Three for Block 21

From top: 1) Endeavor Real Estate Group / AMLI Residential Properties Trust, 2) Zydeco Development, 3) Stratus Properties / Trammell Crow Co.
From top: 1) Endeavor Real Estate Group / AMLI Residential Properties Trust, 2) Zydeco Development, 3) Stratus Properties / Trammell Crow Co.

What the City Asked For:

The city issued a request for proposals for developers with specific projects for Block 21, immediately north of the new City Hall. Minimum criteria included:

• Buying the land outright for a price of at least $9.2 million. (This is about midrange, in per-square-foot terms, for recent Downtown land sales.)

• Accommodating a local cultural institution within the project – the City Council specified KLRU-TV, the Texas Music Hall of Fame, or the Austin Children's Museum, but other tenants were possible as well. (At present, it appears that none of these three institutions will actually locate on Block 21.)

• Reserving for retail space at least 42,000 square feet on the ground floor, to be managed by Urban Partners of Dallas as part of the larger Second Street District

• Building a project out to the street, to create a continuous retail corridor in the 2SD

According to city staff, the maximum build-out of Block 21, under current entitlements, is about 613,000 square feet, which is larger than Frost Bank Tower. The largest of the three Block 21 proposals is about 400,000 square feet.

What the City Got:

1) Endeavor Real Estate Group/AMLI Residential Properties Trust

Architects/Designers: Nelson Architects

Other partners: Woodbine Development Corp.

Principal features: A ground-level plaza, retail, entertainment or cultural venues on the second and third levels, and 25 floors of about 200 residential units (for sale); about 400,000 square feet.

Opening Bid: $9.2 million (with incentives for cultural entity)

Notes: AMLI (but not Endeavor) already controls Blocks 20 and 22 and has nearly completed its residential complex (with ground-floor retail) on the latter, northeast of City Hall. While the Endeavor/AMLI presentation showed the Texas Music Hall of Fame as a cultural tenant, none of the three proposals has any kind of firm deal with any cultural institution. The Endeavor/AMLI project is the largest and tallest of the three proposals.

2) Zydeco Development

Architects: Miró Rivera Architects

Other partners: Tishman Hotel Corp., Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture

Principal features: A large plaza merging with Second Street to create a huge public space (200 feet by 300 feet), physically merging with the sidewalk and plaza of City Hall, and growing outward from the "cultural institution" (to be determined) located on the ground floor (50,000 square feet with the potential to double in size). Initial design shows two residential towers (condo/hotel), with flexibility on the final mix and the design. Other features potentially include mezzanine restaurants and garden.

Opening Bid: $9.2 million

Notes: Architect Juan Miró sees Block 21 as the potential "magnet and anchor" for the whole Second Street district, drawing crowds to the public space created by the plaza (designed and refined by Walker, a pre-eminent U.S. landscape architect) and whatever cultural institution is located on the ground frontage of the project. The Zydeco proposal focused attention on the Austin Museum of Art, envisioning AMOA selling and using proceeds from its current site-to-be on Republic Square to participate in the project. (Some observers consider this idea far-fetched at best.)

3) Stratus Properties/Trammell Crow Co.

Architects: Arthur Andersson

Other partners: Gables Residential

Principal features: The team calls its proposal "The Right Mix," emphasizing the balance of 50,000 square feet of retail space, 160,000 residential sale (100 condos), 100,000 residential rental (75 apartments), and 190,000 office, with the dominant physical feature an L-shaped residential building designed to conserve energy, and the whole project an attempt to create 24-hour activity on the site. Plan features an 8,000-square-foot plaza at street level and a 20,000-square-foot "green" plaza at the mezzanine level, likened to Rome's Spanish Steps.

Opening Bid: $15 million

Notes: This plan features a heavy emphasis on "green building," citing work with local expert Gail Vittori, environmental publicist Mike Blizzard, and Austin Energy's endorsement of conservation aspects of the plan. The original design also anticipated participation of the Austin Museum of Art, but the AMOA is still officially hitched to Republic Square site, so "cultural institution" to be determined. Stratus' hole card appears to be its $15 million opening bid, much higher than competition; local environmentalists have requested that if Stratus gets the bid, Council consider a swap for Stratus-owned land over the Edwards Aquifer.

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