Press Releases / Austonian Updates
Austonian hot spot among best in U.S., Esquire says | Austin Business Journal | by Cody Lyon
Bar Congress at the foot of The Austonian on Second Street has garnered more national attention, this time as one of Esquire Magazine's "Best Bars in America."
The tiny lounge is nestled inside an 8,000-square-foot restaurant complex that includes Second Bar & Kitchen as well as Congress, a well-received restaurant headed up by local chef David Bull.
While Esquire highlights the hot spot's cocktails and "super cozy" 22-seat arrangement, the writer also points out downtown Austin's residential growth and recession-fighting abilities. The article hits newsstands next months, on the heels of a New York Times piece spotlighting Austin's up and coming Second Street District. Bull's carrot citrus mousse, garlic chive potato gnocchi and braised oxtail got a solid mention in the May 5 piece.
On top of that, the May/June issue of national mixology glossy Imbebe called Bar Congress a place where "cocktails go nonpartisan."
Who can argue? With names like Preferred Lies - a cocktail of infused bourbons, apple drinking vinegar and ginger foam - partisanship seems as distant as Washington D.C. And there's no high fructose anywhere in sight. The place outlawed it, opting to even make its own sodas and tonic.
Despite all the national attention, a spokesman for the tiny bar said success comes from micro-actions, such as remembering regulars' names and employing career bartenders, not just someone looking for part-time work.
Apparently its working. A quick check of state comptroller receipts showed the place had one of the highest numbers in sales of all downtown food and beverage establishments this past month.
David Bull's Congress shatters the five-star ceiling. By Mike Sutter | AAS Restaurant Critic
David Bull's Congress shatters the five-star ceiling: At the Austonian, a celebrated chef returns with a game-changing study in food, wine, service, setting and value
In more than two years as this paper's restaurant critic, I've chased my own definition of five stars: "An extraordinary restaurant experience from start to finish." When I found it at Congress, I had doubts. Not about Congress, but my own metrics.
Has it been in business long enough? Congress opened barely in time to celebrate New Year's Eve, but it's hardly this team's first party. Chef David Bull was a star when he left the Driskill Grill in 2007 for the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, but he's rejoined now by a cadre of Driskill expats that includes Rebecca Meeker as chef de cuisine, manager Scott Walker, a handful of servers and line cooks and Jeff Trigger, who heads the La Corsha group behind Congress, Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen. Bull calls it a restaurant family reunion.
Given Congress' narrow pricing options - $65 for three courses or $95 to $125 for seven courses - am I equating cost with quality? There's some correlation, but dollar signs aren't the only measure of real value.
Is Congress really one star above Uchi, Uchiko and the Carillon, the only places I've rated four stars? Right now, yes. And here's why.
The prix fixe experience calls for a surrender of control, like when fate puts you at dinner with your girlfriend's ex, and he orders for the whole table without looking at the menu, and everything is great. No threat, tough guy. It just confirms what great taste she has, right?
Surrender doesn't mean being part of a science fair project at Congress. Bull renders balanced flavors from familiar foods, cooked and composed with elegant precision: American caviar with a smooth, sweet mousse of carrot and orange zest. Beef short rib ravioli, deeply savory, with burrata cheese that skirts the line between liquid and solid but defies that ambiguous state with full cream flavor bouncing off deep brown bordelaise sauce. Meat cut from the marbled rib-eye cap, rolled into a tight cylinder, finished with an espresso rub and smoked caramel sauce more savory than sweet, alongside buttery potato puree as smooth as a baby's blanket.
Smart, simple flavors rolled through gnocchi with a light sear that gave them full figured density but left the smooth potato flavor intact. Plated with shredded oxtail that had a pleasant rustic twang without aggressive gaminess, the dish was a small expression of meat and potatoes, finished with a delicately cooked quail egg. Veal sweetbreads were constituted into a rectangular slice, seared crisp on the outside, velvety inside with goat cheese for creamy accord. Micro-thin slices of green tomato brought a slightly acidic, grassy counterpoint.
The lamb chops were cooked a shade past medium-rare, with a salted crust and a tactful display that avoided being fussy. It was plated with strips of roasted salsify, a rustic root vegetable that gave a simple foundation for flavors from candied oranges and a cardamom-infused yogurt that referenced the Mediterranean. We gnawed the bones to a smooth museum ivory.
A disc of cool foie gras with toasted brioche and Minus 8 vinegar as direct as fortified wine raised the stakes. The heat of my breath was enough to release flavors more subtle than the iron hand of seared foie. Iron hand, meet velvet glove. It's a $24 upcharge on either menu.
Subtlety reigned over velvety hamachi (a kind of Japanese snapper), without the heavy-handed citrus that so often defines raw-fish preparations. Razor-thin red chiles and hearts of palm added zest and texture, topped with a neat shoelace bow of sesame soba noodles. Escolar took the form of three precise cylinders formed by browned chicken skin, a surf dish with turf flavor assists from chicken jus and bacon, although on a menu where pork is notably recessive, I wouldn't have missed the bacon.
Only one dish got lost in its collection of elements, a yellowtail with a trio of similar textures from peas, pistachios and bread crumbs, cradled by foam I couldn't make out. It was hardly a failure, just not as precise as the rest.
Pastry chef Plinio Sandalio has created dessert menus for both restaurants, and a trio of his creations is a $22 option at Congress. We sampled grapefruit sorbet with Campari pop rocks, more for snap-crackle-pop than flavor, which I didn't pick up among the astringent and sweet grapefruit in its icy and au naturel forms. A thick coin of dense, dark chocolate brought a liquid white chocolate center, finished with a dot of raspberry, toasted hazelnuts and a shard of something like chocolate-hazelnut stage glass called gianduja. A favorite was fried sweet potato beignets sprinkled with chicory, served with pecan brittle and salted butter ice cream, plus a suggestion of coffee, in case you weren't picking up on the Cafe du Monde vibe.
A wine odyssey through a three-course dinner tells the story of the Congress experience.
I told sommelier June Rodil we had $50 to spend on wine, and we'd rather not ask one bottle to do the heavy lifting across three courses. There are bottles at that price point in most of the categories, and I would have been happy with a Baudry Chinon Les Granges cabernet franc ($44) or a Bodegas LAN Reserva Spanish red ($42).
But before we could ask, Rodil offered to compose a tasting - small pours matched to each dish. First, she brought Divine Droplets sake from Japan to complement hamachi sashimi with avocado and grapefruit. Then French rosé (Chateau de Trinquevedel 2008) for a tailored square of beef tartare braced with horseradish, a few microns of shaved black truffle and fried oysters.
She brought 2007 MacPhail pinot noir from California with lobster bisque, which started as a fat circle of tomato jam with chopped lobster, over which the waitress poured a hot, creamy soup base for us to incorporate with a lobster-ricotta cheese fritter. It was by turns sweet, salty and rich, and the MacPhail kept pace with earthy aromatics and a long, deep finish.
For seared scallops with smoky pork lardons and apple-bacon marmalade, Rodil poured a French chenin blanc (Francois Pinon Vouvray 2008) whose acidity and bright tangerine fruit amplified the dish's seaside smokehouse profile.
Out came a California cabernet sauvignon (Terra Valentine Spring Mountain 2006) for a rib-eye loin with garlic puree and foie gras beurre rouge that held the big flavors in reserve just long enough to let the beef express itself. For the Romanesque decadence of braised veal cheek and manicured veal tenderloin, Rodil went with a Lebanese red (Chateau Musar Hochar 2003) with the quirky aromatics of a cedar chest sachet.
We ordered dessert, and Rodil brought a bonus wine, this time a tokaji from Hungary (Disznoko 4 Puttonyos) with an air of rose petal and orange to go with a pound cake ($10) that incorporated four big flavors. Long, thin slices of pound cake pulsed with star anise, flanked by dark drops of sesame pudding, scatterings of orange and a "toast sorbet" that tasted exactly like its name.
The kitchen also sent an after-dinner drink, of sorts: a petite bourbon milk shake at once creamy and cool and shimmering with high-proof heat, topped like a cocktail with a sweet-potato beignet on a toothpick.
It was one of the most complete dinner experiences I've ever had, ministered to by a sommelier with a sense of humor and a wicked palate.
Plates disappeared the moment they became afterthoughts and the next course settled in, all of it on china nicer than most of us have in that living room hutch we hardly ever open. Elegant and balanced flatware was changed at each course, water glasses filled with micromanagerial zeal. Little plates of yeast rolls soft as Bundt cake shuttled in, and crumbs never stayed on the starched tablecloths long enough to threaten our sleeves.
One waiter was lithe and decisive. This or that? Most definitely that, and here's why, and not just because it's my favorite. During a seven-course tasting on another night, when we asked to substitute a dish from the three-course menu, our waitress brought both dishes. Every interaction was cordial without being overly familiar, deferential without condescension, each of more than 30 dishes over three visits described in careful detail.
Yes, 30-plus dishes. Don't bother with the math, because it included little off-menu opening volleys such as parsnip custard and final flourishes such as cashew panna cotta, plus a few small courtesies, one of them a grapefruit sorbet offered as a palate cleanser between a heavy third course and a nuanced dessert.
The dining room at Congress caters more to your comfort than to a contemporary urban design esthetic. The wingback chairs and banquette seats defining the beige-and-white space are upholstered from back to bottom. A wood-framed service alcove at the front puts you in the mind of the waiting room of a high-end spa. A band of mirrors gives a broken horizon view of the space just above your head. Minimalist chandeliers hang from towering ceilings like mobiles for progressive new parents. The music mix favors anybody who appreciates equally a Led Zeppelin deep cut ("That's the Way") or a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club cover of "Dirty Old Town," and it seemed to fade in just when the food or a good wine rendered us into silence.
Expensive restaurants come with a higher risk-to-reward ratio. Unhappy with your $8 trailer lunch, your $10 burger, your $1.89 breakfast taco? You'll get over it. Blow a couple hundred on a bad experience, it leaves a mark.
Processing the value equation at Congress, I wish the three-course dinner offered a dessert option, and that the portion sizes could be adjusted to sand off the last ragged remainders of appetite. I'd rather not have cheese as one of seven courses, because I can buy cheese at the store; I can only get David Bull here. And when caviar and lobster salad raise the seven-course price from its baseline $95 to $125, I'm looking for an opt-out clause.
But those are the dying gasps of weak objections, because Congress performed gracefully at every price point. Easy for me to say when my boss is picking up the tab, right? Well, one of those visits I made on my own dime, and the hard swallow that came with the $200 bill gave way to what I felt after the expense-account dinners. Something like wonder, something measured best by the language of stars, all five of them.
Austin hotel restaurant-bar cluster concept adapted | Austin Business Journal | Francisco Vara-Orta
An Austin-based partnership has designed a proven and flexible model for hotel-based restaurant-and-bar combinations that features a centralized kitchen and pushes boundaries with its chefs, kitchen layout and adaptability to historic structures and residential towers.
La Corsha Hospitality Group is led by founder and industry veteran Jeff Trigger, whose extensive hotel management experience includes repositioning and overseeing the renovations at various historic Texas hotels. The group is best known locally for The Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, where Trigger oversaw the $30 million restoration that elevated the hotel to its four-diamond status.
In implementing its design concept at The Driskill, La Corsha demonstrated its quest for synergy as it strives "to make the best of our resources to be able to do five things: fine dining, casual dining, great bar service, catering for private events with nice venues, and room service," Trigger said. "In hospitality, you have to design your business to harken back to the best service possible."
And having demonstrated its concept, La Corsha is making strides in taking it to other projects. The key team members behind The Driskill are back opening a restaurant-bar trio at the Austonian - the first time Trigger's model has been adapted to such a residential building. The Austonian team, named La Corsha Restaurant Group, reunites Trigger with his Driskill partners: Chef David Bull, Scott Walker and Jeff Rhein.
During the last week of 2010 and first week of 2011, La Corsha rolled out Second Bar + Kitchen, the casual dining spot; Congress, a more upscale, cozier restaurant; and Bar Congress, a cocktail lounge connecting the two restaurants.
"When we are thinking of how to design these spaces, we always keep in mind something that works with the whole vibe of the building and surrounding community," Trigger said. "We like to fill a need with something that is fun to be at."
One of the main drivers behind the viability of La Corsha's model is its leaders' experience, hospitality experts said, noting that Trigger made his name decades ago as managing director for two of Dallas' finest historic hotels: The Mansion on Turtle Creek and The Adolphus Hotel.
