Pushing Skyward on West Seventh

Another supertall condominium tower seeks to push envelope of what Austin accepts as Downtown

Heading toward a vote at council Feb. 1 or 15 is another supertall condominium tower that seeks to push the envelope of what Austin accepts as Downtown. This test-case project – a 32-story, 158-unit luxury condo tower at the southeast corner of West Seventh and Rio Grande (right behind Katz's Deli) – is proposed by Dallas-based CLB Partners, whose other local condo projects include Austin City Lofts and Bridges on the Park. Because Seventh and Rio Grande sits in an historic neighborhood of small homes and low-rise storefronts, just north of the traditional dividing line of West Sixth, the council's decision on this project is being closely watched as an indicator of project approvals or denials to come.

The last such lightning-rod project was Spring Condominiums – a 41-story tower on Third Street (between Lamar and Bowie) now starting construction, which won its needed zoning change at council over vociferous neighborhood objections.

According to a representative for property owner Mike McGinnis, the CLB Seventh and Rio Grande project has a widespread base of supporters; they include the Downtown Austin Alliance and three neighborhood associations: Downtown Austin, Caswell Heights, and Old Austin (aka Tedd Siff). They point out that the site is within the core Downtown area defined by the Downtown Design Guidelines, is surrounded on three sides by Central Business District zoning (although historic designations and Capitol view corridors counteract most of that), and will feature ground-floor retail and Great Streets Program pedestrian amenities.

Despite those arguments – and the deal-brokering savvy of attorney Steve Drenner and consultant Mike Blizzard – the developers lost their request for Central Business District (CBD-CURE) upzoning at the Planning Commission, five to two. Instead, the commissioners recommended rezoning the property Downtown Mixed Use (which would permit a 120-foot condo project similar to the Nokonah). Will council follow their recommendation or overrule it?

Opponents to the 400-foot-tall project – which include the nearby Austin Women's Club, the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association, and the Heritage Society – believe the huge tower is inappropriate right next to the historic-zoned Bremond Block, an area the city has worked to protect. They object to having the project front Seventh Street rather than Sixth Street, which is a designated transit corridor. And they're concerned that CBD-CURE zoning here will set a precedent for another condo tower (by the Spring development team) possibly shaping up for the northeast corner of the same intersection.

Most compellingly, said Katherine Jones of neighboring Milkshake Media, the coalition that opposes immediate granting of high-rise CBD-CURE zoning for the site is asking council not to make this ad-hoc decision until ROMA Design Group completes the new Downtown Plan. Due by year's end, the plan will provide detailed, carefully researched recommendations for revised Central Business District boundaries and this historic northwest quarter of Downtown. Since Austinites will pay close to $1 million for the Downtown Plan, why not wait to see what it says?

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Dinos in the Dome

    NARAL hopes these five legislators are headed for extinction

    Follow the Bouncing Big Box

    Amended version of Big Box Ordinance bounces back down from council to the Planning Commission, hangs in review limbo
  • UT Profs Argue Death Penalty Cases Before Supreme Court

    In an unusual set of legal circumstances, UT Capital Punishment Center co-director argues to justices that they should refrain from ruling on cases he previously brought to them

    Cross-Border Tidbits

    Coahuila, Mexico, passes measure to legalize same-sex unions; and Babies "R" Us starts new year feeling wrath of both the Minutemen and immigration rights movement

    Coal Goes to Court

    Lawsuits are flying to stop dirty power plants

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More downtown development
City Hall Hustle: Will the Shill
City Hall Hustle: Will the Shill
Ex-mayor Wynn beats the drum for Downtown condo scarcity

Wells Dunbar, Nov. 6, 2009

We Were the Urban Pioneers
We Were the Urban Pioneers
Our search for the just-right million-dollar condo, in the wilds of Downtown

Wells Dunbar, March 23, 2007

More by Katherine Gregor
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Checking in on the Climate Protection Program's progress – or lack thereof

Aug. 6, 2010

Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Study predicts how climate change will affect Texas' future water needs

July 30, 2010

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

downtown development, condominium tower, CLB Partners, Mike McGinnis, the CLB Seventh and Rio Grande project has a widespread base of supporters; they include the Downtown Austin Alliance, Downtown Design Guidelines, Bremond Block

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle