Playing the Downtown Game

The score so far, and moves still to be made

View a large scale map of <a 
href=dominomap.gif target=blank><b>downtown 
development projects</b></a>
View a large scale map of downtown development projects

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.

Whole Foods
Whole Foods

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.

Austin City Lofts
Austin City Lofts

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.

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  • More of the Story

  • The Downtown Dominoes

    The headlines are about Block 21 and Seaholm, but the long-term questions are about what the city of Austin should be

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Downtown, Block 21, Seaholm Power Plant, West Avenue Lofts, AMLI, Austin Children's Museum, Austin Museum of Art, KLRU-TV, Green Water Treatment Plant, Tips Iron and Steel, Goodwill, 404 Rio Grande, Austin City Lofts, Market District, Whole Foods, Intel, Jill Rowe, Austin Public Library, commuter rail, Republic Square

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