Keith Purcell - director of sales and marketing at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas, who previously worked at La Corsha - said the company helped usher in the idea of marketing a hotel or tower for its restaurant. The Carillon restaurant, housed in the AT&T Conference Center's hotel, has a growing foodie following for its chef, Josh Watkins.
While working on The Driskill, La Corsha became so entranced with Austin that Trigger decided to set up his headquarters on West Sixth Street. The firm now employs 300 people who help manage projects around Texas. Although the company does consulting work out of state, Trigger likes to work solely in Texas, specializing on historic boutique hotels.
To that extent, The Austonian is a noteworthy departure for La Corsha as its first new construction project, said Matthew Mabel, president of Surrender Inc., a Dallas-based management and hospitality consulting company.
"Going in there shows how the restaurant-bar model they've designed can be flexible," Mabel said. "They've carved out a niche that isn't like anybody else in the hotel and hospitality industry."
La Corsha's three biggest upcoming projects involve historic structures in Texas, Trigger said. They include designing restaurant-bar venues for the Seaholm redevelopment in downtown Austin, which would bookend the firm's work on Second Street with the Austonian on the opposite end; the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells; and The Settles Hotel in Big Spring, owned by G. Brint Ryan, founder and CEO of Ryan, the largest state and local tax consulting firm in North America.
Celebrity chef appeal
La Corsha is best known by many for recruiting Bull as the executive chef. Bull competed on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and is widely credited in foodie circles as shepherding celebrity chef culture into Austin when he came here a decade ago.
"Having David as part of the company has helped us really more than words can say," Trigger said. "He's helped us with our message that we are a restaurant that happens to be housed at a hotel and not just the hotel restaurant."
Trigger discovered Bull in Dallas, and the chef has become the public face of La Corsha's work at its hotels around Texas, where he helps manage food operations. As an Austin resident, he'll work mainly out of the kitchen that serves the 8,000-square-foot trio at La Corsha's Austonian hub.
A centralized kitchen is a hallmark of La Corsha's concept. Whereas many hotels have a bar and multiple restaurants with separate kitchens, La Corsha designs one kitchen in the heart of its restaurant-bar combination.
"That is a brilliant idea to save money," Purcell said, "because you can easily end up spending $1 million on a kitchen to have all the equipment and inventory for an upscale place, let alone two or more."
Pastry chef sweet on whimsy creates desserts to savor at Congress Austin restaurants
By: Claire Canavan
SPECIAL FOR THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
In Plinio Sandalio's corner of the kitchen, the building blocks of dessert are lined up like a lab researcher's inventory: candied hazelnuts, pecan brittle, Campari-flavored pop rocks. Yes, pop rocks.
Sandalio is no ordinary pastry technician, and his lab is the trio of new Austonian venues known collectively as Congress Austin.
Sandalio, 29, is known for his playful style, putting whimsical twists on familiar classics - for example, his take on the ever-popular molten chocolate cake.
Instead of a hot cake with melted chocolate on the inside, he has concocted a chilled bittersweet chocolate terrine that, when sliced into with a spoon, oozes a white chocolate center. It's like a grown-up, sophisticated Cadbury Creme Egg.
Or, the oatmeal sandwich cookies with foie gras buttercream and the bacon ice cream currently in the freezer, highlighting Sandalio's penchant for incorporating meat into his desserts. Yes, meat.
Sandalio's new boss is executive chef David Bull, who heads up all three restaurants. Bull hoped to find a pastry chef whose technical skills were top notch enough to fit the standards of the new dining spots, which include the sleek and modern Second Bar + Kitchen, focusing on value-driven comfort food; Bar Congress, a classy artisan cocktail lounge; and Congress, an elegant spot with a seasonal American daily-changing menu and a chandelier-laced interior.
When hiring a pastry chef, Bull said he wanted someone who could create "a seamless transition between savory and sweet" as well as someone whose personality was a good fit. When Bull started staffing the new team, he and Sandalio, then the pastry chef at Houston's critically acclaimed Textile, had not met in person but were friends via Facebook. Bull e-mailed Sandalio to ask if he knew any good pastry chefs in Austin. Sandalio replied, "What about me?" Interviews and tastings followed, and Sandalio got the job.
Sandalio, who is from Bolivia and described himself as not having much of a sweet tooth, didn't intend to study pastry. After graduating from culinary school at the Art Institute of Houston in 2005, he dove into the city's restaurant scene with a sous-chef gig at Rickshaw Far East Bistro. But one of his pastry chef friends seemed to be having more fun.
He realized that pastry might offer more opportunity for creative play because "you have more time to prep, to mold things," he said. "And I love making ice creams."
Many pastry chefs these days like to pair sweet and salty, but Sandalio takes it a step further by creating desserts that are frequently clever inversions of popular appetizers or entrees.
Take, for example, his sticky toffee pudding with bacon ice cream at Second Bar + Kitchen, which was inspired by the popular appetizer "devils on horseback," or dates wrapped in bacon.
For another dessert, Sandalio began by thinking about mole, a rich Mexican sauce often tinged with chocolate, spices and chiles. His mole-inspired dessert? A bittersweet brownie infused with smoked paprika, topped with cumin pecans and caramelized white chocolate.
Though inspired by a few pastry chefs who employ molecular gastronomy, which uses scientific techniques to transform ingredients, Sandalio is hesitant to use that term when describing his cooking. "I use some of those techniques when it benefits the dessert," he said. "But it's not for show."
Sandalio's food has earned him notice. While working at Textile, Sandalio was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award last year.
His choices of the two best desserts he's ever eaten show what he values as a pastry chef. A reconstructed bread pudding (crusted bread on the outside, a gooey pool of caramel on the inside) from pastry chef Alex Stupak at New York's WD-50 represents Sandalio's love for whimsy and experimentation.
His other favorite - raspberry sorbet with unsweetened whipped cream from Austin chef Jesse Griffiths at the Dai Due Supper Club - shows Sandalio's appreciation of simplicity and pure, unadulterated flavor. "The berries were so ripe," Sandalio said. "It was simple but so amazing."
After months of testing new recipes, Sandalio spent the first few weeks the restaurants were open putting in 16-hour days, though lately he works slightly less crazy 12- to 14-hour days. He's gotten to explore his new city a bit and said he likes Austin's farmers markets and supper clubs, and the way people here "push each other to be more creative."
That creativity, that sense of play, is what Bull likes best about his new pastry chef.
"He cooks in a way that has no boundaries, no limitations," Bull said. "There are no rules to what he creates."
Speaking of playfulness, remember those pop rocks- You'll find them at Congress, paired with Sandalio's fresh grapefruit sorbet, ready to crackle and snap when the spoon hits your mouth.
High on Green | Barbara Ballinger | Multifamily Executive
A luxurious, green residential tower in Austin, Texas, heeds a former mayor's call for a livable, populated urban core.
When former Austin, Texas, mayor Will Wynn set a goal in 2005 for having 25,000 new downtown residents by 2015, locally based Benchmark Development more than did its part. The company purchased a parcel at Congress Avenue and Second Street that offered views of the state capitol building, proximity to Lady Bird Lake and its trails, and a location in the heart of the area's best shopping and restaurants.
"We'd been looking for property in the area for 10 years and felt the best use for this site was a residential tower," says David Mahn, Benchmark's vice president. The company instructed Houston-based Ziegler Cooper Architects to follow Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) standards. When The Austonian, a 56-story, 166-unit glass, precast-concrete, and stone tower (currently the city's tallest building), opened in June, it earned a four-star rating from AEGB, making it the only downtown high-rise to achieve that status (comparable to a U.S. Green Building Council LEED-Gold rating).
To enable the tower to fit the skinny site, the architects designed the building in an elliptical shape, architect Kurt Hull says. For energy and water conservation, there are drought-tolerant plants; a shade canopy formed by two 300-gallon trees; a high-efficiency irrigation system that collects water from the building's HVAC system; a reflective roof; high-performing insulated glass with a low-E coating; and a vegetated shade canopy over a street-level dining terrace. More thoughtful choices were to preserve and incorporate the façade of a historic blacksmith shop that had been on the site and to recycle 87 percent of construction waste rather than send it to a landfill.
Among The Austonian's novel perks are a 10th-floor recreation area with a dog park that features synthetic grass atop an engineered drainage layer as well as a "Texas-style" backyard, with a 75-foot-long saltwater lap pool, hot tub, grills, fireplaces, cabanas with flat-screen TVs, and a sunset-viewing terrace, says Eric Schultz, a senior associate at TBG Partners in Austin, which designed The Austonian's landscape architecture.
The long list of amenities has helped sell 40 percent of the condos, which range from $500,000 (for 1,200 square feet) to $9 million (for 8,300 square feet).
Amid the belt-tightening, Austin restaurants let theirs out a notch Mike Sutter | AAS
As the overall economy tries to decide whether it's recovering from the recession, restaurants are giving Austinites more places to figure it out over dinner.
High-profile recent openings include Congress Austin at the Austonian, the gastropub Haddingtons , the trailer-to-restaurant transition Barley Swine and a string of other mid- to high-end restaurants.
As bright spots begin to emerge in a restaurant environment hit hard by two years of economic drought, the question arises: Can Austin fill that many seats?
The National Restaurant Association predicts that U.S. restaurant sales in 2011 will be 3.6 percent higher than in 2010. The group's prediction of 3.9 percent growth for Texas places the state's numbers among the nation's six highest. The association rates Texas at the top, along with Florida, for restaurant job growth at 17 percent over the next 10 years.
In a 2010 survey conducted by the restaurant guide publisher Zagat, Texas diners were among the least affected by the weak economy, with 32 percent saying they were eating out less often, the lowest percentage among eight national markets. In New York City, for example, 46 percent said they eat out less. The national average was 39 percent.
"We know that the Texas economy and particularly the local economy performed better during the recession than the national economy," said Jeff Trigger, president of La Corsha Restaurant Partners, which manages Congress, Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen. "It's always a good time to open if you know the community you're serving and you've got the right product offering."
The Austonian restaurants go after two markets: higher-end casual dining and expensive fine dining. Second Bar + Kitchen is the more casual venue, with pizzas and burgers for around $12 and entrees from $16 to $28. At the high end, Congress offers a seven-course tasting menu for $95.
Trigger said the model is working. "We've been rocking; there's no question about it," he said. "We have standing reservations already at Congress for every day of the week."
Michael Polombo, who owns Austin's Mulberry restaurant and New York City's Bin 71 and Barcibo, said he went more by instinct rather than numbers when he opened Haddingtons last month with Mulberry chef Zack Northcutt.
"There was no empirical data to say that this would be a good thing to put here," he said. "It's been a great turnout thus far. Austin's buoyed by the public sector. You have teachers, UT, the state Capitol and all that. I think that's one of the reasons why we don't see the issues that a lot of other cities do."
Polombo is also a partner in a new bistro called Barrique in New York , where he said the economic downswing has an upside: "It's easy to get a commercial space now in New York."
One chef seeking a new home for his Austin restaurant said the spaces he's looked at are renting for what similar properties commanded before the recession. Austin's trailer scene isn't immune to real estate issues generated by the nascent recovery. John Galindo of Izzoz Tacos closed his trailer in December rather than pay a rent increase on a South First Street lot that was adding another food trailer. Izzoz reopened a few blocks down South First this month.
Outside the spotlight of the newest places in town, some established restaurants are showing signs of life. Figures from state records of mixed-beverage tax receipts show a mix of Austin casual and expensive restaurants - both local and franchised - posted gains the last quarter of 2010 compared with 2009. The figures don't include food sales, but they're an indicator of customer traffic.
Alcohol sales at Threadgill's World Headquarters, the Riverside Drive home of chicken-fried steak and live music, were down 3.4 percent, despite what company Comptroller Gracie Taylor said was a stronger overall holiday season in 2010 than the previous year. She attributed the decline to a smaller number of concerts in November 2010 compared with November 2009.
Concerts are the primary driver of alcohol sales, she said.
The restaurant surge is cold comfort for places that have recently knuckled under.
Those include the Backstage Steakhouse, where owner Kent Hayner said he had 28 employees and $1 million worth of business before the recession but saw both of those numbers drop more than 40 percent by the time he closed in September.
Other recent casualties include Kyoto, Kenobi, Jaime's Spanish Village, Richard Jones Pit Bar-B-Q , Joe DiMaggio's and Katz's Deli .
The closings have come even as new restaurants have arrived, among them Soleil at Lake Travis, Vince Young Steakhouse, Zed's, Hopdoddy, the Backspace and Trace at the W Hotel.
