How Will Luxury Hotels Change Downtown Austin?

Two new luxury hotels are coming to Downtown Austin. The 2,000+ hotel rooms that will come online by 2015 are good news for SXSW revelers, the convention economy and are of uncertain value to nearly everyone else.

The Fairmont Austin. Courtesy of Gensler Architects.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell had been pressing for the two convention hotel, along with the existing 800-room Hilton Austin, saying more hotel rooms are needed to make full use of the expanded Austin Convention Center and to help Austin attract more — and bigger — conventions.

The Fairmont Austin
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is expected to break ground on a new, 50-story, 1,000-room luxury hotel in early 2013. The $350 million project will be at the site of what is now a surface parking lot located on East Cesar Chavez and Red River Streets near the Austin Convention Center.

The hotel will stand at 50 stories, and at 580 feet tall, it will be the second-tallest building in Austin’s skyline when it opens for business in 2015. (after the 56-story Austonian). Fairmont operates another Texas hotel in Dallas, The Fairmont Dallas, its only other location in the state.

The JW Marriott Austin. Photo courtesy of White Lodging.

JW Marriott Austin
Development on the 33-story, 1,000-room JW Marriott is expected to begin this month. The hotel will be replace an existing parking lot on Congress Avenue and Second Street two blocks from the Austin Convention Center. It’s expected to open in 2015.

What’s next
Will Austin become another soulless convention city?

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Developing Austin: 47 Stories and a Planetarium

With Austin primed to enter another boom in downtown high-rise construction, news of a new skyscraper in the works is to be expected. After the non-profit Austin Planetarium and developer KUD International announced plans to build a state-of-the-art 47-story mixed-used development last week that will include the “largest planetarium in Texas,” even the most jaded of Austinites took a pause.

Courtesy HOK.

The $240 million Austin Planetarium project would include a 157,000-square-foot facility located across the street from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum with a planetarium, an interactive science museum and a technology center, as well as residences, restaurants, retail and 1,000 underground parking spaces. The project is awaiting approval by the Texas Facilities Commission for a ground lease on the property located at North Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which is currently a parking lot. Developers are aiming to break ground in late 2013 or early 2014.

The Planetarium development would be by far the tallest structure north of the Capitol, and at 47 stories would be among the tallest in the city. A possible downside would be increased traffic on Guadalupe on the Drag, which has been at capacity for years.

‘Statesman’ May Sell Lakefront Office Complex in South Austin

The Austin American-Statesman sits on 19 acres of lakefront property in South Austin, but for how much longer?

The Statesman from the Congress St. Bridge

Owner Cox Media Group is apparently open to selling the land after receiving multiple unsolicited offers. The paper itself is not currently for sale, but it’s clear that building is not an efficient use of the space. Occupied by the Statesman since 1980, the drab and boxy building is 300,000 square feet and three stories tall. Located just south of upscale Travis Heights and on Lady Bird Lake, the land has been appraised for $40 million, but possibly much more.

Austin American-Statesman

I presume it’s only a matter of time until a buyer comes forward. I hesitate to speculate further until more information becomes available, but it’s hard not to be excited at the prospect of 19 acres opening up for smart development in what’s essentially downtown.