EXCLUSIVE: $55 million mixed-use project gets going on South Congress

May 12, 2017
Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman Staff
Construction is ongoing on South Congress Avenue on Friday, May 12, 2017, on the sites that were previously home to Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill and Wet Salon, among other businesses.DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Developers have started construction on a high-profile project on South Congress Avenue in Austin, and on Friday released new details about the mixed-use development to the American-Statesman.

The project is called Music Lane, after the small street that forms its eastern border. The development will consist of three buildings, with 163,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space. There also will be a four-story underground parking garage with 496 spaces that will include a “substantial” amount of paid public parking, the developers said.

The buildings will be three to four stories tall, and are expected to house anywhere from 20 to 30 tenants, developers said.

The team behind Music Lane includes local developers Clark Lyda and Austin Pfiester, along with Turnbridge Equities, a Miami Beach-based real estate investment and development firm that also has offices in Austin and New York.

The planned development will span 1.5 acres stretching north from Academy Street, where Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill and several other businesses formerly were located, most of which have reopened elsewhere.

Developers said Friday that that their project will now also include a quarter-acre site at 1009 South Congress that currently is home to Twomey’s Auto Works. Developers said they currently own the ground lease on the Twomey property, with an option to purchase the property after a number of years.

Twomey’s Auto Works owner Don Twomey said he has operated the auto shop there for 27 years. He said his lease is up in September 2018 and he intends to relocate, although he said it has been difficult finding another suitable location.

Lyda and Pfiester said Music Lane will be built at a cost of $55 million. Austin Commercial is the general contractor and the Austin office of Lake|Flato is the architect. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.

The main entrance and exit will be off South Congress, where a new traffic signal will be installed, the developers said. There also will be a valet-only entrance off Music Lane.

Music Lane is being designed to be an community gathering space that will include pedestrian paths, green space with heritage oak trees, water features and views of the Texas Capitol, the developers and architects said.

It also will complement a boutique hotel, Hotel Magdalena, that is being planned behind it by Liz Lambert. Lyda is a co-developer of the 102-room Hotel Magdalena, which is due to break ground late this year.

Lyda said none of Music Lane’s buildings will rise higher than 60 feet. Having low-rise buildings was important, he said, to “fit within the urban fabric” of South Congress.

“We didn’t want to be offensive and go in and have the maximum build-out possible,” Lyda said.

Lyda has a long history of development projects in Central Texas, including the Music Lane area, and witnessed firsthand the early transformations of South Congress. He owned the 15-acre Terrace Motor Hotel and Austin Opry House complex on South Congress from 1988 through the 1990’s, leasing space to a number of local musicians and music businesses.

In decades past a red-light district, South Congress has morphed into a busy street lined with retail, dining and entertainment venues that are a go-to destination among locals and tourists. Music Lane is one of several developments planned in the district, leaving some observers wondering if the area can retain its eclectic flavor as new business interests buy up properties.

But Lyda said he intends to attract local and regional specialty retailers that will blend with South Congress’ distinctive culture.

“It’s not just another shopping center,” Lyda said. “You’ll see an interesting mix.”

Lyda declined to name any tenant prospects, but he did confirm that Gelateria Gemelli, a gelato and coffee shop with an East Austin presence, has signed a lease for space in Music Lane.

With public areas, paths and native Texas trees and plants, Lyda said Music Lane will help encourage South Congress visitors to walk further north toward the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, into what is currently a low-volume area for the tourism-heavy street.

Lyda said the project is being built under existing city of Austin zoning rules. He said the project is being financed with a combination of equity and debt, and developers are close to signing an agreement with a construction lender.

Two of the buildings will be designed to have an industrial or factory look, but with features like green space, porches, balconies, courtyards and other elements typically associated with residential design. A rendering of the third building depicts a four-story building with a white stucco exterior, a curved facade and pastel pink hues.

The office space will have 16-foot high ceilings and large, open floor plans, natural light and outdoor work areas.

The buildings are designed to last for decades, Lyda said, with the ability to be adapted for changing uses over time.

Lyda said that given the site’s ties to Austin music, the development team is discussing ways to “reinforce that history and connection” in the project, which could include everything from public art installations to how its public spaces are used.