Block 21 Plans Getting Around

High-profile renderings highlight combination of hotel, museum, and music venues for Downtown

Formerly a parking lot for city employees, Block 21 (which could look something like this rendering) will now contain W Hotel & Residences, the new Austin Children's Museum, and a new home for <i>Austin City Limits</i>. <br><a href=http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2007-01-12/panoramic.jpg target=blank><b>View a larger image</b></a>
Formerly a parking lot for city employees, Block 21 (which could look something like this rendering) will now contain W Hotel & Residences, the new Austin Children's Museum, and a new home for Austin City Limits.
View a larger image

The high-profile plans for Block 21 are making the rounds of city commissions, highlighting a combination of hotel, museum, and music venues for Downtown.

Block 21, just north of the Austin City Hall, didn't look like much when it was simply a parking lot for the City Hall extension just seven years ago. Today it's a plum parcel for development that will be home to an upscale W Hotel & Residences, the new Austin Children's Museum, and a combination of public television station KLRU and Austin City Limits. Stratus Properties was the winner of a competitive bid process for the development, beating out Zydeco Development and Endeavor Real Estate Group just more than a year ago.

Architect Arthur Andersson of Andersson Wise, known for both church and museum construction, recently presented updated plans to the Design Commission. He noted that the placement of the buildings is intended to take advantage of the southeasterly winds off Town Lake. The shorter buildings will be placed to the front of the property to catch the breeze. The condo-hotel tower will be at the back, or north end of the property. Materials will be local Lueders Limestone, cast-in-place concrete, and, for certain touches such as the accents on the KLRU studios, a milled-finish aluminum. "We want materials that are going to improve, to have a patina with weather and age," said Andersson after the presentation. "It's very hard to do that until you've experimented some with the various materials you want to use."

The W Hotel, Sheraton's boutique line of hotels, will compete head-to-head with the new Austin Hilton; a W Hotel anchors the new Victory development in Dallas. The numbers for the tower – how many hotel rooms and how many condominium units – are still somewhat fluid, expected to settle somewhere around 250 of each. Massing currently puts first-floor retail at somewhere around 24,000 square feet. The Austin Children's Museum will be about 30,000 square feet, Austin City Limits and KLRU about 10,000 square feet each.

One of the key design features of the property will be a JumboTron of Austin City Limits performances over the plaza, which will provide real-time music performances during show tapings. The Design Commission, which typically confines itself to the broader design issues, focused on some of the key points: the east-west orientation and massing of the building, sufficient parking spaces for both the hotel and condos, and the placement of parking and valet parking along the side of the hotel. Andersson said the expectation is to break ground in May or June, and to be open at some point in 2008.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Block 21, W Hotel & Residences, Austin Children's Museum, KLRU, Austin City Limits, Stratus Properties, Arthur Andersson

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