Recovery or not, the industry must contend with perceptions as well as numbers, said Richie Jackson, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association , a trade group with 5,000 members accounting for about 12,000 restaurants.
"I think there have been lots of messages focused on consumers about eating out," he said. "Whether it's Suze Orman, who says you shouldn't go eat out, or Wal-Mart, who's trying to promote their grocery business and saying how much you can save by eating breakfast at home. After a while, I think those messages, combined with the down economy, begin to take their toll on the consumer's psyche."
Jackson said consumer focus groups have shown a pent-up demand for dining out. "They just need a little nudge so they don't feel guilty about it," he said.
Take Monday Off: Austin | Wall Street Journal | Kate Bolick
A week's worth of boot shopping, honky-tonk dancing and pork-belly-slider tasting packed into just three days.
Read Article Here
Austin among top searched real estate in U.S. | Austin Business Journal
Austin was among the top ten most searched real estate markets last year, according to a recent Realtor.com report.
Las Vegas and Los Angeles came in first and second most searched markets every month last year, while Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio and Miami vied for the third, fourth and fifth most searched respectively. Phoenix, San Diego, Austin, Tampa, Fla. and Chicago, held the sixth through 10 positions for most months in 2010.
Austin ranked highest in October last year, coming in fourth most searched that month. The city didn't appear at all on the top 10 in the first three months last year, then moved mostly between eighth and 10th.
The rankings were based on the number of visitors that viewed properties in each MSA from January 2010 to December 2010 on Realtor.com, operated by Move Inc. (Nasdaq: MOVE).
Despite changing market conditions, the nation's most-searched destinations remained remarkably consistent, officials said, focusing on the sunshine states of California, Nevada, Florida, Texas and Arizona.
"As the number one homes for sale website, searches on Realtor.com show us where the highest potential for activity is across the country. Changing conditions throughout 2010 in the sunshine states resulting from foreclosures, the tax credit, interest rates and other factors created more interest in real estate compared to other states," Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson said.
New Restaurant Sneak Peek - By: Adam Sparks
You can't miss the Austonian. Towering above our little city is a high rise, firmly entrenching Austin's place as a major city for the 21st century. And with a major upgrade in building heights comes a major development in the culinary scene. With authentic Austin as their core, these five new eateries at 200 Congress Ave will be leading the way in 2011.
Berry Austin: By bringing in the second iteration of a locally owned frozen yogurt shop, the big-wigs at the Austonian have shown their commitment to making the Austonian about, well, Austin. It's not that the world doesn't need another TCBY, but Berry Austin's original store on Baclones Drive exhibits the creativity and enthusiasm that makes Austin great.
Caffé Medici: If coffee was a religion (as the good people at Medici likely believe), Austin-original Caffé Medici would be the Holy Land. Medici's ardent baristas want nothing more than to turn you on to coffee, and a beautiful new location in the Austonian (complete with mezzanine seating and a freestanding espresso bar) is sure to make you a believer.
Second Bar & Kitchen: As the most versatile of the Austonian trio bearing the "Congress" banner, Second Bar and Kitchen will be serving an eclectic mix of casual fare, American standards and accessible fine dining (read: more within the price range of those not living in the Austonian itself). From pizza and beer to baked cheese and charcuterie, Second will combine the mastery of its upscale half-brother, Congress, while allowing you to eat with your elbows on the table.
Bar Congress: Sandwiched between what might be the two hottest restaurants of 2011 is a bar focused on artisan cocktails, local beers and the kind of wine list that makes you wish you had gotten that law degree your mother was always pushing you toward.
Congress: The fate of the Austonian as a national destination rests in the hands of one man: chef David Bull. We expect nothing but overwhelming success. Bull and his cohort were responsible for establishing the Driskill Grill as the premier restaurant for fine dining in Austin, and they have pulled out all the stops on their new venture. With a professional forager on staff, look for Congress and it's associated offerings to be seasonal, inspirational, and the model of the welcoming-chic vibe that will carry Austin into the future.
4-Stars for The Austonian
The Austonian, Austin's newest and tallest luxury residential high-rise in the heart of downtown, has been awarded a coveted Four-Star rating from Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB), making the residential high rise the only one of its kind in the central business district.
A reflection of local needs and values, AEGB rates values such as energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, construction waste reduction, and the community and cultural aspects of a project in its stringent rating program. The award-winning Austin Energy program meets and often exceeds the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Rating System. The Austonian's Four Star rating is comparable to the LEED Gold rating.
"No other downtown high-rise has earned this level of official recognition," said Maureen T. Scanlon, P.E., AEGB's Commercial Program coordinator. "Others may say they are green, but The Austonian has the credentials. The Austonian stands far above others in more ways than one."
The protection and conservation of resources, and the creation of a healthy living environment, were key priorities for The Austonian development team, who made and kept their commitment to invest in green building and sustainable design from the beginning stages of the project's development.
"We are extremely pleased to have achieved a Four-Star rating from Austin Energy Green Building," said Bob Albanese, design and construction manager for The Austonian. "This accomplishment is the result of support from our developer to realize a goal, keen attention to detail and a lot of hard work by the design and construction team."
From its initial planning stages, The Austonian set out to create a new standard for luxury condominiums, redefining the term so that it's synonymous with green living.
One of the primary objectives realized by Ziegler Cooper Architects of Houston, the building's designer, was to create a space that supports energy and natural resource conservation.
The building occupies just one-third of a city block, providing luxury homes for 166 families on less than three-quarters of an acre. In contrast, a suburban residential community housing the same number of families on one-acre lots requires at least 27 acres of asphalt and concrete.
Compared to a 166-family Hill Country community, The Austonian will save 33.2 million gallons of drinking water each year in landscape watering. This is due to The Austonian's minimal land-use and its unique irrigation system, which uses condensation from the cooling system to irrigate the 10th floor rooftop urban garden. The building's landscape architecture also utilizes native plants and creates a cooling effect at the street level and on the 10th floor garden.
The street level design incorporates pedestrian-oriented elements to emphasize the urban setting and provide a coordinated transition from the building to the street. In keeping with the City of Austin Great Streets program, landscape architect TBG Partners incorporated standard paving materials, street trees and furnishings for the areas along the curb line. Along the building, TBG incorporated a series of distinctive spaces defined by planters, trellises and landscape materials.
Each residence was designed to allow for natural light in at least 75 percent of the space, minimizing electrical lighting requirements. In common areas, sensors and dimming ballasts also reduce the amount of lighting used when the areas are unoccupied. Specially coated, insulated glass and a reflective roofing system also provide year-round energy savings.
The Austonian has worked with local provider Austin Energy to ensure that energy use is as efficient as possible. The building's heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which includes climate control in each residence, is connected to Austin Energy's chilled water system. Using chilled water for air conditioning in lieu of individual condensation units results in a more efficient production of cool air and a lower overall impact on natural resources. Also, low-flow lavatories, dishwashers, and clothes washers in each home will reduce the use of potable water by approximately 30 percent compared to typical fixtures.
All construction materials used at The Austonian adhere to the strict VOC standards required by the AEGB Rating System. These low-emitting materials improve indoor air quality. Additionally, the maintenance plan for The Austonian includes green housekeeping and integrated pest control, which further protect the air quality within the building.
About Austin Energy Green Building
The City of Austin created the nation's first green building program in 1990. Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) is now the nation's most successful sustainable building program. AEGB encourages Central Texans to design and construct more sustainable homes and buildings. The mission of AEGB is "to lead the transformation of the building industry to a sustainable future." By developing and maintaining its own Austin-specific rating system, AEGB has the flexibility to carry out Austin's aggressive climate protection goals. The ratings are used to pave the way for energy and building code changes that will reduce building energy use. This continuous improvement cycle benefits everyone.
Caffe Medici to Open at The Austonian - Austin Business Journal - by Francisco Vara-Orta
Caffé Medici will open this winter at The Austonian in downtown Austin. It will be the Austin-based espresso and coffee house's third location in Austin.
The announcement marks the fourth locally owned business to open in The Austonian's roughly 11,000 square feet of retail fronting Congress Avenue and Second Street. Frozen yogurt shop Berry Austin and two restaurants by La Corsha Restaurant Partners - Congress and Second at Congress - will open there this fall.
About 2,600 square feet of retail space remains available on the north-northeast end of the building.
"We welcome the addition of Caffé Medici to the downtown neighborhood we're helping create," said David Mahn, vice president with Benchmark Development, the developer of The Austonian. "We believe this project, along with our other restaurants and shops, brings a new and engaging dimension to this corner of downtown Austin. Second and Congress is going to be a bustling spot."
The 178-unit, 56-story luxury high-rise - touted as the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi River - opened in June. About 70 of its units are sold or under contract and range in price from $500,000 to $8 million.
Caffé Medici's Austonian location will operate from a 2,200-square-foot storefront on Congress Avenue between Second and Third streets, serving a growing downtown population and foot traffic from nearby workers. It will offer coffee, tea, beer, wine and light snacks. The shop's design, which includes a mezzanine level overlooking Congress Avenue, an open storefront and a freestanding espresso bar, was created by Aaron Vollmer and Jean Pierre Trou of Runa Workshop. Blake Taylor with Taylor Real Estate represented Caffé Medici.
Caffé Medici opened its first store in 2006 in Austin's Clarksville neighborhood and added its second location on Guadalupe Street across from the main mall of the University of Texas in 2008.
In general, retail in Austin's downtown core has experienced some turnover because of the down economy. But higher-end condos and efforts in downtown revitalization have helped projects like The Austonian.
Retailers at The Austonian are paying in the mid-$30s per square foot. By comparison, the average for general retail space in Austin is $20 to $30 per square foot, said Eric DeJernett, a senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis. DeJernett is representing The Austonian, Four Seasons Residences Austin and various downtown spaces, including The Littlefield Building.
"There's definitely synergy between the ground floors and what's above. The ground floor really reflects the image of the building, but it also provides services for the [residents] above," DeJernett told the Austin Business Journal earlier this year when asked about retail in new high-end downtown condos.
Read more: Caffé Medici to open at The Austonian - Austin Business Journal
Downtown condo market defies the downturn - By Shonda Novak - Austin American Statesman
Three months ago, Jennene and Ray Mashburn moved into their new home on the 22nd floor of the Austonian, the tallest and most expensive of the latest wave of high-rise condominium towers that have reshaped downtown Austin's skyline.
Jennene and Ray, 70, a retired Southwestern Bell executive, sold their 5,400-square-foot house in Barton Creek 3½ years ago and had been renting downtown as they watched the Austonian being built, ultimately rising to 56 stories at Congress Avenue and Second Street.
The Mashburns, who were the first buyers to sign up for a unit in the building, now enjoy views of the Capitol and the University of Texas Tower, and the Frost Bank Tower gleams from their bedroom at night.
"Oh, my gosh, we love it," Jennene Mashburn says of the couple's 3,500-square-foot home in the sky. "The amenities here are just great."
A few blocks east, Tom Langston is enjoying his new sixth-floor unit in the 32-story Four Seasons Residences at San Jacinto Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street, next to the Four Seasons Hotel.
Langston, a contractor and consultant for the U.S. Department of State, has a two-bedroom unit with a large patio and views of the Driskill Hotel and Capitol. His neighbors in the building will include former Dell Inc. executive Tom Meredith and his wife, Lynn, who have purchased the 31st-floor penthouse, and former UT System Regent John Barnhill Jr.
Despite coming to market during the worst national recession in decades, the newest projects have managed to hold their own.
According to the developers, 389 of the 736 units in the four newest buildings are sold or under contract. The others are the 42-story Spring, which opened a year ago on the west side of downtown, and the W Austin Hotel & Residences , under construction north of City Hall.
"The market in the past 12 months is far stronger than what we experienced in the previous year," said David Ward, executive vice president for Atlanta-based Post Properties Inc., which developed the Four Seasons Residences with Ardent Residential. "The fear that was prevalent during the depth of the downturn has been replaced by confidence."
At the Four Seasons, 77 of the 148 units are sold or under contract, the developers said. The count at the other projects: 70 of the 178 units at the Austonian; 158 of 247 at Spring; and 84 of the 159 at the W, where the first buyers will be able to move in within a few months.
In addition, prices generally are holding, although Spring is advertising entry-level pricing specials on some one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Diana Zuniga, a partner in Spring, said the special prices are for units that might not have the best views or the most upgrades.
At the Four Seasons, where prices range from $400,000 to $4 million, Ward said pricing "has been very stable." The Austonian has even raised prices on some units.
