39-story condo tower set to break ground in downtown Austin

Updated Oct 14, 2014

Developers are about to break ground on what will be downtown Austin’s fifth-tallest building.

The 39-story condominium tower is planned for the northeast corner of West Fifth Street and West Avenue, where the building that housed the Texas Press Association sits. Demolition on that building will start this month to make way for the new tower, which will bring 154 new luxury units to market when it opens in the fall of 2017. Units will start in the $500,000s, said Scott Dunaway, a spokesman for the developer, Riverside Resources.

Riverside Resources is an Austin-based firm that is leaving a significant imprint on the local market. The company built the Whitley apartment high rise downtown, which it has since sold, and is under construction with a new office building near Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and Bee Cave Road, among other projects.

Called Fifth & West Residences, the project will be the second condo tower under construction downtown, joining the 30-story Seaholm Residences at the former Seaholm Power Plant on West Cesar Chavez, a site that is being redeveloped with housing, dining, office and retail space. Seaholm’s developer said prospective buyers reserved all 280 condos at Seaholm in one week, calling it a record for a downtown residential project.

Riverside Resources isn’t disclosing the cost of its new condo project, or how much money is being invested by its capital partner, the Carlyle Group.

The tower will include conference spaces, outdoor and lounge areas, a pool, a fitness center, a yoga studio and a dog park — complete with an indoor lounge and coffee bar.

At 448 feet, the tower will be the fifth-tallest downtown, after the Austonian, the W Hotel & Residences, Spring and Frost Bank Tower.

Charles Heimsath, a local real estate consultant, said that other than the Seaholm Residences — which originally was designed to be an apartment tower — downtown Austin hasn’t seen any new condo projects start since 2009. Demand for downtown condos remained strong — even during the recent recession — and the limited supply of units on the market bodes well for additional successful development of condo towers in the downtown market, he said.

“If you want to buy a new unit (not a resale) today, the only option is the Austonian, which is too expensive for most buyers,” said Heimsath, president of Capitol Market Research. “This is a proven location, across the street from Austin City Lofts, close to Whole Foods and an easy walk to Congress Avenue and Second Street.”

Fifth & West will have 56 one-bedroom units; 47 two-bedroom units; 50 three-bedroom units; and one 4-bedroom unit, the penthouse with more than 5,200 square feet.

For other units, sizes are expected to average 910 square feet for a one-bedroom unit; 1,700 square feet for a two-bedroom; and 2,682 square feet for a three-bedroom.

The site at 718 West Fifth is slightly less than one-quarter of a city block. It has some restrictions designed to preserve views of the state Capitol that will limit the garage podium height and create the building’s unique triangular shape, Dunaway said.

Downtown Austin’s condo building boom took a breather during the downturn, prompting some developers to predict that Austin could end up with a shortage of units rather. Since the recession, financing has returned but mostly for apartment construction, as evidenced by the hundreds of new rental units being added both in and near downtown.

There is, however, another condo project in the pipeline that Austin developers Constructive Ventures and Aspen Heights plan to build next to Seaholm. At 50 stories or higher, that building, which is due to start late next year and cost more than $200 million, could become the second-tallest on the skyline after the 56-story Austonian condo tower at Congress Avenue and Second Street.