• Staci Livesay

Redesigned Travis receives Approval from Design Commission

As reported in the Austin Business Journal on Sept. 27th, 2019

A massive apartment, condo and hotel project in the Rainey Street area is moving forward after some changes to its design at the street level.

Dallas-based Genesis Real Estate Group wants to build a two-tower development called The Travis at 80 Red River St. The 2.3-acre site at the corner of Red River and Davis streets was the former home of the Villas on Town Lake condos, which were demolished earlier this year.

Members of the Design Commission voted Sept. 23 that plans for The Travis substantially comply with the city's urban design guidelines. That stamp of approval, which developers need for a density bonus, came about a month after commissioners criticized parts of the project such as a lack of retail.

Drenner Group Principal Steve Drenner, who is representing the development team, said the project has a "new look" at the pedestrian level, adding they had previously focused too much on the Red River-Davis intersection. The developers are now focused on features on the property's northern and western edges that can draw people down to Waller Creek and riverfront trails.

Updated plans call for plaza space at the street level that would gradually slope down to outdoor retail, public art and a food truck and dog park area.

"It's not just a pass-through space. It can be a space to meet people or to gather," said Mike Fraze with Studio Outside Landscape Architecture. "The intention is really to try to blur the line between the trail and the program within the building so it's a seamless experience."

"I see a lot of improvements to the project overall, a lot of great moves that have been done," Commissioner Bart Whatley said. "I really appreciate what y'all have done on the west and northern sides and how people on the trail can engage the building."

"Having the cafe there is really great, but I think it's going to lack ... a destination driver without additional retail spaces there," Frail said.

In their recommendation for approval, commissioners suggested that the development team add more public restrooms, open more dog park space to the public and coordinate with Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority on nearby transit service.

The project's size stands at 1,236,806 square feet — 662,636 gross square feet of apartments, 377,247 gross square feet of condos, 194,523 gross square feet of hotel space and 2,400 gross square feet of ground floor retail space.

Under current plans, the first tower featuring the apartments would be 575 feet tall — while the second tower with hotel rooms and condos would be 695 feet tall.

The site is entitled to a floor-to-area ratio of 8:1— but the developers want to go to 13:1 through the Downtown Density Bonus Program. Through that program, the developers would provide 24,518 square feet of affordable housing and another $2.1 million in fees-in-lieu for affordable housing.

Planning and zoning staff are ultimately responsible for approving downtown density bonus requests using the Design Commission vote as part of their decision.

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Rainey Neighborhood Association

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