverside project — including whether financing was in place and any timetable for breaking ground if the zoning gets approved — beyond the information given in last month's briefing.

Corless said Related also had no comment on the status of the projects it plans for the Hyatt site and for 901 S. Congress.

Dave Sullivan, a member of the Environmental Commission, said he recently cut through the parking lot behind the Chevron on his bicycle to avoid the busy Congress and Riverside intersection, which he said can be "problematic" for cars, cyclists, pedestrians, scooters and runners.

"We need to have a very porous area there for people walking, jogging, scooting and biking, to get through the South Central Waterfront area to reach surrounding roads without getting in a car, and do it safely and conveniently and with good aesthetics," said Sullivan, who also serves on the South Central Waterfront Advisory Board and is a former member of the city's Planning Commission. Sullivan said the visuals Related executives showed the Environmental Commission last month would suggest that their Congress and Riverside project would accomplish that goal.

Development jumps the lake

If built, Related's proposed projects would add to the rapid changes transforming South Congress Avenue and the larger South Central Waterfront District, where big-name developers have grand plans.

High-rise development is leaping, and will continue to jump, across the river in the south waterfront area. An office tower, RiverSouth, has been built at West Riverside, Barton Springs Road and South First Street. The Catherine, a 19-story condo project, towers over Aussie's Grill & Beach Bar and Aussie's popular volleyball courts.

And other projects are planned in the south waterfront, including a large mixed-use high-rise development that eventually will replace the former Austin American-Statesman newspaper offices and printing plant at 305 S. Congress Ave., just south of Lady Bird Lake.

The company that is redeveloping the former Statesman site, Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group, also has purchased nearby properties both to the east and west, including the land where Aussie's is and the property next to it that formerly housed Zax Restaurant & Bar, and now outdoor sports store BOTE. Endeavor also owns the site at 600 E. Riverside Drive that once housed Joe's Crab Shack, and now Cidercade Austin.

Recognizing that market forces were pushing development south of the lake, city planners solicited community feedback in creating a vision for the South Central Waterfront District several years ago, to serve as a roadmap to guide the development they knew was headed that way. The city sought to get ahead of the future development by coming up with a plan that would help it occur in a cohesive, rather than piecemeal, manner.

The city currently is seeking public comment on proposed rules for developers who opt into the city's overarching vision for the south waterfront, and what the tradeoffs should be for granting developers greater height and density for their projects in return for community benefits such as green space and affordable housing."


Source: Austin American-Statesman

Written by: Shonda Novak

Published: March 19, 2024

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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