EXCLUSIVE: Historic Austin estate to become boutique hotel


The 53-room hotel will include event space and a restaurant.

Auberge-branded residences also are planned as part of the historic estate’s redevelopment.

The vision for a boutique hotel at Austin’s historic Commodore Perry Estate is poised to become a reality at last.

Local developers told the American-Statesman exclusively that the hotel, planned for the 10-acre gated compound at East 41st and Red River streets in Central Austin, will be a 53-room property to be operated by Auberge Resorts Collection.

The hotel, to be called Commodore Perry Estate, is due to break ground in early 2018 and open in mid-2019.

“Auberge has been selected to be a steward of the next chapter in the property’s history,” Craig Reid, Auberge’s president and CEO and a former Austin resident, said in a written statement. “As we have with the other historic hotels in our collection, we will honor the architectural heritage of the estate while infusing it with the unique character that defines Austin.”

The inn will be the latest addition to the portfolio of iconic hotels, resorts, residences and private clubs that Auberge owns and operates. Auberge has hotels and resorts in California’s Napa Valley; Los Cabos, Mexico; Fiji; and Aspen, Colo.; among other places.

PHOTOS: Historic Commodore Perry Estate will become small, upscale hotel

The team behind the Austin project consists of local developers Clark Lyda and Austin Pfeister, along with The Marchbanks Co., which is affiliated with noted Austin hotelier Liz Lambert’s Bunkhouse Group, a hospitality management firm.

“We’ve worked closely with the neighborhood and preservation community and the design team for the past five years to ensure our commitment to the architectural integrity and original structures of the estate,” said Lyda, a longtime Central Texas developer who went to high school on the estate’s grounds when it housed the Christian Academy of Austin. “We’re very excited about preserving this bit of Austin history.”

Auberge has a track record of “creating and managing remarkable properties,” Lyda said, and shares the developers’ “commitment to ensuring (the Perry estate’s) future as one of Austin’s most cherished gathering places.”

Lyda declined to say how much the project will cost.

The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It features a 10,800-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style home and formal gardens enclosed within a 10-acre walled compound on the headwaters of Waller Creek.

Its private, lush grounds have made the Perry estate one of Austin’s premier venues for weddings, social events and other gatherings.

Designed in 1927 by prominent Dallas architect H.B. Thomson, the mansion was the former estate of Edgar and Lutie Perry, prominent Austin business and civic leaders. Classical influences include a grand central hall and loggia, carved limestone fireplaces, handcrafted plaster and ironwork and expansive formal gardens.

After Lyda bought the property in 2011, the mansion, along with a chapel and gardens, were restored — work that received an award from Preservation Austin. The mansion itself bears an Austin City Landmark designation.

Lyda said work will begin this fall to upgrade the mansion’s 1920s-era electrical and plumbing systems.

The hotel will include event space, as well as a restaurant featuring cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients, including some from the organic gardens on the grounds.

Four of the hotel’s guest rooms will be in the mansion. The rest will be in a new two-story building to be constructed on the property’s northeast corner, Lyda said.

Lyda plans to remove two existing structures to make way for the hotel: a former convent building and a building that housed several schools through the decades.

“They’re in really bad shape,” Lyda said. “They were built in the 1940s and, among other issues, the foundations have shifted over the years.”

As part of a second phase of construction, Auberge-branded residences are planned that will have access to the hotel’s amenities and services.

Lin Team, a member of the Preservation Committee of Preservation Austin and a former longtime Preservation Austin board member, said Lyda “could have crammed a bunch of duplexes” on the grounds, which she says “would have ruined the property.”

Instead, his stewardship has been “way more appropriate and sensitive than what he was required to do,” said Team, who has extensive involvement in neighborhood planning and historic preservation.

“The Perry estate is a community resource, and I believe that Clark Lyda is uniquely suited to make it into a valuable component of the neighborhood,” said Team, a real estate agent who specializes in historic properties.

Though some of Lyda’s ideas for the property drew both support and fierce opposition, Team said his commitment to thoughtful planning “that respects the environment, history and the aesthetics of the estate is impressive.”

Mark Harkrider, president of the Hancock Neighborhood Association, said he has not yet seen plans for the new hotel but said the group’s executive committee and planning and zoning committee will be reviewing them.

The team spearheading the redevelopment includes internationally known urbanist Stefanos Polyzoides of Moule & Polyzoides, based in Pasadena, Calif., and interior designer Ken Fulk from San Francisco, collaborating with Austin-based Clayton & Little Architects, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects and project manager Woodbine Development Corp.

Emily Little, principal at Clayton & Little Architects, said the estate “is one of Austin’s hidden treasures in plain sight.”

“The new vision for this property,” Little said, “will make it accessible for more people in the surrounding neighborhood and beyond to enjoy.”

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