37-story tower planned for downtown Austin block

5:47 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 Business

Trammell Crow Company plans to build a 37-story tower with office, restaurant and retail uses on a prime downtown Austin block owned by the University of Texas System, documents filed with the city show.

The UT System last year selected Trammell Crow to redevelop the 1.75-acre site, called Block 71, which would put the property back on the tax rolls.

The site is bounded by West Sixth, West Seventh, Colorado and Lavaca streets, and is just south of UT’s new 19-story headquarters building.

The site currently houses a 9-story office building, Ashbel Smith Hall, as well as Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall. Ashbel Smith Hall is named for the first president of UT’s board of regents. Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall is named for the late Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady and also a UT regent. The block also has an above-ground parking garage, two underground garages, a plaza and fountain, live oaks and an alley.

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A site plan submitted for approval to the city of Austin shows that Trammell Crow is proposing to build a glass-covered tower with 665,000 square feet of office space, plus restaurant and retail space, along with multiple levels of parking. The site plan doesn’t show a residential component.

Trammell Crow and UT officials declined to comment on the project.

Height on the tract is not limited by rules designed to preserve views of the state Capitol dome.

This month, the city’s Historic Landmark Commission reviewed several aspects of the planned project.

The site is partially within the Sixth Street National Register Historic District, triggering review by the commission, said Steve Sadowsky, the city’s historic preservation officer.

Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall, Austin’s early-1900s U.S. Post Office and a building with historical significance, has been used by UT as administrative offices.

Trammell Crow plans to renovate Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall and relocate the public plaza.

A committee of the Historic Landmark Commission reviewed plans for proposed modifications to Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall, the plaza relocation and construction of the proposed tower, and made recommendations, Sadowsky said. The developer’s plans were revised accordingly, Sadowsky said.

This month, the commission approved a demolition permit to raze the 1974 Ashbel Smith Hall, which the commission’s staff determined “lacks the architectural and historical significance necessary for designation as a historic landmark.”

UT no longer needs Block 71, because it is consolidating its offices into its newly opened headquarters building across West Seventh Street. Consolidating UT System employees into one building is projected to save more than $125 million during the subsequent 30 years, system officials have said.

Trammell Crow in January signed a 95-year lease for site, agreeing to pay a base rent of $1.6 million in the first year, with increases over time. The American-Statesman obtained a copy of the lease through a public information request to the UT System.

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