90 Feet of Housing in Old West Austin Sounds Like a Good Start – TOWERS

An aerial view of the 1.38-acre tract up for possible rezoning next month at the northwest corner of West Fifth and Walsh Streets in the Old West Austin neighborhood just west of downtown. Image: Bing Maps

At its meeting earlier this week, the City of Austin’s Planning Commission voted to postpone a rezoning item on its agenda for further discussion next month, allowing the applicant further time to discuss the case with the neighborhood in question — Old West Austin, a part of town not known for its intensity of growth compared to almost anywhere else this close to downtown. Still, there’s a lot of potential for infill development along the corridors of West Fifth and Sixth Streets in this area, especially if you don’t think self-storage buildings do much for the ambiance around here.

The tract in question seeking rezoning is a 1.38-acre assembly of properties at the northwest corner of West Fifth and Walsh Streets, currently occupied by several single-story retail buildings. The owners, a group including major Austin investors Jimmy Nassor and Walter Penn along with Endeavor Real Estate Group managing principal David Roberts, are hoping for a rezoning allowing a potential 450-unit multifamily residential project rising up to 90 feet in height — as part of the area’s neighborhood plan and its efforts to incentivize residential development, a similar commercial project under the same new zoning would only allow a 60-foot building. 

The 100-foot Capstar at Compass Plaza offices west of this site is the only building in the neighborhood hitting a similar height as the possible residential building allowed by this upcoming rezoning case. Image: Harvey-Cleary Builders

Depending on floor height, a 90-foot height limit could bring around eight or nine floors of multifamily residential to the area, and would be one of the only new projects around here to exceed the common “one-plus-five” configuration — the only other building this tall in the neighborhood right now is the 100-foot Capstar at Compass Plaza office building at 1703 West Fifth Street. As we’ve seen from other recent projects in the general area, once a building gets a little taller than the five or six floors of the typical “Texas Donut,” its design often gets much more interesting — the nearby Shoal Cycle project, also rising 90 feet after a similar bump from the Planning Commission, is a prime example of what these buildings can be.

The 90-foot Shoal Cycle project is a perfect example of how multifamily buildings rising beyond the standard “one-plus-five” configuration can allow a more unique and expressive design to flourish. Image: Weaver Buildings / Studio8 Architects

Though we won’t know for sure what the discussion between the applicants and the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association will entail until the commission meets again on October 12, it’s still interesting to see new projects working to rise beyond the typical limits of height in this area, which doesn’t see nearly as much development as other downtown-adjacent regions — especially when these projects bring additional housing to the table. We’re sure residents of the largely single-family neighborhoods like Clarksville nearby would agree that the West Fifth and Sixth Street corridors running through this area are very good places for taller buildings to go.

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