Playing the Downtown Game
The score so far, and moves still to be made
Dominoes, poker, a jigsaw puzzle, a Rubik's Cube Austin's ongoing Downtown saga lends itself to playful metaphors. (Actually, given how long it's taken and how many deals, good and bad, have been cut along the way, it's most like a game of Risk.) Here's where we stand:
The Score So Far ...
Projects already completed or under construction include:
The two Computer Sciences Corp. buildings, the new City Hall between them, and the AMLI residential complex on Block 20, all part of the city's nascent Second Street District
Three more residential projects along Shoal Creek the West Avenue Lofts, 404 Rio Grande, and the Austin City Lofts
The new Whole Foods store/headquarters at Sixth and Lamar, hub of what the city now calls the Market District
Two projects on Republic Square the new federal courthouse at the site of the abandoned Intel building and Ballet Austin's new dance center at the old Aus-Tex Printing site aren't so far along but are still probably done deals.
Still in Play ...
Sites that are still available for development, or redevelopment, include:
Block 21, subject of the city's current request for proposals, and the adjacent Block 22 (currently also controlled by AMLI) complete the Second Street District. Also nearby: MetLife's vacant half-block behind 100 Congress.
The block on the south side of Republic Square, currently slated for the Austin Museum of Art
The underdeveloped block on the square's north side, home to the central post office
The two-block remainder of the Intel site, a block and a half of which is now controlled by developer Jill Rowe
The eastern half of the Sixth + Lamar/Market District site, next to Whole Foods
The old Goodwill Industries site (now owned by Phoenix Properties, developers of 404 Rio Grande) and, west of that, the Tips Iron and Steel property
The Lumbermen's/Sand Beach tract on Town Lake at Lamar
The Seaholm Power Plant and the Green Water Treatment Plant, two city-owned facilities long slated for redevelopment. The city adopted its Seaholm District Master Plan in 2001; Green is still operating, but the city should embark on a closure-and-reuse study this spring.
Now, some of these sites (like AMLI's Block 22 and Goodwill) have supposedly firm plans attached to them but haven't we all heard that before.
Moves to be Made ...
Projects looking for a home somewhere on the game board include:
A new central library, once promised for Block 21, but now more likely at AMOA, in or near Seaholm, or Lumbermen's
New studios for KLRU-TV and a performance venue for Austin City Limits, highly sought for Block 21 but also an option for Seaholm
The Texas Music Hall of Fame, perhaps colocated with Austin City Limits
The Austin Children's Museum, which is outgrowing its current (leased) location at Second and Colorado
Several other museum proposals, including an aquarium and a technology museum, that have over the years been pitched specifically for Seaholm
A downtown commuter-rail station and transit center, which would have to be somewhere near Lumbermen's and Seaholm, if not in the power plant itself
AMOA if the museum is induced to part with its Republic Square block, it will need to find a new site for its now-in-flux facility, perhaps in partnership with one of these other projects.