In general, sales activity "has been surprisingly good, given the very high price point of this latest wave of condominium construction," said Charles Heimsath, a local real estate consultant for many downtown developers. Heimsath noted that the average asking price among the four projects is just over $1 million.
Aside from a recovering economy, the developers of the new projects have two other things in their favor.
One is that most of the projects targeted very affluent buyers. Heimsath said a fairly high percentage of buyers in the four new projects paid cash for their units, which are second or third homes for some.
Another is the absence of new competition. As lenders turned off the spigot for new construction during the downturn, several proposed projects have been postponed or shelved.
No new downtown condo projects have been started since work began on the 37- story W in 2008, said Terry Mitchell , strategic marketing director for the Austonian, adding that "the inventory of available new luxury condos continues to dwindle."
The downtown condo market this year is "significantly better" than last year's, said Mitchell, who is also a local real estate developer.
"Overall in Austin, the real estate market is not overheated, but it's not dead, and downtown is one of the bright spots," he said. "Demand is stronger than I ever thought it would be at this time."
In February, "we saw a distinct increase in traffic and demand for downtown homes," Mitchell said. "We attribute this change to recognition of the finite inventory in the market and the strength of the Austin economy.
"Austin is doing very well relative to other markets," he said, noting that job growth is healthy even amid strong population growth .
At the Austonian, a $275 million project by Austin-based Benchmark Development - whose corporate parent is Grupo Villar Mir , a Spanish conglomerate - prices run from the mid-$500,000s to more than $8 million.
Mitchell said the developer is not lowering prices but has raised them on its better-selling units - by as much as 8 percent in some cases.
"People routinely make lowball offers, but we don't accept those," he said. "We're selling at a good volume without having to lower prices and fire-sale units like that."
Asked where the developers had projected the Austonian to be in terms of sales by this time compared with the 70 sales to date, Mitchell said, "we had hoped to be a little higher" - but not hugely higher, given the lofty prices, which he said limits the pool of buyers.
"We didn't expect to sell 178 condos overnight," he said.
Mitchell said many Austonian buyers are paying cash for their units, and mortgage financing hasn't been an issue for residents.
Caution and cash
At Spring, nearly half of the buyers are also paying cash, Zuniga said.
"Many of them feel real estate is a much safer place for their money than the stock market," she said. "This is radically different from 2007."
When construction started on Spring that year, Zuniga said, "we thought we would be 70 percent sold at completion." But she said those expectations were adjusted when the recession hit in 2008, and the project ended up with about 35 to 40 percent of its units spoken for.
"We are currently selling at a much faster pace than we thought we would be in 2008," Zuniga said. "We just hit the 60 percent sold mark, and the pace of sales continues to increase. We are making five to 10 new sales every month, and we expect to see this number increase as the economy continues to improve and consumer fear continues to lessen."
Mitchell also noted that there is "caution in the air," as "every single person has had someone they know pretty strongly affected buy this recession." But he thinks the more affluent buyer generally is less affected by the economy than the average person.
Larry Warshaw, a partner in Spring and Barton Place Austin - a new complex of 270 condo units on Barton Springs Road southwest of downtown - said that despite 2008 and 2009 being two of the worst economic years in decades, they proved to be the two top years for downtown condo sales.
Those sales were boosted by the 2008 opening of the largest project to date - the 430-unit 360 condo tower at Third and Nueces streets - but "this doesn't make the numbers any less impressive," Warshaw said. "It shows that the Austin market easily absorbs supply."
Additionally, Heimsath said, it will be years before a new wave of construction begins. Given the time it takes to bring a new project to market, "five to seven years is probably not an unrealistic estimate" for when construction cranes reappear downtown, he said.
"If we had just continued adding inventory and there were two to three additional projects coming to market now, I would be concerned, but that's not the case," said Heimsath, who estimates it will take at least two or three years to absorb the existing condo supply downtown.
Alan Holt , a real estate broker who represents sellers and buyers of downtown condos, said that though there is a lot of new inventory downtown, there also is a lot more to draw people to the area as downtown grows more dynamic.
"Austin is a good long-term investment, and downtown, even with all the growth of the past few years, still has tremendous upside potential," Holt said. "If downtown Austin were a stock, I would be buying all of it I could right now.
"As the inventory of new condos decreases, and with no new developments coming out of the ground, the market should start to see upward pressure on prices," he said. "The question is just a matter of how soon that will happen."
Heimsath says he thinks prices downtown will fare about the same the rest of Austin's housing market in the near future, which is "a pretty flat market in terms of appreciation."
"We're not seeing any substantial decrease in prices, but there's also no rapid escalation in value, and I think that's going to remain constant for the next 18 to 24 months," he said. By contrast, in the long term, "if the supply remains constrained, there will be some appreciation in value," he said.
Awaiting price moves
John Lewis, a veteran Central Texas investor and developer, said he and his wife, empty-nesters who now live in Barton Creek, had considered buying a unit in the W but held off when the economy crashed.
"It just wasn't a good time to be buying units at full retail," Lewis said. "When the nicer (projects) down there are all completed and we know what the economy is going to do and prices, I anticipate, will settle down a little bit from their lofty goals - I think at that point that'd be a good time to look at it again."
Jeff Thomas , senior vice president and general manager of H-E-B's Central Texas region, also would like to live downtown. But first he needs to sell his 5,000-square-foot West Lake Hills home, where buyer interest waned this summer.
"I love the downtown area, so it's still tops on my list," Thomas said. "I'm hoping prices have settled out and will make for an easier buying decision."
Langston said he paid "in the $700,000 range" for his Four Seasons residence. And despite homeowners' fees of about $900 a month, he said he's getting his money's worth, including a concierge who can find UT football tickets.
With the Four Seasons name, an 80-year management agreement between the Four Seasons hotel and Post Properties, and a location in a part of downtown where Langston sees upside potential, "this is a stable project to buy in," he said. "I'm in great shape investmentwise."
Texas Architect Extreme Design Issue Visits The Austonian
The Austonian is on the cover of the June/July 2010 issue of Texas Architect magazine, which focuses on extreme design around the Lone Star State.
Texas Architect article
Moving Up on Congress Avenue.
The Austonian was featured in Austin Lifestyle Magazine. Read the full article below.
The Austonian_Austin Lifestyle
Second homes: Austin stays 'weird,' in a good way - By Larry Olmsted - Special for USA TODAY
Austin isn't like the rest of Texas, and residents are proud of that. The city's official nickname, "The Live Music Capital of the World," is accurate. Its unofficial one, "Keep Austin Weird," is, too.
It's not weird for weirdness sake. Instead, the Texas capital has bucked the trend toward mass-market commercialization and intentionally fended off chain retailers. The city is a sea of independently owned stores and restaurants, from bicycle, music and cowboy-boot shops to secondhand boutiques and art galleries. The only "big box" retailer downtown is Whole Foods Market, which started here.
The music and arts scene fits with the hippie vibe, organic yogurt shops and tattoo parlors. But Austin also is Texas' fittest city. It's home to a cycling and triathlon community. The University of Texas, with more than 50,000 students, gives the city a college-town feel. Second-home owners love Austin for the good weather (despite the hot summers) and because it is in the middle of Texas' Hill Country, with its vineyards, charming small towns and major lakes.
Downtown, meanwhile, is booming. Former mayor Will Wynn made its revitalization his mission from 2003 to 2009.
"The skyline has changed dramatically," Wynn says. "Virtually every high-rise you can see, which is a lot, is brand-new, and almost all are residential. Ten years ago, there was one apartment building, and just 250 people lived in the downtown core. Now it is 13,000, and my goal is 25,000 by 2015." The skyline changes more this month when the 56-story Austonian, the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi, opens.
Revitalization fits with the city's green ethos. One goal is to reduce car use: Many downtown residents, including Wynn, walk to work on widened sidewalks.
Suburban lake towns are popular with second-home owners, too. "There is no shortage of lakes, and Austin is a 12-month outdoor activity spot," says Alan Gabriel of Keller Williams Realty. "You can be water skiing in a wetsuit on Christmas Day."
A look at three Austin neighborhoods
Link to story here.
Condo tower easier sell in Austin than Irvine
By Jeff Collins - Orange County Register
Spectacular views stretch in all directions from the top of the Austonian tower, nearly 700 feet up.
To the north, there's the salmon-colored dome of the Texas state capitol. To the south, the blue waters of Lady Bird Lake. Out west, the Texas Hill Country rolls to the horizon like a carpet.
I toured the Austonion recently while attending a conference for real estate news writers in Austin. I wanted primarily to see how this spanking new Texas tower compares at a time when high-rise developers in Orange County are struggling to find buyers.
The Austonian is notable for one key feature: At 56 stories and 683 feet, it's the tallest residential skyscraper west of the Mississippi - including Los Angeles' 37-story 1100 Wilshire condo tower and Orange County's 25-story Essex Skyline apartments.
And to hear the project's developers tell it, its sales pace is notable as well, outselling one Orange County condo tower about 12 to one.
Lennar Corp., developer of the 14-story Astoria high rises near the 405 freeway and Jamboree Road, has sold just seven of its 248 condos in the six months since it reopened sales. That's less than 3%. Sales or resales also reportedly are dismal at Orange County's other five condo towers.
By comparison, the Austonian has sold 35% to 40% of its 178 condos - about 60 to 70 units - after a year of sales, developers say. This despite a starting price of $586,000, about three times Austin's median home price. The four 8,300-square-foot penthouses each take up an entire floor and range from $7.2 million to $8.4 million.
While the Austonian's sales pace is significantly higher than in O.C., it still could be better, said Scott Ziegler, who heads the architecture firm that designed the building.
"There's not a residential high rise in the country that's not having a hard time," Ziegler said.
The Austonian's relatively robust sales could be due in part to a healthier economy. The Texas capital is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation right now, with lower unemployment and a housing market that was spared the recession's worst impacts.
And the tower offers some of the most unique views in the state, with many mid-floor units standing higher than competitors' penthouses. It has 360-degree views and can be seen from four counties, said Austonian marketer Jordan Jeffus.
Ziegler noted further that the Austonian is a green-building project, with landscaping irrigated by captured rain water, recycled building waste and a host of energy- and water-saving features. By concentrating growth in downtown Austin, the project seeks to curtail urban sprawl as well.
"It's part of a growth strategy that's important to cities around the country," said Ziegler. "So people who live here would feel proud that they're doing what they can to provide a sustainable future."
WSL Designer Showhouse at The Austonian is this weekend. For more info: www.wslaustin.org
WSL Designer Showhouse at The Austonian would like to thank our sponsors for their support of the first ever downtown Austin showhouse.
Texas Home & Living
Independence Title Company
Milestone Metals, Inc.
Trainor Glass Company
Walker Engineering, Inc.
Central Transportation Systems
Clean Scapes, LP
Crystal Clear Pools & Spas
Fleming Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Tamra & John Gorman
Northstar Fire Protection
Truluck's Seafood, Steak & Crabhouse
Robert Albanese, The Austonian - Construction Mgr
Suzanne Deal Booth & David G. Booth
CHP & Associates
Gardere Wynne Sewell, LLP
Integrity Home Systems
Pinnacle Marble & Granite
Henry & Pamela Bell III
Hansen Architectural Systems, Inc.
Buddy & Ginny Jones
Joe & Teresa Long
Lauree & Jim Bob Moffett
The Sherrill Family Foundation
Barry & Dinah Barksdale
Michael & Julie Baselice
Doug & Margaret Danforth
Marion W. DeFord
David & Susan Douglas
Howard & Diane Falkenberg
Jim & Jo Green
Pat & Ed Harris
Mary Ann Heller
Van & Jeanne Hoisington
Mr. & Mrs. James K. Jaynes
Hollis & Bart Matheney
Morrison & Head, LP
Charles & Jan Roesslein
Glenda Smith, DDS
Mike & Stacy Toomey
Mr. & Mr. Sam A. Wilson
Sub-Zero / Wolf
Safety Measures in Place for Austonian
Fox 7 News
Austin, TX - It's the tallest building in Austin and before it opens in a few months, the Austonian is putting in safety measures, including defibrillators, for each floor.
The 57-story building will go through a series of safety inspections before opening.
Having defibrillators in the building is a city requirement, but management took it a step further by purchasing enough for each floor in case of an emergency.
Towering high above Downtown Austin is the nearly finished Austonian.
"It's a luxury high-rise condo project," said Bob Albanese, construction manager, The Austonian.
In case of emergency, it's won't take long to get to the bottom floor.
