Austin

Zoho to Move Its American HQ to Austin

The Silicon Valley continues to shift to the Silicon Hills of Austin, TX, as another global business software company, Zoho, plans to move its HQ to Austin by 2021.  

The company has purchased a 375-acre plot of land in southeast Austin near the airport (Texas State Highway 71 near Kellam Road), and is planning to build a 100,000 SF campus on this site that houses at least 500 employees. 

According to Zoho’s founder, Sridhar Vembu, Zoho is moving its headquarters to Austin because “Austin is how San Francisco used to be 30 years ago. It had the weirdness. It had all this stuff. The artists and the live music.”  And Vembu has pledged that Zoho will help keep Austin weird by doing things a little differently. 

Here Are 5 Ways That Zoho Will Help “Keep Austin Weird”

1. Zoho is privately owned and debt free.  Without the pressure from Wall Street or outside investors, Zoho doesn’t have to worry about making certain numbers and is free to exert more independence in creating a very unique company culture.

2. Zoho doesn’t merge or acquire products from any other company; instead, it develops all of its own software.

3.  Zoho is not going to seek incentives from local or state government or ask for tax abatements on the property. 

4. Zoho is moving to a piece of farmland on the outskirts of Austin rather than renting a space in downtown Austin because it’s a money saver. In fact, it actually costs less to buy the 375-acre plot of land out by the airport than it did to buy Zoho’s other 45-acre main campus in India!

 5.  Zoho plans to start an in-house education program called Zoho University that works closely with local schools to teach students skills and to educate its own employees to advance their positions within the company.  This program, Zoho University, is an alternative to a traditional college education and has been remarkably successful in India. At the school, Zoho pays students to learn how to create and use Zoho software. It hires many of its graduates. In fact, 15 percent of Zoho’s engineering workforce is made up of graduates from Zoho University.

"We create our own talent with Zoho University," said Vembu. And the company is able to acquire talent from a pool of people that end up with a clear understanding of the way things work, and, a respect for the culture that Zoho has created."  Zoho hopes to work closely with local high schools and Austin Community College to develop the American version of this program.

A strong value for independence, a unique culture, and a tech firm (and potential university!) landing out on a piece of farmland near the airport. Welcome to Austin, Zoho; it sounds like you’re a perfect fit here.

Zoho is 23 years old and has grown to 45 million users worldwide across 180 countries.  Bringing the HQ to southeast Austin area should increase property values in the area and create yet another tech “hub,” but this time in the south of Austin!  Are you looking to purchase a home in this area?  Do it now and watch your property values increase as Zoho continues to expand its Austin influence! 

As Austin Develops, Should We Protect All 35 of Austin's Capitol View Corridors?

What is a “Capitol View Corridor” and why are these corridors so important to building development in Austin, Texas?  Ever since the Texas State Capitol was created back in 1888, there has been a city initiative to protect and preserve the views of the Capitol from various viewpoints around the city.  Capitol View Corridors are a series of legal restrictions on construction in Austin aimed at preserving the visibility of the Texas State Capitol. This is a common practice in many state capitols, and most strictly enforced in our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C..

 In 1931, the city of Austin decided that no building within a particular zoning ordinance would exceed 200 ft.  This rule would maintain views to the capitol building and emphasize it as one of Austin’s most important structures. 

Over the years, however, the city flexed from time to time, allowing exceptions to this 200 ft rule as long as the buildings maintained a certain setback or stair-step effect that still allowed capitol views.  If you look at some of our main corridors along Congress Avenue or Lamar, you will notice some of these unusually shaped buildings that had to make adjustments to maintain a clear capitol view.  In response to the historical bending and flexing of the city rules, a state statue was passed in 1983 that established an official “Capitol View Corridor” in Austin, TX.  All buildings built within this corridor would now undeniably have to follow state regulations.

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If we count all the views protected by both the city and the state, there are 35 Capitol view corridors today. Some are just a few city blocks while others, are extremely long, like the corridor that goes out to the 360 bridge.

map courtesy of ftp.austintexas.gov

map courtesy of ftp.austintexas.gov

Today, as development is at a premium in downtown Austin, there has been much discussion if all 35 viewpoints of this capitol corridor still need to be protected today. What is your opinion? Do you think it is important that the city & state maintain a Capitol View Corridor? Should the Texas State Capitol remain the centerpiece of Austin’s skyline? As development pressure increases, time will only tell how many “exceptions” or “revisions” will be made to these state statutes in the future. But for now, enjoy those views of the dome and the goddess of liberty that you see from over this beautiful city.

What is to Become of the Austin American Statesman Site?

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For many years, the 19-acre Austin American Statesman site has occupied a coveted spot just South of downtown, overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

 With the advent of the digital age, the Statesman has been downsizing its staff size over recent years and outsourcing some of its printing operations. This recent downsizing, along with the sale of the property in 2016 to a different family member within the Cox family of companies, has many people speculating what development will come next on one of the most coveted lakeside spots in Austin.

Due to its prime location, many developers in the city feel that the Statesman site is one of the most important keys to unlocking a successful “South Central Waterfront” initiative, which is a plan to “guide redevelopment along Lady Bird Lake’s south shore that includes a unified street grid, more open spaces, enhanced connections to the hike-and-bike trail and other public uses,” according to the city of Austin website.

