Skelly Residential

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

Meet our Renovated RV, Birdie

Diana and I always like to have a personal project that we work on together as a hobby. This past couple of years, that personal project has been finding and renovating our RV, Birdie. Many weekends, if I was not showing houses, I was working on renovating Birdie for her big debut. Birdie is a new kind of multi-purpose real estate for me—a house that can we can travel in OR a great stationary rental property for those who want to visit the great city of Austin.

We found Birdie up in Fort Worth one day and by 5 pm, we had driven off the lot with her!  As a side note, this is very much the way that Diana & I operate. We have an idea; we find the right match, and we act on it right away!  We are pretty fast decision makers when we both have the vision and know what we want.

Our first step was to gut the entire inside of the RV. Demo day is always rewarding and fun. It feels great to get rid of the old and make way for the new vision to be accomplished. We also wanted to make sure that the mechanics of the RV were renovated and running properly, so Birdie spent some time in the shop getting all her mechanical systems updated as well.

FROM L TO R CLOCKWISE: THE ORIGINAL INTERIOR OF BIRDIE; DEMO DAY; COMPLETELY GUTTED; I’M PLEASED WITH A LONG DAY OF HARD WORK

FROM L TO R CLOCKWISE: THE ORIGINAL INTERIOR OF BIRDIE; DEMO DAY; COMPLETELY GUTTED; I’M PLEASED WITH A LONG DAY OF HARD WORK

Next, it was on to the renovation!  I installed new flooring and reconfigured the water tank system that was housed under the bed.  We also epoxied the shower floor and painted the entire interior. Next, Birdie went to the cabinet maker to get some custom cabinets made for the kitchen.  Once the cabinets were made and installed, we continued with the rest of the kitchen and bedroom install.

TOP L: PREPPING FOR PAINTING; BOTTOM L: SPRAYING PAINT; RIGHT: ALL 3 OF US (BIRDIE, ME, DIANA) COVERED IN PAINT!

TOP L: PREPPING FOR PAINTING; BOTTOM L: SPRAYING PAINT; RIGHT: ALL 3 OF US (BIRDIE, ME, DIANA) COVERED IN PAINT!

TOP L & R: INSTALLING THE FLOORS; BOTTOM: DIANA ENJOYING A JOB WELL DONE!

TOP L & R: INSTALLING THE FLOORS; BOTTOM: DIANA ENJOYING A JOB WELL DONE!

Why the name Birdie? Because birds live a carefree lifestyle, and they have everything they need to travel wherever they want to go! We hope you love renting Birdie as much as we have loved renovating her! 

TOP: A MAN AND HIS MACHINE! BOTTOM: WEEKEND RENOVATION FUN!

TOP: A MAN AND HIS MACHINE! BOTTOM: WEEKEND RENOVATION FUN!

We have recently put the finishing touches on Birdie and she is now in a stationary location and ready for to rent for the night in Austin, TX! You can follow Birdie @Tinkins on Instagram or visit our website to see finished pictures and look into renting Birdie for the night.

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THIS IS THE SAME RV!

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THIS IS THE SAME RV!

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Should I Bother Going to Open Houses?

It’s Sunday afternoon, and you are thinking about buying a home. Is it worth it to go driving around the neighborhood or area that you are interested in to see if there are any open houses in the area?

What are the Benefits of Attending an Open House?

  1. Open Houses are a pain free way of viewing several homes in one particular neighborhood or area. Yes, you do have to sign in with the realtor who is listing the open house. Yes, they may follow up with you in the future. If you are looking for a realtor, this could be the easiest way to find one. Make sure to be honest with the realtor about where you are in your home buying journey. If you are just looking, indicate that on your information form and let the realtor know that you are not seriously in the market yet.

  2. Open Houses are a great way to compare the finishes of the homes in a particular neighborhood. Getting a feel for if most of the homes have tile or wood floors, granite countertops, custom cabinetry, etc in a neighborhood will help you recognize both what the norm is and what homes exceed the standard with special upgrades and finishing touches.

  3. Open Houses help you to understand different floor plans and what you like/don’t like in the layout of a home. Make sure to take notice of things that delight you about each home. This will help focus you on the essentials when it is time to seriously look into buying.

  4. Open Houses can help you understand more about the neighborhood and history of the home and its buyer. Make sure to ask the representing realtor any question you have about the street, school, history or area.

  5. Open Houses also help you acclimate to the pricing of homes in an area. Comparing several different open houses, what each home offers, and the price will work together to give you a better grid for your affordability, amenities, and ideal neighborhood.

What Should You Be Making Sure to Take Note of as You Are Looking at an Open House Home?

  1. Look for evidence of DIY in the home. Are there some finishes/repairs that appear to be a non-professional, DIY fix? Take note of these, as they probably reflect the overall quality of the repairs/upkeep in the home.

  2. Make sure to look up at ceilings and under sinks, etc. Water damage is a serious issue and you want to keep your eyes out for any visible signs of leaks or mold.

  3. Look at cracks and crevices. Straight line settling cracks are normal in a home, but if you start to see abnormal lines that jut out from the seams of a home, then you might have an indicator of foundation problems.

  4. Take note of any areas of neglect in the home. Do you see any places (pool, yard, air filters, etc) that obviously have gone overlooked for a long period of time? These areas will most likely take a lot of effort to restore or replace after long periods of neglect.

  5. Take note of the scent of the home when you first walk in. Often times scents are hard if not impossible to get rid of. Even after long periods of time, if a house is closed up for a while, it can go back to smelling like it did when you originally purchased the home. See if you can discover what is causing the scent (pets? mold? smoke?) and determine if you think that could be changed over time.

  6. Make sure to take note of the amount of storage in the home. Storage is extremely important as you go through different stages of life and can be the reason why you outgrow a home. So, make sure that any home you move into has ample storage space from the onset of purchasing the home.

  7. Take a look at the neighborhood around the home. Does the neighbor have an RV parked in the front yard? Is there someone across the street whose garage is always stuffed to the brim and wide open? Do others leave their trash cans out on the street for multiple days at a time? Watching the way that others in the neighborhood move and operate can give you a feel for the maintenance and overall feel of the neighborhood.

  8. When you are in the home, take note of all of the views out the windows. For example, when you are cooking, what will you be looking at everyday? If you have a view out the master bedroom, is it a peaceful one or will you have a neighbor so close that they can see in and comment on what you are doing? Make sure your views and positioning of the home afford you the privacy and aesthetic that you need to truly feel at rest in your space.

  9. Make sure to consider traffic on the street that you are considering purchasing a home on. Go outside to both the front and the back yard, and listen for road noise and any other city sounds.

  10. Finally, take notice of the property taxes and HOA fees assessed on the property. Compare the figure to other similar properties or neighborhoods in the area. Sometimes two relatively similar homes in different neighborhoods can have a drastically different monthly price tag when taxes and HOA fees are considered.

So, how about checking out your local open houses this weekend? Click on the button below to get started!