The Austonian has the fastest residential elevator in Austin. It takes roughly 40 seconds to go from the 56th floor to the first floor.
But even seconds can make a difference. Along with incredible views and endless amenities, you'll find one automated defilbrillator, or AED, on each floor.
"The idea is that if there's a circumstance on any floor with any home owner, the AED device is right here, it's easy to get to, it's accessable," Albanese said.
The Austonian recently spent more than $100,000 on the devices, 57 of them for the building's 178 units.
A defibrillator shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm. Cardiologist Dr. Frank Zidar said using one can mean the difference between life and death.
"Unfortunately most folks have sudden death and don't make it to the hospital," Dr. Zidar said.
And anyone can lean how to use it.
"There's prompts that literally tell you what to do, step by step, it's easy as 1 2 3," said Dr. Zidar.
In the Austonian, there's an AED right around the corner from every resident.
"If people know about these and use them, lives will be saved," Zidar said.
The Austonian also has two stairwells and the elevators are on a backup generator so they will work even if the power is out.
The building is scheduled to open in June.
Real estate professionals expect retail anchoring new Austin condos to do well
Austin Business Journal - by Sandra Zaragoza
Among the questions remaining as downtown's most anticipated new residential projects are nearly ready for their well-heeled occupants to move in: What retail will occupy the ground-floor of Austin's ritzy new residential towers?
Last week, The Austonian offered the first to answer the question, albeit a partial answer. Austonian developers announced two independent restaurants by Austin-based La Corsha Restaurant Partners will open later this year, occupying about 5,800 square feet of the roughly 11,000 square feet of retail fronting Congress Avenue and Second Street. The Four Seasons, which also has about 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space fronting Cesar Chavez Street, is expected to make several tenant announcements of its own soon.
The developers of Block 21, which will be home to W Hotel and Residences and Austin City Limits in the Second Street District, said they have quietly begun marketing roughly 25,000 square feet of retail. Block 21 hopes to start announcing the project's retail lineup this summer.
Whether these projects will be able to attract the A+ tenants they want in an unfavorable retail climate remains to be seen. Still, people involved in leasing these projects - The Austonian, Four Seasons and Block 21 - are upbeat about downtown retail, especially as more residents move in.
Mixed-use projects in Austin have delivered varying degrees of success in a soft retail market, real estate experts said.
But the downtown location, newness and name recognition give these projects a sharp edge, they said.
Besides being in the tony 78701 ZIP code, these projects will give retailers access to a growing downtown residential population, steady daytime traffic, and convention and tourism business.
Even in a down economy, property owners are being selective about the retail they choose for these projects.
"There's definitely synergy between the ground floors and what's above. The ground floor really reflects the image of the building, but it also provides services for the [residents] above," said Eric DeJernett, a senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis. DeJernett is representing the Austonian, Four Season and various downtown buildings, including The Littlefield Building.
Retailers at Austonian are paying in the mid-$30s per square foot. By comparison, the average for general retail space in Austin is $20 to $30 per square foot, DeJernett said.
In general, retail in the Austin downtown core has experienced some turnover because of the down economy.
"I would say in the past six to nine months that we are seeing an increase in the spaces becoming available," DeJernett said." But at the same time, we are still seeing a strong demand for backfilling those spaces - more so than what we are seeing in the suburban markets."
The typical tenant mix for a high-end, mixed-use property includes restaurants, a salon, a spa - tenants that will serve residents and draw outside traffic, DeJernett said.
Beau Armstrong, CEO of Stratus Properties, said the retail strategy for Block 21 is to get a good balance of service-oriented retailers to lure daytime traffic and more entertainment-focused retailers for night-time action.
While upscale projects aren't immune to the economy and some downtown merchants have faltered, Armstrong believes Block 21's strength lies in the 250-room W Hotel.
"Because we have a hotel, there will be a transient base, and that's really good for retail," Armstrong said. "Once we get this open and going, it's really going to make the Second Street District work better."
While there is more interest in downtown mixed-use than there was three years ago, retailers are also showing more caution in a soft economy, DeJernett said.
Michele Gary, of the Weitzman Group's Austin office, agreed, saying interest in downtown mixed-use development continues to be strong, but there are challenges facing these projects related to higher finishing-out costs, parking and access.
There is a "need to familiarize prospective tenants with these differences compared to, say, leasing at an HEB shopping center," Gary said "It's an educational process, but once understood, it's agreed the benefits can far outweigh the initial challenges or unfamiliarity."
Gary said that while some retail components have struggled with gaining occupancy, "The unified goal is to create the perfect tenant mix, and sometimes you have to decline offers in order to do so. Several of my clients have made the decision to let certain spaces remain vacant, rather than lease to prospects that may not create the right mix."
Driskill Grill developers opening 2 Austonian eateries
Austin Business Journal
The partnership behind The Driskill Hotel restoration and Driskill Grill have planned two restaurants for the downtown Austonian luxury high rise.
The 178-unit luxury condominium building - which claims to be the tallest residential building in the Western U.S. - opens in June and the two new eateries are expected to open this fall.
The La Corsha Restaurant Partners is leading the new restaurants, reuniting Driskill developers Jeff Trigger, David Bull, Scott Walker and Jeff Rhein.
"These new restaurants will act as a double anchor and bring new vitality to two directions of a key intersection at Second and Congress," said Danny Roth, principal with Southwest Strategies Group, which represented the restaurants' owners. "It also shows how local concepts can step up and play a vital role in emerging projects in Austin."
The team is planning two distinct concepts for the building's ground floor, called the Congress and the Second at Congress. The Congress, which faces Congress Avenue, is described as "cutting-edge, chef-driven cuisine featuring ultra-premium seasonal ingredients," while the second street restaurant will be more "comfortable and inviting food and drink experience serving American regional cuisine."
Bull, which served as executive chef at the Driskill, will lead the kitchen for both new Austonian restaurants.
"Selection of local and regional restaurant talent was no coincidence," said David Mahn, vice president of Benchmark Development, developer of The Austonian. "Austin cuisine was put on the map by a small group of talented local chefs. We want to offer new, unique experiences in dining and entertainment."
Together the restaurants will occupy 5,880 interior square feet plus outdoor patio and terrace space. They join frozen yogurt shop BerryAustin, which is also opening on the ground floor.
Former Driskill chef David Bull to open two restaurants at Austonian condo tower
By Mike Stutter
AMERICAN-STATESMAN RESTAURANT WRITER
Former Driskill Grill chef David Bull said Friday that he plans to return to the downtown culinary scene in September with two restaurants at the Austonian.
Bull, who shaped the Driskill Grill into one of the city's best restaurants and competed on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America," will oversee an upscale restaurant named Congress and a more casual spot called Second at Congress.
Both will be on the ground floor of the 56-story luxury condominium tower, which is scheduled to open in June at Second Street and Congress Avenue.
Bull will supervise both restaurants as part of La Corsha Restaurant Partners, an outgrowth of the hospitality group that manages the Stoneleigh Hotel and its Bolla restaurant in Dallas and the St. Anthony hotel in San Antonio.
Bull will continue to oversee food service at those hotels, but he'll be cooking in Austin.
"There's a very exciting scene happening downtown, and I can't wait to be a part of it," said Bull, who lives in Manor with his wife, Fawn, and their five children. "It's an accumulation of everything that I've learned over the past 15 years put into something that I can call my own."
La Corsha founder Jeff Trigger, who worked with Bull at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and the renovation of the Driskill Hotel, said the Austonian's location is ideal for Bull.
"Downtown Austin can support the types of food we're looking to do. It's a gateway to the Second Street District," he said.
La Corsha is also involved in the planned retail development at the former Seaholm Power Plant, which includes another restaurant project.
David Mahn, vice president of the Austonian's developer, Benchmark Development, said national chains and other restaurant groups were interested in the Austonian, but the company gravitated toward working with a local company.
"With (Trigger and Bull's) stature in the community and their experience - and frankly, all the awards that David Bull has received over the years - it was just a natural for us to hook up with them," Mahn said.
Rumor had it at one point that a restaurant was angling for the top floor of the Austonian, but that never went beyond the discussion stage, Mahn said.
"We really wanted the views, especially at the top of the building, to be preserved for our residents," he said.
The restaurants are being designed by Austin's STG Design, interior designer Amber Lewis of Dallas, and the construction company HHCC Inc. of Austin, which worked on the Driskill renovation.
Joining them on the Austonian's ground floor will be BerryAustin, the second location of a frozen-yogurt shop owned by Kathy Steele of Austin.
Steele said she hopes to open by late summer. The yogurt shop, which will be on Second Street, will incorporate bricks from a former blacksmith shop at the site.
Steele, who is married to La Corsha's Trigger, said jokingly that if nothing else, the new shop will allow her to see her husband more often.
The height of luxury in Austin: Designing the city's tallest building presented challenges
On a late January night, the 56-story Austonian opened its doors for a final sneak peak before it prepares to receive tenants this summer.
Ears popped as crowded elevators ferried guests to the top floors of Austin's new tallest building before emptying them into curved rooms, where they pressed against the windows like people at an aquarium to take in the view.
There, too, was Scott Ziegler, the architect with snow-white hair whose Houston firm, Ziegler Cooper Architects, beat out national competitors for the job of designing a future downtown Austin landmark that would be seen from miles around.
For years, experts from different fields pored over the details of the $275 million project, which Ziegler compared to a symphony. And after re-tuning instruments and some offbeat starts, they collectively composed the Austonian sonata.
Looking at the building, said to be the tallest residential complex west of the Mississippi River, two things immediately jump out: its smooth aerodynamic shape and a whole lot of glass.
Behind those aesthetics lies a purpose.
When designing the building, Ziegler knew developers wanted it to represent urban, sustainable living and attract residents to downtown from their single-family homes.
"What do you offer that you can't have in a house?" Ziegler asked himself.
His answer: sweeping views.
The curved slope of the slender building maximizes those views, allowing for a near panorama from every room, excluding the kitchen and closets, said Terry Mitchell, president of Momark Development, who acted as a consultant on the Austonian.
Mitchell said he immediately recognized this when Ziegler submitted his model for consideration, amid other submissions that included a wire-covered building that "literally looked like a spaceship."
He also realized something else, which showed that his music and Ziegler's were in sync.
"We felt strongly it had to be a symmetrical design," Ziegler said. "It also had to look the same from every side, to be a seen from long, long away."
The development team agreed on this concept, Mitchell said, and in doing so sacrificed square footage - along with millions in extra revenue that a square design would have provided - to create a "timeless building" than could endure a shifting developmental landscape for many years.
Settling on Ziegler Cooper, the Austonian's symphony began taking the stage before breaking ground in 2007.
"The most intimidating fact of the whole thing, was 'How do you put 175 units on a third of city block and make it work'" Ziegler said.
It takes an intense amount of coordination to go from paper sketch to 3D models, Ziegler said, moving through layers of progress like "peeling an onion until it is right."
Besides Mitchell's team and Ziegler's firm, who compared their roles to those of conductor and maestro, the orchestra was filled out with other functions and trades, such as green energy, civil engineering, and mechanical, lighting and graphic designers.
"We brought in interior designers. That was like bringing in the brass section; they had the pop we wanted," Mitchell said. "Landscape architects are the strings; they create the peaceful atmosphere. You close you eyes and feel safe and private."
Immediately there were challenges. For example, buildings of monumental height have a tendency to sway. To counter that, the Austonian is topped with a hundred-thousand-gallon tank of enclosed fluid.
Austonian's crane to depart soon
Austin's tallest building is almost finished, and the crane that has hovered above the Austonian for months started to come down Tuesday.
It will take about two weeks to disassemble the crane, which helped build the 56-story, 683-foot condominium tower at Congress Avenue and Second Street.
Workers finished exterior work on the tower last month.
Streetscape work is scheduled to begin this month, and in March, workers will finish lighting the glass crown. One of the three sections already has been illuminated.
In May, the Austonian will be the site of the Women's Symphony League of Austin's 2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse. In June, the first residents are expected to move in.
The Austonian's developers have not disclosed how many of the condominiums have been sold.
LUXURY MEETS HIGH-TECH AT THE AUSTONIAN
Downtown Austin is thriving, and when The Austonian opens in 2010, and citizens move in to its 178-plus condos, Austin will be closer to meeting the mayor's goal of having 25,000 residents living downtown.
