Cirrus Logic poised to expand downtown campus

Land purchase, zoning case part of grander designs in city’s core

Having moved into its new headquarters at Sixth and West streets just last summer, Cirrus Logic Inc. is moving forward with plans to expand its downtown Austin footprint.

The Austin-based computer chip firm told the American-Statesman it has purchased almost a half a block just west of its six-story headquarters for future expansion. The price of the purchase, which closed in December, was not disclosed.

The land, on the southwest corner of Seventh and Rio Grande streets, includes some vacant buildings as well as the building that housed the former Aquarelle restaurant.

Jason Rhode, president and CEO of Cirrus Logic, said the company was presented with the opportunity to acquire the land west of its headquarters late last year.

“Cirrus Logic is rapidly growing, and while no decision has been made regarding the ultimate use of the property, given all of the challenges of growing in downtown Austin, owning this property provides us with an option for future growth in the area,” Rhode said in a written statement. “Cirrus Logic’s day-to-day business relies upon a collaborative atmosphere and our goal is to create a cohesive working environment for all of our employees.”

Cirrus currently employs 637 people worldwide, 534 of them in Austin.

“We’re hiring as fast as possible and in the past that has meant annual headcount growth in the 15 to 20 percent range,” Rhode said.

In addition to its recent land purchase, Cirrus has other expansion plans on tap. Next week, it will seek the go-ahead from the city Planning Commission and the City Council (for a zoning change on a tract it owns immediately north of its headquarters.

That parcel is now a surface parking lot for Cirrus employees. On that site, the company wants to build an 8-story structure that would include a parking garage with 175 spaces, along with office space on the top and bottom floors, said Richard Suttle Jr., Cirrus’ zoning attorney in Austin.

Height is currently limited to 60 feet, Suttle said. The zoning change would allow Cirrus to build to 90 feet — the same height as the headquarters building, Suttle said. The new building would be connected to the 135,000-square-foot headquarters, giving both structures “a homogenous look and feel,” according to city zoning documents.

In a letter to a city planning official in January, the presidents of two downtown-area neighborhood groups noted that Cirrus’ plans had evolved from a use their groups initially supported — a 79,133 square-foot office building on the site — into a larger campus plan involving the other properties Cirrus purchased nearby. They asked that the Planning Commission postpone the zoning request, so it can be evaluated in light of the plans for the bigger campus.

Ted Siff, who heads the Original Austin Neighborhood Association, said is group is “trying to work with a very good neighbor, Cirrus, and try to meet their objectives, so long as they’re consistent with our goals of preserving the historic and residential character of the neighborhood.”

Rhode’s statement said that Cirrus is “committed to keeping all interested stakeholders informed of our plans as we go forward.”

“Cirrus Logic has a long-standing, good relationship with the neighborhood and we enjoy being a strong corporate partner to the City of Austin and surrounding community,” Rhode said.

Before moving downtown in June 2012, Cirrus’ headquarters were in an office complex over environmentally sensitive land in Southwest Austin.

Rhode said the company decided to relocate to the central business district “to be a part of the vibrant downtown Austin economy.” He noted that the company has been “an involved partner with the local neighborhood for several years prior to moving downtown.”

Gary Farmer, chairman of Opportunity Austin, the chamber’s economic development affiliate, said that the city is “fortunate to have Cirrus Logic as one of our leading corporate citizens in Austin.”

“We celebrate their growth and prosperity while also applauding their efforts to bring vitality to the central business district,” said Farmer, president of Heritage Title Company of Austin Inc. “Cirrus Logic has embraced the broader community’s goal and vision for a vibrant urban core.”

Cirrus makes chips for smartphones and other mobile devices, and its largest customer is Apple Inc. Cirrus beat expectations in the third quarter ended Dec. 29, reporting a net profit of $67.9 million, or 99 cents a share, on revenue of $310 million, up 153 percent from the same quarter the prior year.

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