Block 32 Project Could Bring Two Towers to Austin’s Convention District – TOWERS

Image: Bing Maps / James Rambin

A permit filed with the City of Austin earlier this week indicates plans by an unknown private developer to raise two mixed-use towers at a downtown half-block located at East Third Street and San Jacinto Boulevard near the Austin Convention Center.

The site plan filing, which refers to the project as “Block 32” after the location’s original number under the Waller Plan for Austin, describes “two mixed-use high-rise buildings” to be built on the 0.81-acre site — a notable distinction from one large tower spanning the full half-block, which is what we’ve typically seen on this size of land assembly downtown. This initial filing doesn’t indicate further details on the uses of the two towers, and the developer of the buildings remains unclear, since this permit was filed on behalf of the project by engineering consultancy Kimley-Horn.

A view of the warehouse structure now occupied by the Vince Young Steakhouse at 301 San Jacinto Street. Image: Visit Austin

The current owners of the half-block are associated with the family of late real estate investor William Bremond Houston, a descendant of grocer John Bremond who operated out of the warehouse at 301 San Jacinto Street from the 1920s to the 1960s and is the namesake of downtown’s nearby Bremond Block Historic District.

Beyond the mystery of its twin tower configuration and their uses, the most notable current detail of this plan concerns the buildings now occupying the half-block site, which is situated directly north of East Third Street between San Jacinto Boulevard to the west and Trinity Street to the east. Home to a number of businesses including Vince Young Steakhouse, Thomas Printworks and the sunset room, the buildings atop the site will need to be demolished before any tower plan moves forward.

A view of the 301 San Jacinto warehouse building in 2009, when it was home to a Mexican restaurant. Image: Wikimedia Commons

You may recall a recent controversy over that possible demolition, with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission seeking historic zoning for the 1912 warehouse at 301 San Jacinto Street now home to Vince Young Steakhouse. Though the former warehouse is charming and representative of an increasingly rare style of building in downtown as the city grows upward, we found the argument for its landmark nature — namely, that its approximately 60 years of use as a grocery warehouse represented an essential reminder of Austin’s early downtown growth — to be pretty shaky, and roughly on par, at least historically speaking, with the building’s 2005 appearance on MTV reality series The Real World: Austin. (We’re open to debate on that point.)

Despite the initial push by the HLC to landmark the building, it seems the Planning Commission and City Council saw things differently, with votes earlier this year rejecting historic zoning for the steakhouse site citing the increased property tax revenue of a tower project here. With a site plan now filed for two mysterious towers at this location, demolition is likely only a matter of time — perhaps between then and now, we’ll learn a little more about what kind of buildings are actually planned here.

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