Spanish developer Grupo Villar Mir and its Austin-based subsidiary, Benchmark Land Development, were ready to lay claim to downtown Austin, and a zoning change provided the opportunity. As part of Former Mayor Will Wynn's initiative, density requirements were modified, making the 56-story condo tower possible. "They basically changed the floor-area ratio [FAR], which is a ratio of the density amount of square footage you can place on a particular tract of land," explains Kurt T. Hull, senior principal, Ziegler Cooper Architects. "This [project] wouldn't have happened in Austin if they hadn't changed those requirements."
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE.
36 Hours in Austin, Texas
THE city's unofficial motto, "Keep Austin Weird," blares from bumper stickers on BMWs and jalopies alike, on T-shirts worn by joggers along Lady Bird Lake and in the windows of independently owned shops and restaurants. It's an exhortation for a city that clings to eccentricity, even in the face of rapid development - downtown Austin, for one, is being transformed with a fleet of high-rise condos and a W Hotel, scheduled to open late next year. But this funky college town, known for its liberal leanings and rich music scene, has little to worry about - at least as long as its openhearted citizens, with their colorful bungalows and tattoos, do their part to keep the city endearingly odd. As one local put it: "As long as Austinites keep decorating their bodies and cars, we're going to be fine."
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Downtown Austin Condos Dwindling - New construction is unlikely.
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Appearances can be deceiving.
Just 408 condos remain available for sale in Downtown Austin. Because of tight financing, no new projects are likely to go up for another four or five years.
The number of residents living downtown has doubled in the past decade to 8,000 people, but that growth will be slowing down.
Financing is the biggest hurdle. John McClellan of Supreme Lending said a developer would have to pony up enough money to choke a horse to secure a loan.
"There's not a lot of banks willing to loan money right now," said McClellan. "You may have to put up 50, 60, 70 percent, and on a $200 million project that's a lot of money."
Over the past five years, 60,000 new homes have been built in the greater Austin area. In this decade, some 2,000 condos and 2,000 apartments have been built downtown, but Goodwin Partners realtor Kevin Bown it will be awhile before anything new goes up.
"The most optimistic folks think maybe late next year there could be some construction financing, and then it takes two and a half years to break ground and build one of these," said Bown. "So we know on the early side it will be four years before we can bring any extra supply into downtown and we only have 408 units to last that four years."
The good news is a downtown condo owner now may see their value appreciate as the supply dwindles. But that owner would have to find a prospective buyer who could secure their own financing, and that might be tight.
Click here to watch this KXAN news report.
Texas Two-Step By Jim Lewis
FROM SCRUFFY HONKY-TONKS TO SLICK BOUTIQUE HOTELS, AUSTIN WALKS THE LINE BETWEEN OLD SCHOOL AND NEW.
Topping Out The Austonian / Austin American Statesman
Two years after work started on the Austonian, a flag was hoisted to the top of the 683-foot-tall tower Thursday, marking a milestone for the tallest building in Austin. Workers put in the last steel beam that will support a glass crown to be finished in December. The project is the tallest residential building west of Chicago, the builders say. Units are priced from about $500,000 to more than $8 million for a penthouse, with the first residents expected to start moving into their new digs in June.
56-story Austonian tops out / Austin Business Journal
Dominating the Austin skyline at 56 stories, the Austonian officially "tops out" on Thursday.
Hundreds of workers with construction company Balfour Beatty who've been working on the 683-foot high-rise will celebrate with a party Thursday afternoon. A 32-foot structural steel beam signed by the construction team will be hoisted by crane across Congress Avenue to the top of the building at 4:30 p.m. The beam is one of six that will support the building's ornamental glass crown.
Construction on the $250 million, 188-unit luxury condo tower began two years ago. Completion is scheduled for spring 2010.
Benchmark Development, the Austin-based subsidiary of Spain-based Grupo Villar Mir, is the developer of The Austonian. Ziegler Cooper Architects of Houston designed the project.
Austonian tops out at 683 feet / Community Impact Newspaper
Construction workers are celebrating atop the Austonian today, as they mark the topping out of the 56-story luxury condominiums, which at 683 feet is the tallest residential building in the United States outside of Chicago, Miami and New York City.
The Austonian became the city's tallest building in June.
Construction of the building at Congress Avenue and Second Street began on Sept. 17 two years ago. In May 2010, the Austin Women's Symphony League showcase will mark the opening of the Austonian, with residents moving into the building in June 2010.
The Austonian surpassed the 567-foot-tall 360 condominiums as the city's tallest building. By comparison, the San Antonio Tower of Americas is 622 feet in height; Dallas Reunion Tower is 560 feet; and, the Washington Monument is 555 feet, according to a news release.
Austin's tallest building will add final beam Thur / KEYE-TV's Rebecca Taylor
Construction is nearing completion on Austin's tallest building, a luxury high rise at Second Street and Congress Avene in the heart of downtown.
"Bigger is better," senior project manager Bryan Embrey told KEYE TV. His crews today will put the final steel beam atop the 683-foot high structure known as the Austonian condominiums.
"It's the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi. So it's a pretty significant project," Embrey said.
The Austonian features 188 units, with prices starting at just over $500,000.
"I think it'd be great to live there, but I don't think the average person in Austin can afford it," said Linsay Elliott, who works downtown.
The $200 million tower is 56 stories tall, or 683 feet. By comparison, the San Antonio Tower of Americas is 622 feet tall and Dallas Reunion Tower is 560 feet tall.
Austonian Reaches Full Height / Fox 7 News
The tallest building in Austin, the Austonian, topped out on Thursday. Crews raised the final beam of the 59 story building. The high rise condominium building is not only the tallest building in Austin, but also the entire western United States.
Construction on the building began two years ago.
Crews held a party on Thursday to celebrate the end to this phase of construction. The building now stands at 700 feet tall.
Austin's Tallest Building Reaches a Milestone / KVUE's Noelle Newton
The tallest building in Austin hit another milestone Thursday. The Austionian was "topped off" in a ceremony on the two year anniversary of when construction began.
Remember the day when the frost tower was the tallest building in Austin? The view from the Austonian makes it look small. At 683 feet it towers above all but five residential buildings in the nation. On Thursday, crews began the final step to the exterior.
A 4,500 pound steel beam draped in an American flag was lifted high above busy Congress Avenue. It is one of six beams that will form a three story illuminated glass crown on top. People walking by couldn't help but stop and stare.
"I thought it was cool. It was pretty good to see it going up," Austinite Mark Wendel said.
Senior project manager Bryan Embrey said this marks the beginning of the end.
"The structure is topped out. We're at the top of the structure now and that's part of what we're trying to celebrate today. We'll button up the glass here in the next month or so," Embrey said.
Now the focus moves to finishing up the interiors of the condos. We got a sneak peak of a finished model back in July. Realtors call this uber luxury. 40 of the 178 units are priced at over $2 million. Part of that price tag is the view. From the 51st floor you can clearly see the capital and the UT stadium.
"Former Mayor Will Wynn had a vision of bringing 25,000 people to Downtown Austin and this was the start of that journey. We're excited to be a part of the job," Embrey said.
The move in date is June of next year. It will have to compete with the W and the Four Seasons' condo building. Both report they are half sold. We don't know how many at the Austonian have sold. The company says they don't release that information.
Lady Bird Lake Fireworks from the 45th floor of The Austonian
By STEVE ALBERTS / KVUE News
There's a new tall building in downtown Austin. Located in the heart of downtown Austin at 2nd Street and Congress, the Austonian has changed the downtown skyline.
Wednesday, construction manager Bob Albanese took KVUE photojournalist Doug Naugle and Reporter Steve Alberts on a tour of the tower -- 51 floors up, 571 feet above the ground.
They rode in two outside elevators, and climbed up stairs and ladders to reach to top floor. At the 48th floor, the elevation is 540 feet high.
"What is interesting about that is the Frost Bank Tower to the peak is 515 (feet), so we are about a floor and a half above the Frost Bank Tower," said Albanese.
There are still 140 feet to go, making it the tallest residential building in the western United States.
The Austonian officially became the tallest building in Austin on Monday when workers completed the top floor, surpassing the Austin 360 condominiums.
What about the view?
"Well based on the size of those buildings and the height of the structures, that is not Buda, Kyle or San Marcos. I guess I'll leave it at that," said Albanese.
Every condo will have a view, but it comes with a price tag. The condos cost anywhere from half a million dollars for a 1,221 square foot unit to more than $8 million for a condo with 8,390 square feet.
Construction crews are building a floor a week. When the building is finished in June 2010, it will have 56 stories and stand 683 feet tall
Austin at its peak -
Downtown tower takes skyline to new heights
Thursday, July 02, 2009
What's it like 571 feet above Austin? For one thing, it's really quiet; traffic noise is reduced to a hum. It's also cooler and breezier than on the steamy street below.
Those were the conditions Wednesday on the 51st floor of the Austonian, the downtown condominium tower under construction at Congress Avenue and Second Street.
Although the building isn't finished, at its current height it has surpassed the nearby 360 condominiums and is now the tallest building in Austin.
The sightline stretches about 40 or 50 miles, offering views of a concrete plant in Kyle and beyond.
All of Austin's landmarks are visible from the 51st floor, which will become a $7.2 million penthouse with balconies on all four sides: the red roofs of St. Edward's University, the University of Texas Tower and the Capitol shining in the late-afternoon sunlight.
When it's completed, the Austonian will have 56 occupied stories and will reach 683 feet.
"That'll be the tallest spot in Austin for the next 100 years, I think," said Bob Albanese , the construction manager.
Another project, the Four Seasons Residences, will open early next year, followed by the Austonian in June. The first units of the W Austin Hotel and Condominiums are expected to be available at the end of 2010.
- Tim Eaton
The Austonian is the tallest building in Austin.
AUSTIN (KXAN ) - The new Austonian crept just past the Frost Bank tower Wednesday, stripping the bank of its title as the tallest building in Austin and claiming it for itself.
To look at the top of the Austonian on Second Street and Congress Avenue, you have to crank your head all the way back. At 51 floors, it has surpassed the height of the the Frost Bank building and the Austin 360 condos.
"That makes us the tallest building in Austin," said Terry Mithcell, marketing director for the Austonian. "When we finish, we'll be the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi."
Right now, much of the interior and amenities are just roughed out. From the top, the first thing visitors will notice are the views. However, these views come with a hefty price tag.
"The price ranges start in the upper 500's for a 1,200-square-foot unit, and the largest unit is just under 8,400 square feet for $8 million," said Mitchell.
If someone has $8 million, the penthouse is still available. While officials with the Austonian would not disclose how many units have been sold so far, they said there is a lot of interest.
"They are either trading down or selling, and they live in Austin, or are buying a second home for family or the university," said Mitchell.
Crews are building one floor per week, and when they are done, the Austonian will be 59 stories.
"We've used over 50,000 cubic yards of concrete, which is about 5,882 truck loads of concrete where we are today," said Mitchell.
And while it doesn't look close to finished now, residents will be living in the space this time next year.
"We will start moving residents in in June of next year, and it's on schedule," said Mitchell.
Robb Report: Austin - Hill Country Home
Accuse an Austin local of being weird and you are likely to receive a thank-you. Residents of the progressive Texas capital, which contrasts greatly from the rest of the state in both culture and lifestyle, have long celebrated their outsider status. Because the city is a major national hub for the technology industry, is recognized as the "Live Music Capital of the World," and contains the state's largest university, Austin attracts an eclectic population that has led to the city being dubbed the "Third Coast."
This dynamic attitude has made Austin one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. In the last decade alone, Austin has seen a nearly 35 percent population increase, drawing families and empty nesters alike. With this influx, prices in highly sought-after neighborhoods, such as waterfront property along Lake Austin, have more than doubled during that same time frame.
In the midst of an economic decline, second homes in Austin have become exceedingly attractive to buyers, as they provide all of the sophistication and amenities one would expect in a large metropolis, but without the exorbitant metropolitan price tag. And unlike New York or Los Angeles, Austin's smaller size seems to be working in its favor. Without the risk of an oversaturated market, property investments are poised to maintain their values, even during difficult times, says Eric Moreland of Moreland Properties, which handles sales of many of the city's high-end properties. "There are only so many choices on the upper end of the luxury market, so the demand remains high," Moreland says. As a result, the city's newest developments have introduced a level of refinement previously unseen in Austin.
