- By Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
Austin’s largest hotel opened its doors Monday, just in time for South by Southwest.
Not only will the 1,048-room Fairmont Austin, at 101 Red River St., become a temporary home for thousands of out-of-towners over the next two weeks, but the luxury hotel is also hosting a number of official SXSW events in its expansive meeting spaces.
The $370 million, 37-story property was developed by Manchester Texas Financial Group. It had initially been set to open late last year, but construction fell behind schedule.
Fairmont Austin managing director Tom Voss said employees were eager to get to work and show off the hotel.
“This project has truly been a labor of love, and it shows in every team member’s passion and excitement as they begin to settle into their departments,” he said. “We have all worked so hard and put so much of ourselves into this hotel. The Fairmont Austin team is just so thrilled to share their creativity and vision with the Austin community.”
Gensler designed the sleek glass tower which, with its spire, is the second-largest building in downtown Austin. A curvy covered walkway designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners connects the building to the Austin Convention Center across the street.
“The new Fairmont acts as a gateway to Austin and a direct addition to the convention center,” David Epstein, Gensler principal and design director, said. “Working with compatible materials the hotel and convention center are harmonious. The new Fairmont also embraces Austin’s future by placing its front door across from Waller Creek and Palm Park.”
Inside the hotel, designer Warren Sheets focused on “bringing the natural tones of outdoors in,” using vibrant shades of blue and green on walls, floor coverings and furniture.
“Our hope is that when guests enter the hotel it feels calming and welcoming,” Voss said. “Of course, we strive for jaws to drop and lots of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs,’ but really we just want everyone to feel as though they have arrived at a place they can call home for as long as they can stay with us.”
Fairmont Austin is billing itself as a de-facto extension of the convention center. The property has helped the city land several large conventions that, in the past, would likely have bypassed Austin, executives said.
“Between our direct connection to the Austin Convention Center … and the nearly 140,000 square feet of event space we are adding to the city, Fairmont Austin is going to have an incredible impact on the city’s convention business,” Voss said. “We look forward to being able to welcome conventions and conferences to Austin that, due to the lack of space, were unable to consider Austin in previous years.”
Fairmont properties across the globe are known for their service and attention to detail, Voss said, and that’s definitely the goal of Fairmont Austin’s 700-plus employees.
“We have built such a phenomenal team, bringing in the best Fairmont colleagues from around the globe, as well as so many other top-tier hospitality professionals,” he said. “Fairmont strives to ‘turn moments into memories’ with every guest that walks through our doors, and this team is truly going to bring this mentality to life.”
The guest experience gets even better on the Fairmont Gold levels near the top of the hotel tower, according to director of VIP services Justin Robbins. There, guests have access to an exclusive lounge where four complementary meals a day are served, among other amenities.
“Our Fairmont Gold experience is designed to provide guests an element of luxury that is truly next level,” he said. “Our 131-room ‘hotel within a hotel’ product features private lounge access and offers guaranteed high-rise view rooms amongst the 32nd through 35th floors. Guests can relax and allow our dedicated team of Fairmont Gold colleagues to enhance their stay, with the empowerment to make experiences nothing short of spectacular.”