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Austin - Block 21

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The Austin city council has selected Stratus Properties Inc. as developer of Block 21 in downtown Austin. Block 21 is the block across from the new Austin City Hall and part of the emerging Second Street retail district.

Portion of an article from the Austin American-Statesman discussing Block 21

The first test appears to be Block 21, which Wynn likes to call the "most developable block in Austin."

"There are four major constraints to developing any land in downtown Austin: the Capitol view corridor, having a historic building on the block, having any other height limitation . . . or having an alleyway through the middle of it," Wynn said.

"Of the 120 blocks in downtown Austin, there's one that has none of those constraints, that's Block 21."

"More is more," Wynn said. "More uses and more square footage and more vibrancy of each of those uses."

He was talking about plans for Block 21, but he may as well have been describing the entire area within blocks of the river and west of Congress Avenue.

City planners and observers envision a vibrant retail corridor along Second Street terminating at the water treatment plant. They imagine cultural institutions such as the Texas Music Hall of Fame or the Austin Museum of Art at each end of the walkable axis stretching from Seaholm to Block 21. And they see the glue of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway and rail from Seaholm to the Austin Convention Center holding it together.

Details about Stratus Properties proposal:

L-shaped building; 5 stories on one side, 15 stories on the other

75 apartments and 100 condos

50,000 sf ground floor retail

180,000 sf of office space

parking above and below grade

small public plaza at Second & Lavaca Streets

roof-top terrace on the lower portion of the building

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West view on Second St.

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Site Plan

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The city will now begin negotiations on a contract with Stratus Properties involving financial terms, construction schedule, and design changes. These issues must be resolved before passing a final vote. Stratus bid $15 million for the property, but said they will only pay $10 million if the project included a home for a nonprofit arts organization, such as a museum.

The other finalist were:

AMLI/Endeavor - 28 story tower

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Zydeco Development Corp. - two 25 story towers

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The Austin Children's Museum will be a part of the Block 21 development. The museum will only have to pay to furnish and operate the new 40,000 sf space. The city of Austin has just begun negotiations with Status Properties who was chosen to develop Block 21. Status had agreed to pay $15 million for the property, but only $10 million if a nonprofit cultural institution was included.

Story at: http://www.statesman.com/business/content/...7/13museum.html

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Hicks Holdings and Gatehouse Capital Corp., which develops W Hotels, is looking to bring the chain to Austin within the next 5 years. No plans have been announced and it is unclear if it will be a W or their new "aloft" brand or if a condo component will be a part of it, but it does appear that the Block 21 development could be its location.

In fact, the Dallas partnership is in talks with Stratus Properties Inc., the owner of downtown Austin's undeveloped Block 21, to include a W hotel or a related concept in Stratus' mixed-use project.

Family-owned private investment firm Hicks Holdings LLC recently teamed up with real estate investment firm Gatehouse Capital Corp., the largest third-party developer of W Hotels, to build high-end hotel and residential real estate projects in Texas and California. An Austin property appears to be on the partnership's map.

Austin Business Journal: W Hotel may land at Block 21

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Found this article from March, apparently Stratus Properties presented an updated plan to the Austin City Council. The plan now calls for a 32-story building featuring a W Hotel and condominiums, a 1,000 seat venue for "Austin City Limits", and an expanded Austin Childrens Museum. W Hotels has signed a letter of agreement to manage the hotel and condos.

The hotel, office and condo tower, at the north end of the site, would sit atop a three-story section holding ACL, the museum and street-level retail. The fourth floor would contain the hotel's spa and outdoor pool. Offices would be leased on the fifth and sixth floors. Three levels of parking, each with about 250 spaces, would be underground.

About 225 hotel rooms would occupy floors seven through 18, and about 125 condos would occupy the uppermost floors. Hotel amenities would be offered to condo owners. Councilwoman Betty Dunkerley said Stratus had addressed all her concerns.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2007 and take two years to complete.

Rockin plan for Block 21: ACL, hotel

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Found this article from March, apparently Stratus Properties presented an updated plan to the Austin City Council. The plan now calls for a 32-story building featuring a W Hotel and condominiums, a 1,000 seat venue for "Austin City Limits", and an expanded Austin Childrens Museum. W Hotels has signed a letter of agreement to manage the hotel and condos.

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2007 and take two years to complete.

Rockin plan for Block 21: ACL, hotel

Yea there is actually a rendering of that I'll have to find it and post it up here. Though not the final design it gives a general idea of what the building will look like.

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wblock217ns.jpg

The W Hotel and Residences is designed by Andersson-Wise Associates with BOKA Powell. In addition to the 1,000 seat Austin City Limits studio, the project will also feature 30,000 sf for the Austin Childrens Museum. There will be entry's into different elements of the project or retail in all four corners of the project, so there will be in effect, no backside.

Block 21 will be the first commercial development in downtown Austin to achieve LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green roofs and a landscaped plaza on the mezzanine will make for a 70 percent green site with minimal "heat island" effect. Deep, recessed balconies and broad extrusions will shade the south and west-facing elevations of the tower.

http://texas.construction.com/news/buildin...hive/0607.asp#1

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Austin City Limits has officially announced that it will be moving to a new 1,000 seat studio in the Block 21 development. Filming for the shows at the new studio will begin in 2009.

Many things won't change when "ACL" moves from the University of Texas to downtown: Admission and beer will be free, at least for now, and the backdrop will still show the Austin skyline.

But instead of riding a creaking elevator up to the studio, fans will enter off Second Street, beneath an electronic billboard promoting shows, and they'll be able to buy show-related products at a new store.