The vast majority of Austin's second-home buyers have traditionally flocked to outlying rural areas and with good reason. Set amid central Texas' scenic Hill Country, the areas enjoy a mild year-round climate and provide easy access to picturesque lakes, rolling hills, and miles of dedicated hiking and biking trails. Discovery Land Company's Spanish Oaks, located 15 minutes outside of downtown Austin, has taken advantage of the region's outdoor appeal, pairing its new residential community with an exclusive golf club that features a course designed by Bobby Weed. Residents customize their homes on sites ranging from a half-acre to more than four acres and can enjoy resort-style amenities such as a spa and two restaurants. Another development, Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay, teamed up with the popular Horseshoe Bay Resort to create a luxury community complete with a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, a marina, and a private airport.
More recently, as undeveloped land becomes scarcer, increasing interest in vertical urban living has sparked the emergence of a vibrant downtown culture. Since the 2004 completion of Austin's first bona fide skyscraper, the 515-foot-tall Frost Bank Tower, the town-cum-city's skyline has undergone a massive face-lift, and new restaurants, boutiques, and high-rise condominiums are popping up in every last corner.
Upon next year's completion of the Austonian, which will reach a record-breaking 683 feet high, the city will claim the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi. The amenities-rich Austonian will feature one of the largest rooftop gardens in the state, complete with a private dog park, a spa, and a 75-foot pool. Also opening in 2010, the Michael Graves' designed Four Seasons Residences Town Lake will offer residents access to first-rate amenities at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel Austin, as well as unique in-house features such as an art gallery showcasing the work of local and national artists.
Downtown Austin Real Estate Project Redefines the Luxury Home
Environmental and urban sustainability is the top priority at The Austonian, a high-rise luxury condominium development in downtown Austin. Redefining the established notion of luxury in Austin real estate, The Austonian combines unparalleled amenities and services with sustainable, environmentally-friendly architecture and design.
Austin, Texas (PRWEB) March 8, 2009 -- Luxury home buyers are savvy about what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle. In addition to choosing hybrid cars and sustainable apparel, people who are in the market for new homes are focusing their real estate search in higher-density areas, and they are looking for designs incorporating green building principles. The Austonian, Austin's premier private residential real estate community, combines unparalleled amenities and services with a sustainable, environmentally-friendly design.
Scheduled to open in 2010, The Austonian stands alone in a luxury home class defined by beautiful architecture, deluxe amenities, panoramic views and excellence of service. At 56 stories, The Austonian will be the tallest residential high-rise condominium West of the Mississippi River. Residents will enjoy over 40,000 square feet of private amenity space that includes private spa treatment rooms, a fitness center with 360-degree views of the city, a billiards and game room, lap pool, dog park, outdoor kitchen, screening room, executive meeting room, bicycle storage and climate-controlled wine vault. The private amenities of the luxury residences are complemented by a staff dedicated to delivering the highest class of service. Life at The Austonian will be supported by a 24-hour staff of Austonian Assistants, a complimentary 24-hour valet, and select experts from Austin's food, fitness and beauty communities.
The Austonian will showcase how a luxurious lifestyle can support the living of an environmentally-conscious and sustainable life in one of America's most popular cities. Located in the heart of downtown Austin at 2nd Street and Congress Avenue, along major mass transit lines, this luxury home address is within a five minute walk to places of employment, retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. The building site itself occupies only one-third of a city block and, at 56 stories, offers luxurious high density living only blocks from the Texas State Capitol. A suburban residential community of 178 homes on one-acre lots requires at least 29 acres of asphalt and concrete. In contrast, The Austonian provides luxury homes for 178 families on less than three-quarters of an acre.
The location of this Austin real estate is complemented by an architectural design that supports energy and natural resource conservation. The Austonian is designed to allow for at least 75 percent of a unit's regularly occupied spaces to enjoy natural lighting and a view of the outdoors, resulting in fewer electrical lighting requirements. Furthermore, specially coated and insulated glass and a reflective roofing system provide year-round energy savings and comfort.
The Austonian is working with local green power provider Austin Energy to ensure that energy use is as efficient as possible. The building's heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which includes climate control in each of the 178 units, is connected to the City of Austin chilled water system. Using chilled water for air conditioning in lieu of over 178 individual condensation units results in more efficient production of cool air and a lower overall impact on natural resources. In common spaces, sensors and dimming ballasts will reduce the amount of lighting used when they are unoccupied. And, low-flow toilets and lavatories in each unit will reduce the use of potable water by at least 30 percent compared to typical fixtures.
The Austonian is pursuing a four-star rating from the City of Austin Green Building Rating System, which is the equivalent to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Gold Rating. All construction materials used at The Austonian adhere to the strict VOC standards required of the LEED Green Building Rating System. These low-emitting materials achieve energy savings through reduced ventilation requirements and improve indoor air quality, and all come from sources.
Compared to a typical Hill Country community of 178 families living on one-acre suburban lots, The Austonian will save up to 35.6 million gallons of water each year in landscape watering alone. This is due, in part, to the fact that The Austonian occupies very little land, and in part to its unique rainwater capture system, which will provide for the irrigation of the 10th floor rooftop urban garden, further conserving the public water supply of the City of Austin.
For additional information about environmental and urban sustainability at The Austonian, please contact Cile Montgomery at Giant Media, 512.462.4666 or cmontgomery(@)giantmediallc.com.
About The Austonian
Located at the corner of 2nd and Congress in Austin, Texas, The Austonian will be the pinnacle of downtown luxury living when it opens in spring 2010. Slated to be the tallest building in downtown Austin and the tallest residential building West of the Mississippi River, The Austonian will offer panoramic views of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country. More than 40,000 square feet of private amenities are available to residents of The Austonian and include a 55th floor than can host parties from 15 to 150, a 56th floor dedicated to exercise and 10th-floor amenities ranging from poolside cabanas and kitchens to a 12-seat screening room.
The Austonian is the second North American luxury real estate project by Grupo Villar Mir, creators of the Mayakoba golf, hotel and residential resort located on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. For more information about The Austonian, please visit www.theaustonian.com. Keep up with the latest news, notes and views regarding The Austonian on the development's blog, www.theaustonianblog.com.
Texas Construction Cover Story - February 2009
Urban Growth Equals Smart Growth
Contractor removing one crane at Austonian, moving offices up
Developers of The Austonian are again warding off rumors of changes to the luxury condo's plans as the construction team prepares to remove its trailers and a crane.
Bob Albanese, construction manager for The Austonian, confirmed that the project's luffing crane, which transports items within a confined space, will be removed on Feb. 5 because it's no longer needed. The tower crane, which reaches higher floors, will remain.
Albanse also said the construction trailers at the base of the project will be removed on Feb. 13 as Balfour Beatty Construction, the project's contractor, moves its offices into a temporarily finished out space on the 7th floor of the parking garage.
Those changes are a routine part of the condo's construction, Albanese emphasized, and rumors that the project will stop short of its planned 56 stories are untrue, he said.
This isn't the first time the high-profile downtown condo project has been speculated as troubled. In August, Austonian developers held a news conference on the building's 10th floor, unveiling renderings and offering assurances that the 56-story tower will be completed as planned.
Still, the development team declined to say how many of the building's 188 units have been sold, citing company policy.
When it's completed in spring 2010, The Austonian will be the tallest skyscraper in Austin, roughly 170 feet taller than Frost Bank Tower.
Benchmark Development, the Austin-based subsidiary of Grupo Villar Mir, is the developer of The Austonian. Ziegler Cooper Architects of Houston designed the project, and Balfour Beatty Construction is the contractor.
Austin's Tallest Building Halfway There
Read the preliminary online article that will also be in the February issue of Architectural Record.
Click this link: Architectural Record - The Austonian
Report: Austin continues to be attractive to foreign real estate investors
Click on the attached .pdf to view the complete story.
Austin Business Journal
A NEW FLAVOR FOR SECOND STREET
Amid the growing concentration of out-of-town restaurant chains in the Second Street District, a group of young restaurateurs plan to tip the scales back to Austin by opening a locally owned restaurant and lounge.
The Icon Group is developing La Condesa, a Mexico City-inspired 130-seat eatery to be located at Second and Guadalupe streets, and Malverde, a stand-alone lounge that will sit above La Condesa. The Icon Group has teamed with Lamberts Downtown Barbeque chef-partner Larry McGuire and other local notables on the restaurant and bar. The restaurant is scheduled to open by February.
Jesse Herman, a partner in Icon Group, said La Condesa is his hospitality firm's first chef-driven restaurant. The group also owns and operates a more casual version of La Condesa at Victory Park in downtown Dallas, across from the American Airlines Center.
The group has tapped Houston native Rene Ortiz, who worked at the esteemed La Esquina restaurant in New York, to be La Condesa's head chef.
Ortiz's menu, which was still under development at press time, will have a "Continental and Modern Mexico" slant.
La Condesa's namesake is a hip Mexico City neighborhood that boasts gourmet eateries, hotels, trendy shops and art galleries.
Herman, who declined to specify how much The Icon Group is spending on the venue, said the restaurant is incorporating a historic beer vault that was part of the first J.P. Schneider Store - where Lamberts sits - into La Condesa's basement. Herman's architects have worked with the Texas Historical Commission to protect the limestone vault. The space will serve as a private dining room and storage for 80 premium tequilas.
La Condesa, which will be comparable in price to a downtown steak restaurant, will also boast a bar and outdoor dining.
Its sister lounge Malverde - named after Jesus Malverde, a folklore hero who bar owners in Mexico often pay tribute to with small shrines - will host DJs and live music. Lamberts Will Bridges will handle booking music for the venue.
Herman, who now lives in Austin, said he was attracted to the Second Street District because of its culinary community.
"There are a lot of great restaurateurs and people going down there. One of the first restaurants I fell in love with was Lamberts," Herman said.
While looking for a restaurant and lounge space, the 30-year-old Herman struck up a friendship with Larry McGuire, the 26-year-old chef-owner of Lamberts, an upscale barbecue eatery and lounge. Herman was so impressed by Lamberts that he enlisted McGuire in a management and consulting capacity. McGuire is hiring La Condesa's management staff and developing the restaurant's style of service. Once La Condesa opens, he will help with its day-to-day operations.
"Lamberts will remain my primary [focus], but I wanted to be involved because of the quality of the project and quality of the people involved," McGuire said.
McGuire, apparently unfazed by many predictions that higher-end restaurants will struggle during the recession, believes La Condesa will help fill a need for locally owned restaurants in the Second Street District. The district is sometimes derisively called "Little Dallas" because area restaurants, such as La Taverna, III Forks and Cantina Laredo, have Dallas ownership.
"As a small business owner, when I got involved in Second Street I thought it would have more local, more unique, more Keep-Austin-Weird sorts of places," McGuire said. "I want Second Street to be a place people go to eat the best and most interesting concepts, and I think La Condesa will be one of them."
In order to give La Condesa a true Austin feel, Herman has made a point of working with Austin vendors, including architect Michael Hsu, designer Joel Mozerksy, graphic design firm Butler Bros. and landscape architect D-Crain.
"For me, the greatest part of this project has been working with these artists and artisans," Herman said.
firstname.lastname@example.org | (512) 494-2522
Open this .pdf for a summary of the local buzz associated with our Halfway Party.
Halfway There Coverage
John Kelso's Statesman Blog about The Austonian Halfway Party
On Tuesday night I attended the Halfway Party thrown on the 19th floor of The Austonian, the swank condo going in at Congress Avenue and Second Street. The party was to celebrate that the building has reached 26 stories, and is, in other words, halfway up.
It was a fancy affair and it even had a woman playing the harp.
I should have asked her if she knew how to play "Get Out the Way, Ol' Dan Tucker." But I only had one beer so I didn't think of it 'til later.
You really had to want to get to this party to get to this party. Party goers dressed to the nines had to ride up the side of the building in a construction elevator that was basically a cage that jerked when it left the ground.
Actually, you had to ride in two of these cages. The first one clanked up the building to the 10th floor, then you got off and climbed onto another one that went to the 19th floor.
"If the first ride don't get you..." said a party goer in the elevator..."The second one will," said another party goer, finishing his sentence. But when you finally reached it to the party, it was worth the trip. Waiters roamed about handing out red and white wine. For horse doovers they had St. Andre triple cream, smoked salmon, brown butter lemon caper sauce, petits fours, and cocktail wienies.
I just made up the part about the cocktail wienies. Oh, and they ran out of wine glasses and they had to send somebody out for cups. This is why you should always bring your own flask.
But the big disappointment of the evening came when I found out from Terry Mitchell, a member of The Austonian's development team, that the condo might ditch the self-cleaning doggie john. The condo had planned to put this unique machine in the 10th floor urban garden area. It's a stainless steel plate, with a blade that scrapes away the poop into a sanitary system.