 With a zoning change from the city, the Statesman site could accommodate as much as 3 million square feet of development, some experts estimate. The property is valued on the county’s appraisal rolls at $48.5 million.

 Some of the mixed-used proposals for the 19-acre site have included offices, homes, shops, a smaller Statesman building, and perhaps even a hotel— about 2.1 million square feet of development in all.   This plan would completely change the look of  the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake, and would allow continued expansion of downtown just across the water.   A large portion of downtown is composed of government or church owned buildings, so to have such a large swath of land potentially open up for private development is incredibly exciting to city officials and the Endeavor Real Estate group, who has recently been named as master developer for the Statesman site.  Endeavor is the same group that developed the Domain in North Austin.

However, with such a prime piece of land comes lots of opinions about what kind of project should get built there.  Most of the property is outside of the Capitol View Corridor, which places a restriction on building heights in the downtown area in order to maintain multiple views of the Texas Capitol Building, but since it is located lakeside, there is an initiative to keep the development as “green” as possible.

A rendering of the potential development to take place in future years on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, across from downtown.

A rendering of the potential development to take place in future years on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, across from downtown.

To learn more about the South Central Waterfront initiative, which includes 118-acres in all (32 private properties) and is directly across the lake from downtown, please click the button below:

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Google's Block 185, the "Sailboat Building," Will Transform Austin's Skyline

One of the newest and most exciting developments to break ground recently is Google’s Block 185 tower.  Block 185 will be a 35 floor, 793,883 square foot office building that stands 589-foot high with some parking and retail space underneath. 

So what is it that makes this downtown office building special? The answer is simple:  its shape.  Block 185 will have a distinctive sailboat shape, in part due to restrictions imposed on it by its proximity to Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake. 

Due to these two waterways and the setbacks imposed on the shape of the building to clear them, the architectural firm of  Pelli Clarke Pelli developed a distinct pyramidal design that mimics that of a sailboat, quite an appropriate shape due to its proximity to the water.  In fact, if you stare hard enough at the Block 185 renderings by Trammel Crow, you might even start to see it pick up speed and start to sail away! 

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by the Trammel Crow Company

Google will be the sole leaser of all the office space in the building, although there will be a variety of shops and restaurants at street level down below.  The distinct design is creating a lot of buzz and excitement, as it promises to break up the monotony of the square box style of its neighboring skyscrapers and feels like the next innovative design to hit downtown since The Independent Condominiums (the Jenga building) arrived on the Austin Skyline in 2018. 

Projections right now have Block 185 completed and ready for occupancy sometime in the Spring of 2022.  The tower’s site is bound by Cesar Chavez St to the South, Nueces St to the East, Second Street to the North, and Shoal Creek to the West.   This plot of land is the final piece of the old Thomas C Green Water Treatment Plant to be redeveloped, perhaps because it is the trickiest due to the variety of constraints that the nearby waterways have imposed.  This new building will sit opposite from the plaza and trail space of the Central Library, and be close to the district’s distinctive new Butterfly Bridge as well. 

 What do you think of the design of this new building?   Are you a fan of Austin’s continuously developing skyline?

Renderings by The Trammel Crow Company

Renderings by The Trammel Crow Company

How Do Austin Schools Stack Up To Those In Surrounding Suburban Areas?

The Texas Report Card has come out for the 2017-2018 school year and the encouraging news is that Austin ISD has great schools in the urban core that stack up equally to those in the surrounding suburban areas. In fact, one of Austin’s top high schools racked up the honor of best public high school in Texas: Liberal Arts & Science Academy (LASA), a public magnet school located on the LBJ campus, earned the distinction from the neighborhood and school review site Niche.

Three other Austin-area high schools also cracked the state’s top 25 list: Westlake High School in the Eanes district ranked no. 5, Westwood High School in Round Rock’s district placed no. 8, and Vandegrift High School in Leander’s district landed at no. 14.

So how are the school’s measured, exactly? The Texas report card takes the following categories in mind when scoring its schools:

Overall Ranking: is a combined score after looking at the accountability rating of each school, data from the Texas Academic Performance Reports, and financial information.

Student Achievement: Students are assessed through the STAAR test in the Student Achievement Domain. Additionally, high schools are assessed on College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) and Graduation Rates.

School Progress: Evaluates proficiency and growth as well as school progress through comparison of school districts with similar socioeconomic status. This domain is extremely important to campuses that are labeled Improvement Required (IR) as they make measured progress in meeting state standards.

 Closing the Gap: Takes into consideration successes of various student groups such as students enrolled in special education, economically disadvantaged, or English learners.

Taking these scoring system into account, let’s take a closer look at how Austin measured up compared to Rock Rock ISD and Leander ISD:

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So, the good news is this: whether you desire to live in the urban core of Austin or prefer the suburbs, great public schools are accessible in all areas of greater Austin.

Also, a piece of real estate advice: even if you don’t have kids, pay attention to what school the home you are buying is zoned to. Depending on its scores and reputation, the school you are zoned to can have a big impact on the value of and appreciation of your home.