Downtown Austin is growing faster than ever. Well, maybe not ever, but more than in the last 14 years I have lived here. The city council and the community in gereral is pushing for growing the downtown into a live-work area with high density, shops downstairs, and living upstairs. The term is "multi-use" and it is pretty much pretty much the montra for Austin real estate. There are 10+ condo projects going up in the next couple years that cater to the different appeals of living in downtown Austin.
A couple condos are situated at the turn of the river in downtown Austin, taking advantage of views down the river. The first time I saw the views, I was pretty surprised. You can see all the way down the river from the Congress bridge, past the Lamar Bridge, and past downtown. One nice aspect about these places is that there is not much chance of anything being built in the way of the river view since you are at the bend. The two places are called The Milago and The Shores. The Milago is right at the bend of the river with only the Town Lake Trail between it and the water. If you want protected river views, The Milago is pretty much it. Also, to get any views, you need to be above the trees and that is at about the 6th floor as well as on the west side of the building; the east side of the building pretty much has nothing interesting right now. The Shores has a similar view corridor down the river and to the west and is a little more north of the Milago. It has the Mexican-American cultural center being built in front of it and has a low-rise, older townhome project that poses no threat as of now to block the view. This building is not as rectangular as The Milago so more of the units have some sort of view, whether it be the river or downtown.
Moving on to a another downtown Austin condo sector. Some hotels are renovating the top floors of their places or building new high-rises next-door to accomodate those who want more high-end services associated with hotels. They will have room service available, workout facilities, concierge, and whatnot. The Hilton probably has the most upper end units right now called the Five Fifty Five. To name a couple slick attributes, they feature wolf ovens, wood floors, 24hr. concierge & security, and walls of windows viewing Austin downtown. They have a couple penthouses left.
The other downtown Austin aspect of living that some condos will be banking on is the trend to live near walkable shops and restaurants. Clarksville is a neighborhood thriving around some shops and restaurants on West Lynn as well as the 6th & Lamar area. It is probably the closest actual neighborhood (meaning houses too) to downtown to the west. There's a local shop to walk to on West Lynn, and if you want more of a supermarket, the Whole Foods mothership headquarters complete with ice rink is at the corner of 6th & Lamar along with REI, Waterloo Records, Amys Ice Cream, and other fun stuff. The Nokonah is right there in the midst of all that. It was built in 2001, so it is all resale at this point, but a good location with concierge and security.
And of course, people just want to live by cool areas. Austin's South Congress is known for probably being the hippest street in Austin. It is so cool it has been abbreviated to be called SoCo. A couple different condo projects are popping up around that area. Most are the loft, slick style that blends with the SoCo area. One is practically the neighbor of a popular restaurant and club. It's a smaller condo project at only 14 units available and starting at 380K. A larger condo projects is being developed further down south called the SoCo Lofts. These will have bamboo floors and stainless appliances. They will not really be walkable to the SoCo shopping area but will be creating its own multi-use shopping, retail, and restaurants. Since they are a little more south from the saught-after SoCo strip of shops, they are a more affordable option, starting at 225K for a 1-1.
Another area in the south that is trying to model itself after SoCo is being coined as SoLa, or South Lamar. SoLa is parallel to SoCo and about 2 main streets west. It is not as dense with shops but city plans are in the works to rezone almost everything along the street between the river south to 71 to be multi-use. It could be pretty cool and much more expansive than the current SoCo. There are various condos planned to take advantage of the new SoLa. One is just south of the river called The Magnolia. They've already begun construction and are moving fast, targeting completion by July 2008. The funny story behind this location is that it used to be a Wendy's.
It will be interesting to watch Austin develop over the next several years. There are a number of downtown Austin Condos but the new ones that are coming online should widen the selection for people interested in living downtown. Additionally, the increased density should allow for more small shops and businesses to set up shop downtown which will hopefully make downtown a more walkable interesting location for years to come.
Ki Gray and wife form the Escapeso Austin Real Estate Group down in Austin Texas.