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Nice front page article in the Statesman about this project and the fact that Willie Nelson is an investor.

Renderings of building were in print edition of paper...couldn't find one online.

Stratus will build the space as part of a $225 million project that will include a 35-story tower with 200 luxury condominiums atop a 250-room W Hotel; a new home for the Austin Children's Museum; and shops and restaurants.

Unofficially dubbed Austin City Limits Studio Theater, the $15 million, 2,000-capacity venue will serve as a soundstage about 40 nights a year when KLRU's "Austin City Limits" tapes. It will transform into a musically diverse House of Blues-style club on other nights.

Groundbreaking for the development is scheduled for next summer.

"It's very exciting to be in on something from the ground up," Fletcher said. "When I brought the idea to Willie a few years ago, he loved it."

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A good article in the current Chronicle about the Block 21 development.

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."

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Interesting, maybe Magic can use his previous development experience to influence some retailers to set up shop that may not have considered downtown Austin before.

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Interesting, maybe Magic can use his previous development experience to influence some retailers to set up shop that may not have considered downtown Austin before.

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The official groundbreaking was held yesterday for Block 21, which was attended by developers and investor Magic Johnson.

The $260 million Block 21 project, among the most ambitious in downtown's current building boom, will include a 250-room W hotel and 196 high-end condominiums, as well as a 2,200-seat venue for "Austin City Limits" and other performances.

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This is a great thing for Austin. W Hotels are very very nice, and there arent hundreds of these hotels yet so it doesnt seem like an oversaturated market, and Austin was just next in line. W Hotels are usually reserved for major metropolitan areas, LA, Dallas, NYC, Chicago, Atlanta...this is nice. I like the design and incorporating Austin City Limits (a Texas Institution) into the building, are the plans still including the amphitheatre?

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Let me dust off this forum...there. The W hotel and condo tower and future home of Austin City Limits begins construction on Monday! The site plan filed with the city indicates it will be 478' tall.

http://www.statesman.com/business/content/...503block21.html

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Block 21 construction to start Monday

$295 million project in downtown Austin to have W hotel, 165 condos, 'Austin City Limits' venue.

By Shonda Novak

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Saturday, May 03, 2008

With financing in place, construction is finally ready to begin Monday on a high-profile downtown development with a 36-story W hotel, condominiums and a new "Austin City Limits" venue.

Joint-venture partner Stratus Properties Inc. closed Friday on financing for its Block 21 project, which will cost $295 million, up from an earlier estimate of $260 million.

The higher costs are related to 70,000 square feet being added to the original project and a "modest increase" in building costs, Stratus chairman and CEO Beau Armstrong said.

The financing paves the way for crews to arrive Monday to start excavation work for three levels of underground parking, Armstrong said. The entire project is expected to be completed in three years.

The project officially kicked off seven months ago with much fanfare and an appearance by NBA superstar-turned-businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Johnson's private equity fund, Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds LLC, is Stratus' joint venture partner in the project, planned for the block just north of City Hall.

Canyon-Johnson will contribute $74 million in equity for the development, with Stratus putting in $49 million. Los Angeles-based Canyon-Johnson, which just raised another $1 billion in capital, focuses on major urban redevelopment and revitalization projects in growing areas, such as Central Texas, as well as in ethnically diverse neighborhoods in densely populated metro areas.

In addition to the Canyon-Johnson financing, Stratus also closed Friday on a $170 million construction loan with the publicly traded Corus Bank in Chicago, Armstrong said.

In May 2007, Stratus expected to start construction on Block 21 the following September.

But Armstrong said the "sheer magnitude of the project" and a highly challenging lending market altered the timetable. The city had the right to repurchase the property if Stratus didn't start construction by April 15 but gave Stratus an extension, he said.

"It's a tough time to borrow money now, no matter who you are," Armstrong said. And though, typically, construction loans aren't the hardest part of a deal to land, "because of the turmoil in the credit markets, it became a more difficult proposition," he said.

Armstrong said that it also took time to get the necessary building and other permits from the city but that those are now in hand.

Bobby Turner, managing partner of the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, said Armstrong's ability to obtain financing "in probably the worst financing market in the history of this country" is a testament to the quality of the project and "really reflects on the merits of Austin."

Canyon-Johnson also is teaming with Stratus to bid on the proposed redevelopment of the nearby Green Water Treatment Plan.

The Block 21 project will be on land bounded by Second, Third, Lavaca and Guadalupe streets that Stratus bought from the city for $15 million. Plans call for a W hotel with 250 rooms, 165 condominiums and a 2,480-capacity venue for KLRU's "Austin City Limits."

Armstrong said it will take 30 months to build the hotel, for an expected fall 2010 completion, and 36 months for the last condominium to be finished, by about May 2011.

The original plan for 196 condos has changed because some buyers are combining units. Armstrong said 85 of the current 165 units are under contract with nonrefundable deposits of 10 percent of the purchase price.

The average price of the units under contract is $1.1 million, he said. Prices range from the high $400,000s to more than $3 million.

Redevelopment of the block is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs over the length of the project, according to the general contractor, Austin Commercial, plus hundreds of permanent jobs when the project opens.

Stratus estimates that the development will generate, for the city alone, $18.9 million in hotel occupancy taxes, $12.3 million in property taxes and more than $3 million in retail sales taxes.

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Let me dust off this forum...there. The W hotel and condo tower and future home of Austin City Limits begins construction on Monday! The site plan filed with the city indicates it will be 478' tall.

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