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D e s i g n R e s i d e n t i a l Austin’s Upscale Downtown Even in the downturn, luxury condominium towers dominate the market Now Austin’s tallest building, the Austonian has yet to top out at its ultimate height of 56 stories. Construction on the elliptical tower, shown at right, is scheduled to be complete next year. Ziegler Cooper Architects designed the Austonian to satisfy a demand for luxury condominiums located in the heart of downtown. 32 t e x a s a r c h i t e c t On June 25 construction on the Austonian residential tower reached the height of 51 floors, making it the tallest building in Austin. The project, designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects, will ultimately top out later this year at 56 floors (683 feet with glass crown) above Congress Avenue. The sleek elliptical Austonian is one of the last of the newest generation of high-rise projects that is reconfiguring the Austin skyline as the city prepares to accommodate an expected 25,000 downtown inhabitants. The Austonian is scheduled to open next year, followed by two other high-profile luxury condominium towers that are set to come online in 2011. At that point, after a decade of construction within the central business district (CBD), Austin’s era of ascendant exuberance will halt. No major additions to the CBD are being planned because financing for big projects has essentially dried up. Due to the global credit crisis, Austin is likely to undergo a period of at least three or four years during which no new tall buildings will rise in downtown. Still, with the Austonian and several other high-profile projects taking shape before their eyes, many people in Austin are asking the same question: will these gleaming new residential towers have occupants? Common wisdom seems to infer that a glut of new housing in the urban core will result from overbuilding, that supply will exceed demand. Not so, say those who have run the numbers, whose math foretells of a market in 2011 where, with no new condo projects in the pipeline, every available unit has a buyer. Whether or not those buyers materialize, one thing is certain: the majority of units being built in downtown Austin are designed for an elite class of consumer who seeks an aura of pampered exclusivity. To discern the realities of real estate in Austin’s downtown during the downturn, I invited 7 / 8 2 0 0 9 Images courtesy Ziegler Cooper Architects by Stephen Sharpe

Texas Architect July/Aug 2009: Residential Design

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