47 ways downtown Austin is changing

Colin Pope | Editor­ - Austin Business Journal

For the first time in my 14-year history in this newsroom I can’t rattle off from memory all of the major things happening downtown — or even just the big buildings that will spring up in the coming year. There’s simply just too much going on. 

Of course the big news coming from the Austin Business Journal today is that The Driskill Hotel is for sale and Silicon Laboratories Inc. just paid $94 million to buy two buildings on Cesar Chavez Street. And that’s just from today. 

During the past couple of months we’ve chronicled so many changes coming to downtown that it has made my head spin. So I took a deep breath, dug into our archives and bubbled up all the notable activity I could find for our rapidly maturing downtown. Here’s the big picture:

Bye-bye quirky little low-rise neighborhood — 23 stories of condos are being built at 51 Rainey St. 

Thirty-six stories of apartments and shops are going up at West Fifth and Bowie streets, thanks to Endeavor Real Estate Group. That firm is also expected to break ground soon on another office and retail tower called the IBC Bank Plaza at 500 W. Fifth St.

JW Marriott is turning dirt for Austin’s next convention center hotel at Second Street and Congress Avenue. 

The skeleton is up and this apartment tower at Third and Brazos streets is almost done.

Hyatt Place next door to those apartments should be done a bit sooner.

Construction on the old Green Water Treatment Plant site should finally start next year. Expect a lot of mixed-use for the ambitious project.

The site where Run-Tex’s flagship store sits will go vertical in the future so more people can live downtown. 

Waller Creek all the way through downtown is going to change drastically. The renderings on display are exciting a lot of Austinites eager to polish what could potentially become the crowned jewel of downtown.

The 50-story Fairmont Austin will be the second-tallest building in Austin when its built at Cesar Chavez and Red River streets.

This parking lot could very well be the future home of Austin’s flagship hospital.

The Austin Children’s Museum is a step closer to leaving its longtime downtown nest for a spot in the Mueller neighborhood. That’s bad news for the many who are complaining that downtown isn’t child-friendly.

Bazaarvoice Inc. is presenting a free concert series in conjunction with Circuit of the Americas LLC during the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix weekend in November.

The Capital Grille, an upscale chain restaurant, is moving into the Warehouse District to space vacated in the past year by The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant. 


Yet another hotel is in the pipeline for downtown Austin, this one for the northeast corner of East Fifth Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.

World Class Capital Group LLC closed a deal in August on two old, vacant buildings next to the Four Seasons Hotel, presumably so it can be redeveloped as a high-rise.

Downtown has gained some star power. A popular haunt for locals on Second Street was on Urbanspoon’s list of 50 U.S. restaurants for celebrity sightings. 

Alex Andrawes recently opened The Red Room Lounge, a speakeasy-style wine lounge, as a means to gain customer feedback that he can use to refine his Web-based wine companies.

The man who owns the land where the Brick Oven Pizzeria stands has filed zoning paperwork to replace it with something bigger.

That Midnight Cowboy place on Sixth Street you always assumed was a brothel was indeed, but now it’s a hip new bar.

Austin-based Forestar Group Inc. and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds have teamed up to form a multifamily venture that will bring a 257-unit apartment complex downtown near East 11th Street and I-35. 

A Houston software company has opened an office in downtown Austin.

Even the streets and sidewalks are maturing downtown, and that has caused more than headaches for some business owners in the city’s core.

The United States Postal Service will move its downtown center from Guadalupe Street to Congress Avenue early next year to make room for a new high-rise.

Three parking lots and one of the biggest buildings in downtown Austin have been listed for sale in the past month, potentially laying the foundation for more high-profile developments in the Central Business District. 

Austin Community College has taken the first step toward the eventual expansion of its Rio Grande campus.

A 30-story office building will soon add to the downtown Austin skyline in a project called Colorado & Third.

Trader Joe’s wants to give Whole Foods Market Inc. a run for its money downtown.

Sixth and Lamar is about to get a whole lot busier and bigger.

Work continues to reinvent the defunct Seaholm Power Plant.

Yet another old warehouse is being converted for live music and events.

The Hyatt Regency Austin plans to add a five-story garage and one of the biggest ballrooms around downtown.

A downtown Austin building constructed in the 19th century could be demolished by the Texas Public Policy Foundation after the Austin Historic Landmark Commission began to pave the way for it to be razed.

Daily Juice Group LLC recently opened its second franchise location on West Third Street to serve as the prototype for what could become a 100-location empire during the next four years.

Indian restaurant G’Raj Mahal has outgrown its trailer on 91 Red River and plans to expand with a larger restaurant on Rainey Street.

City officials are having a hard time satisfying all parties as they search for a viable plan to ease conflict between downtown Austin residents and music venues and bars. 

Several downtown Austin bars owned by Yassine Enterprises Inc. are on their way to reopening after a March FBI raid resulted in 10 members facing federal charges, but first landowners and their prospective tenants must wrestle liquor licenses from the state. The problem: The man who holds them is in jail.

The hip downtown scene is even reshaping lawyers’ offices.

Older office towers are being retrofitted with outdoor terraces. Check out what’s happening on the old Frost Tower.

And tech is bigger than ever in the Central Business District. 

But thanks to all this technology, downtown bike couriers are stuffing food in their backpacks rather than court documents.

The famous trails along Lady Bird Lake are about to get bigger and better.

All this redevelopment has forced food trailers on vacant lots to pack up for the ‘burbs.

Texas Capital Bank plans to move its Austin headquarters next year to the San Jacinto Center downtown.

Three social media companies are now tweeting from downtown. Mass Relevance Inc. said bye to Northwest Austin so it could set up shop at 800 Brazos St. to hold about 65 workers eventually and Main Street Hub has its social media spokes poking out of the Perry Brooks Tower. Dachis Group showed off its new top-floor digs in this slideshow.

And the city has allowed micro businesses to spring up in parking spaces downtown.