New High-Rise Tower to Start in Austin, Texas

A downtown residential high-rise more than two years in the making is finally ready to start construction - with eight more floors than the original plans envisioned.

MetLife and partner the Hanover Co. are building the 36-story apartment tower at 101 Colorado St., next door to MetLife's 22-story office tower at 100 Congress Ave.

"I think New York City just arrived in Austin!" said David Armbrust, a well-known real estate lawyer who works on the 13th floor of the office building.

In 2004, when the project was announced, the plans called for 202 units in a 28-story tower, with townhouses facing Congress and a curved roof.

The revised design is 36 stories, with 258 units, including three live-work units facing Cesar Chavez Street and nearly 1,000 square feet of street-level retail.

Construction barriers already are in place and demolition of the drive-in bank that now occupies the site could begin this week. The first residents could move in by fall 2008.

"Obviously, to add eight stories, that speaks volumes about their belief in the strength of the downtown Austin residential market," Armbrust said.

Cynthia Birdwell, Hanover's director of marketing, said Austin "has been interested in bringing additional residents into downtown, and this was an opportunity to support that goal."

The company did not need a variance from the city for the additional height, she said.

HKS Architects, which designed the Whole Foods Market headquarters and flagship store on North Lamar Boulevard at West Sixth Street, designed the apartment project. The development has a tower rising on the north side of the site, with a lower-profile structure facing Town Lake.

Mayor Will Wynn has said his vision for a lively downtown includes 25,000 residents by 2015 - a fivefold increase - and there is no shortage of developers ready to meet the demand.

Projects under construction or planned for downtown would add more than 3,000 living units, with more slated to be built south of downtown. Work has started on six projects, and several more are expected to break ground in early 2007.

Work should start Feb. 1 on Spring, a 36-story condominium tower at Third and Bowie streets, said Robert Barnstone, one of the project's developers.

Rafii Architects of Vancouver, British Columbia, is designing the slender tower. Austin-based Dick Clark Architects will design the interiors of the 220 units.

Just south of downtown, Crescent Resources LLC, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, plans to start work in early 2007 on Aquaterra, a 19-story, 173-unit condominium tower at 210 Barton Springs Road.

Crescent is advertising the project aggressively, and the campaign has generated a high level of interest, said Steven Brandt, vice president of Crescent's Texas operations.

The project will cost almost $50 million and should be finished in late 2008, Brandt said.

Downtown development (see microfilm)