But after giving it some thought, and getting input from focus groups, Mitchell said, the dog poop machine might not happen.
"The concern was that the machine, the way it's designed, that dogs wouldn't use it," Mitchell said. "It's made out of stainless steel and I'm a little concerned what it would be like in a Texas summer." Yeah, you'd hate to have to use a spray can of Pam to get your poodle loose from a sheet of steel, especially when you've just paid $550,000 to $3.8 million for a condo.
This is not to say the dogs will have to go outside to be walked. Mitchell says that they're leaning toward putting in a synthetic lawn that drains on the 10th story garden area for the dogs to use. "Dogs are part of the family," Mitchell said. "So people need a place where people can take care of them. We're going to have a dog park. We just don't want to put in something the dogs won't use."
Mitchell said the need for an indoor dog walk became apparent when a buyer lady confronted him and asked him where she was supposed to walk her dog. He says he pointed out Town Lake was only a couple blocks away.
"She got in my face and said, 'Young man, at 11 o'clock at night, I'm not going to Town Lake. Now, where do I take my dog?' "
Melanie Spencer's Statesman Blog - Austonian Celebrates Halfway Point
Under the heading of things that are good and bad, Julie Evans and the team at JEI Design Collection are moving. The bad news is that Evans hasn't yet found a new location, but the good news is that it won't stop them from having a sale. From now until the end of the year, all of the inventory is 50 percent off of the retail price (excluding Jan Barboglio merchandise). All sales are final. JEI Design Collection, 1009 W. Sixth St., 236-9070, www.jeidesign.com. .
In other news, I attended a party at the Austonian. The developers are celebrating now that the construction has reached the 28th floor (the full height is 56 floors). Though the space is still pretty raw (exposed concrete floors and walls and exposed ductwork), the gals at Giant Media decked out the 19th floor with candles and elegant holiday decor, such as vases filled with glitter-covered pears.
Sleek, white leather furniture from Lounge 22 (the event design and event furniture rental company that is the Austin arm of Ethos Design, the prestigious Los Angelos-and-New York-based event design firm) was scattered throughout the space.
Food stations with delicacies, such as roasted squash soup with truffle oil and black sea salt, by Occasions catering were scattered throughout the space. Members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra performed Christmas music, fitting since the Austonian will be the site of the Women's Symphony League 2010 showhouse, benefitting the symphony and it's children's educational programs.
The guest list included buyers, prospective buyers, the Austonian team and the media, as well as various people with the city. I also ran into interior designer Laura Britt of Laura Britt Design, who is working with the Austonian and it's buyers for some of the finish out.
Apart from a slightly harrowing ride in two construction elevators (I'm a little afraid of heights), the event was an elegant and clever way to keep people interested and excited about the Austonian. Unfortunately, it just made me more impatient for the completion, so that I can see some of the fabulously-designed spaces!
The Statesman's Shonda Novak recounts her experience at The Austonian's halfway celebration.
The $275 million Austonian, a luxury condo tower at Congress Avenue and Second Street that will be the city's tallest building when it rises to 56 stories - celebrated its halfway mark (the pouring of the 28th floor ) last night with a party on the 19th floor.
An invitation-only crowd of more than 400 was treated to spectacular views of the city from all directions, as they sipped wine and noshed on hors d'ouevres while members of the Austin Symphony played.
(And, voyeurs with a zoom lens also could have read the paperwork lying on people's desks in the 100 Congress office building directly south).
Though the space wasn't finished, the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows were the main attraction anyhow. Landscape architects for the project said the 683-foot tower, once completed in early 2010, will be visible from Buda.
Marshall and Jennifer Jones, who now live in the 5 Fifty Five luxury condos atop the Hilton Austin downtown, are contemplating purchasing in the Austonian.
"It's brilliantly designed, the amenities are second to none, and you cannot beat the location," Marshall Jones said.
They especially like the fact that the top two floors, which will include a private dining room, kitchen area, fitness club and other amenities, will be available for use by anyone in the building.
"We're doing our due diligence," Marshall Jones said, adding that he expects the couple could sell their current condo (purchased in March 2005) next year and make a profit.
Austonian units are priced from $573,000 to more than $7.2 million.
Meanwhile, Daniel Woodroffe and Eric Schultz with TBG Partners, the project's landscape architects, say they are designing a unique, street-level landscape feature.
"We've got great ideas for the streetscape of the project," said Woodroffe, a principal with TBG, Texas, largest landscape architecture firm whose projects include Town Lake Park and the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort near Bastrop.
The Austonian is being developed by Benchmark Development, which has been developing communities in Austin for nearly 20 years. The financial backer is Benchmark's parent, the Spanish company Grupo Villar Mir.
THE AUSTONIAN TO HOST THE WOMEN'S SYMPHONY LEAGUE 2010 DESIGNER SHOWHOUSE
AUSTIN, Texas - Nov. 20, 2008 - The Austonian will be the exclusive site of the "2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse," an annual fundraising event of the Women's Symphony League of Austin (WSL), providing the public an up-close experience of high-rise luxury living in the heart of downtown, the two groups announced today.
Proceeds from the 2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse, which will feature three unique Austin residences outfitted by prominent local interior designers complemented by panoramic views of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country, will go to the Austin Symphony Orchestra and its music education programs for children.
Located at the corner of 2nd Street and Congress Avenue, The Austonian will open in early 2010. The 56-story luxury high-rise condominium project will be the tallest residential building in Austin and in the Western United States.
"Increasingly, Austinites are recognizing the desirability of downtown living and all that it offers. We see an opportunity to capture this fairly recent trend in living by hosting the 2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse at The Austonian," said Susan Douglas, WSL President. "With the best in modern conveniences, spectacular views, unparalleled shared amenities and green features, The Austonian is a luxury project that demonstrates why suburbanites are looking to downtown as a viable living option. We look forward to showcasing the work of Austin interior designers for the first time within the context of a truly urban living environment."
The Showhouse will take place on one floor of The Austonian's residential tower, which features views of the Texas State Capitol, Lady Bird Lake and the Hill Country. The Austonian was designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects of Houston. The 10th-floor outdoor space designed by TBG Partners is considered to be one of the largest sustainable urban landscaping projects in Texas.
"The Austonian will open in early 2010," said David Mahn, V.P. of Benchmark Development, the developer of the project. "Having been a sponsor of past Austin Symphony concerts, The Austonian team recognizes the Symphony's contribution to this great city. We mark The Austonian's opening with a commitment to the Women's Symphony League and Austin Symphony Orchestra's continued success."
About the Women's Symphony League:
Established in 1953, the Women's Symphony League of Austin provides service and financial support for the Austin Symphony Orchestra and its extensive music education programs, which reach over 90,000 youths each year. The WSL 2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse at The Austonian will bring together the work of three interior designers from the Central Texas area in a luxurious high rise setting. WSL events have won four national awards for fundraising and five national awards in the educational area from the American Symphony Orchestra League as well as many first place awards from the Texas Association of Symphony Orchestras.
About The Austonian:
Located at the corner of 2nd and Congress in Austin, Texas, The Austonian will be the pinnacle of downtown luxury living when it opens in early 2010. Slated to be the tallest building in downtown Austin and the tallest residential building West of the Mississippi, The Austonian will offer panoramic views of Austin and the surrounding Hill Country. More than 40,000 square feet of private amenities are available to residents of The Austonian and include a 55th floor that can host parties from 15 to 150, a 56th floor dedicated to exercise and 10th-floor amenities ranging from poolside cabanas and outdoor kitchens to a 12-seat screening room. For more information about The Austonian, please visit www.theaustonian.com. Keep up with the latest news, notes and views regarding The Austonian on the development's blog, www.theaustonianblog.com.
Eco-friendly landscaping becoming the norm in Austin
More and more commercial developers are investing in sustainable urban oases to give their projects an edge.
In Austin, a collective focus on green building is giving local landscape architects the opportunity to pepper today's commercial projects with the latest in sustainability and outdoor design, whether it be a rooftop garden or stylish outdoor workspace.
Sustainable landscaping -- from native plants to energy-saving water irrigation systems -- is becoming more commonplace in Central Texas, says Daniel Woodroffe, principal in landscape architecture firm TBG Partners.
"It's definitely become the norm. Landscape architecture is a powerful cure for new and existing properties," Woodroffe says, referring to the functionality and aesthetics of landscaping.
In the last few years, the firm has been tapped to create rooftop gardens for the local Ronald McDonald House, Dell Children's Medical Center and The Austonian -- arguably the most high-profile sustainable landscaping project in Austin.
When the Austonian's residential tower is finished, the 17,000-square-foot rooftop garden will be the largest in Texas, boasting a 75-foot pool with fountains, a dog park, herb garden, fireplace and reflecting pool.
The rooftop garden is also a sustainable centerpiece, with native plants and an architectural-looking water management system that will enable the harvesting of rainwater. The garden will also give off a "heat island effect," meaning it will act as an antidote to the high temperatures created by downtown's hard services, Woodroffe says.
Woodroffe declined to say how much the Austonian project cost.
The price tag for stylish landscape architecture can be steep, many landscaping executives and their customers say, but the investment can pay off in increased property values and increased usable space. Also, landscape architects are quick to say they can devise creative solutions for almost any budget.
Dylan Robertson, principal of D-Crain, says that, despite the economic slowdown, his residential and commercial clients continue to see the revenue-generating potential in outdoor spaces. Robertson has designed outdoor environments for Hotel San Jose and Uchi, among others.
"Over the last couple of years in the commercial arena, we have seen landscaping become one of their highest priorities because it creates a real life usable space; it is usable real estate," he says.
While outdoor space has been historically underutilized in commercial settings, there has been a recent movement toward creating outdoor living spaces for employees, Robertson says.
For instance, D-Crain is working on creating such a space for a business park in Round Rock.
"This will not just be a place where employees go for a cigarette or lunch," Robertson says. "They will be truly able to work all afternoon, and not just have an office party outside, but a seminar."
The Austonian begins construction of its residential tower and announces construction timeline
Construction of The Austonian, Texas' tallest residential high rise building, is on schedule and will be completed at the pace of one floor per week, developers of The Austonian announced today. Under construction at 200 Congress in downtown Austin, the 56-story luxury high-rise condominium project is expected to be complete by early 2010.
"We know there has been a tremendous amount of speculation regarding the overall progress of downtown development and, specifically, The Austonian," said Terry Mitchell, Strategic Marketing Director for The Austonian. "We are very pleased to put an end to the speculation and rumors by announcing that we have completed construction of the 10-story base and have begun construction of the residential tower. Sales have exceeded expectations and this project is full-steam ahead."
At a press conference today, media were taken on a tour of the 10th floor of The Austonian, which, when finished, will serve as an urban garden complete with a 75-foot pool, fountains, private cabanas, two outdoor kitchens, two outdoor fireplaces, a secured dog park and wireless Internet. Attendees viewed the first glimpse of the residential tower as well as the spectacular view of the Capitol.
During construction of the tower, an estimated 500 cubic yards of concrete (about 55 truckloads) and 50 tons of structural steel will go into each level. When complete in 2010, the 56-story Austonian will be Texas? tallest residential high-rise and the tallest such building West of the Mississippi River.
New economic study shows downtown real estate market in demand, city's overall economic growth
Austin is the great exception among America's big cities when it comes to a decline in real estate prices, according to a report released today by Texas economist Dr. M. Ray Perryman.
In a report titled "No Time Like the Present: An Analysis of Issues Surrounding the Current Status of Downtown Housing in Austin" and commissioned by The Austonian, a 56-story luxury residential high-rise under construction in downtown Austin, Perryman asserts that Austin's downtown real estate market remains strong and projects that purchasing a home in downtown Austin is likely to be a wise investment.
"The Austin housing market, related to the rest of the country, is very strong," said Perryman, founder and president of The Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm headquartered in Waco. "And for those who invest now in a downtown residence, the appreciation and returns are likely to be very positive."
Workers lay foundation for future downtown skyscraper
At a time when many UT students were likely to be in bed recovering from their Friday night adventures, Downtown construction workers were pouring the foundations of what will become one of Austin's tallest buildlings.
2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse at The Austonian
2010 Symphony Designer Showhouse at The Austonian
The Austonian's Glass Crown is complete
Runway to Heaven Fashion Show at The Austonian
The Human Rights Campaign VIP Tour
Balbour Beatty Topping Out Celebration
Ballet Austin's Fete at The Austonian
HRC Tuesday's Together Event at the Sales's Center
Anticipated Structural Top Out