The state bird of Texas is the (construction) crane, or so the old joke goes.
With Texas’ largest cities – especially Austin – experiencing phenomenal growth in recent years, that well-worn one-liner might as well be true.
Construction cranes dot Austin’s skyline, helping erect towers that will become hotels, offices, condos, apartments and more over the next several years.
Currently, there are about a dozen of them at work in downtown Austin.
At the peak of construction, there were three cranes at the site of the 37-story Fairmont Austin Hotel at Red River and East Cesar Chavez streets. But with the 1,048-room hotel set to open this September, just one remains – and it’ll be gone as soon as a 170-foot spire is installed in the coming weeks.
With the addition of that spire, the Fairmont will become Austin’s second-tallest tower, behind the Austonian.
“Tower cranes have become an omnipresent force on Austin’s skyline,” said Doug Manchester, president of Manchester Texas Financial Group, the Fairmont’s developer. “When you take a moment to reflect, they’re both practically and symbolically quite profound. Practically, you just can’t build without their tremendous power and adaptability. Symbolically, these cranes continue to remind us that Austin is on the rise – physically, economically and socially.
“In Fairmont Austin’s case, these tower cranes are the first major sign that massive revitalization is finally underway surrounding Palm Park and the Waller Creek corridor. What was once a vacant dirt lot, is now transforming into a major destination.”
The building boom has helped put thousands of people to work, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Regionwide, construction and related industries accounted for 59,000 jobs in 2016, chamber figures show. That’s a 38 percent increase since 2012, when there were 42,700 construction jobs.
“We think in general the mechanics of construction are often the overlooked unsung heroes of urban development that lead to impactful economic booms,” Manchester said.
Aside from the Fairmont, some of the other high-rises under construction downtown include:
- The Independent , 58-story condo tower, West Third Street and West Avenue
- Fifth & West Residences , 39-story condo tower, West Fifth Street and West Avenue
- Aloft/Element hotels , 32-story hotel tower, East Seventh Street and Congress Avenue
- Austin Proper , 32-story hotel and condo tower, West Second and Nueces streets
- 500 West 2nd, 29-story office tower, West Second and San Antonio streets
- Third+Shoal , 29-story office tower, Nueces and West Third streets
- Hotel Zaza, 24-story hotel and apartment tower, West Fourth and Guadalupe streets
- New University of Texas System headquarters, 19-story office tower, West Seventh and Lavaca streets
- Shoal Creek Walk , 15-story office tower, West Sixth and Bowie streets
While the bulk of the activity is downtown, there’s also plenty of construction — and the accompanying cranes — on the UT campus and at The Domain, where Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group is building multiple new office towers.