Once a dark and desolate place at night, Austin's downtown has become a lively and safe place to live thanks to the arrival of high luxury condo towers over the last ten to fifteen years. Today cranes fill the Austin skyline as projects such as 5th+West rise up and attract more residents to the heart of the city, drastically improving the quality of life in downtown Austin.
This transformation began in the 1990s when the city actively started taking steps to attract developers to build residential units downtown. A goal of attracting 25,000 residents to the heart of the city was set and today we are more than halfway there thanks to some brave developers nearly fifteen years ago. The early pioneers were Nokonoah in2002 who were followed by Austin City Lofts in 2004, The Shore in 2007 and the 360 Condominiums in 2008. The Austonian set the standard for luxury condos in 2010 and took the title of tallest building in Austin. Today projects such as Seaholm Residences, The Independent and 5th & West are currently under construction and continue to prove that demand for centrally located condos is at an all time high.
A luxury condominium building currently under construction is 5th & West, slated to be completed in 2017. Locally grown developers Riverside Resources, continue to make an impact in Austin Texas with this next addition to their portfolio. 5th + West will be nearly 450 ft tall with 39 stories, 154 residences and 278 private parking spaces. It sits on, a prime slice of real state in the heart of downtown Austin's Market District. GDA Architects designed the building while superstar designer Michael Hsu gave the common area interiors his trademark touch. Units range from the $400 thousands to $5M.
A unique challenge for developers in Austin is the city's many unique regulations and ordinances aimed at preserving the aesthetic integrity of the area. The protected view corridors for the Capitol are a perfect example. As the map below shows, builders are restricted from building anything over 6 stories high in many areas of downtown to allow for an uninterrupted view of the Capitol from many spots around the city. The design of 5th & West was very much shaped by these restrictions as it's pool deck falls right inside of one the Capitol view corridors. GDA Architects overcame this challenge by designing a triangular shaped building that is elegant and unlike anything else in Austin's skyline today.
The city also requires developers to be mindful of how their buildings impact the city at the street level. Gone are the days of walling off your project from the sidewalks with little regard to daily pedestrian traffic. The city places unique requirements on each project in order to create a lively atmosphere on downtown streets that will carry from the daytime into the night. For example, 5th & West has been required to place a kiosk along 5th st. that will sell newspapers, coffee and other goods to the public. Other buildings such as the JW Marriott are incorporating dining establishments on their ground levels that open up to the sidewalks.
Our city will continue to shift and morph for at least the foreseeable future. Some of the old Austin may be disappearing, but a lot of it's good aspects continue to get even better. The City of Austin's initiative twenty years ago has undoubtedly helped create a better downtown. As a local resident of over 10 years I hope that the city and its residents will continue to grow together while still holding on to the charm, warmth and weirdness that makes this city.