58-story ‘Jenga Tower’ breaks ground

4:09 p.m Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 Business

Developers broke ground Monday on The Independent, a 58-story tower that will reshape Austin’s skyline when it opens in about three years at West Third Street and West Avenue downtown.

Featuring a distinctive stacked design that has earned it the nickname the “Jenga Tower,” the Independent will become Austin’s tallest building and the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi.

The development team consists of Austin-based Constructive Ventures, whose principals are Perry Lorenz and Larry Warshaw; Austin-based Aspen Heights; and Los-Angeles-based CIM Group.

Kirk Watson, a former Austin mayor and now a state senator, and current Mayor Steve Adler, lauded the project, saying new high-rises downtown are making significant contributions to the city’s tax base.

“Vibrant, vital, successful cities have vibrant, vital, successful downtowns,” Watson said.

Adler said downtown “is not only the city’s living room, it is our city’s piggy bank.”

Adler said The Independent will make the largest single contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund ever — $2.5 million. The project’s developers also are making a $1 million contribution to city infrastructure, along with other community benefits, including a public plaza connecting the Third Street footbridge to West Avenue and trail improvements along Shoal Creek.

“Even better, Austin is adding housing downtown where residents are more likely to walk or bike to work,” Adler said. “By helping us address affordability and mobility, this building is a very big win-win for Austin.”

Balfour Beatty Construction is the general contractor on the $300-million-plus Independent tower. Developers closed on the $14.5 million purchase of the 1.7-acre site from the city of Austin in December, and an existing building on the land is now being demolished. The site formerly housed the Austin Energy Control Center, which is now located in East Austin.

The Independent is in a part of downtown where about $1.5 billion in new development is taking place on formerly industrial sites and surrounding property.

The Independent, by the Numbers

685 feet

Building’s height, making it tallest tower in Austin and tallest residential building west of Mississippi River

$300 million

Estimated value of the project.

370

Number of residences in the tower.

3 years

Estimated time to complete the project.

mid-$400,000s to $3.4 million

Price range for residences in the tower.

20,000 square feet

Space for amenities as part of the project, including sky lounge, club room, a theater and dog park.

5,775

Number of new apartment and condominium units built in downtown Austin since 2000.

2,058

Number of new apartment and condominium units currently under construction downtown.

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