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SXSW Is Now A Music And Tech Festival ... And An Austin High-Rise

SXSW Center on Lavaca

CZ Properties, an arm of SXSW Festivals, broke ground on its new 13-story office tower in the 1400 block of Lavaca this week. The tower, with an attached 300-car garage and three full floors of leasable tenant space, intends to cater to the synergy in the creative industry that feeds SXSW.

SXSW launched 30 years ago on the idea that bringing 100 people in one location — or 70,000, in the case of last year — can strengthen the future of film, music and technology in Austin. That is also the spirit behind the strategy for SXSW Center, Greenbelt Commercial CEO Victor Young said.

"The overall mission of SXSW is to help creative people achieve their goals," said Young, who is CZ Properties' development consultant. "This building is a permanent manifestation of what they believe, which is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. SXSW benefits from being near creative and leading-edge companies, in the same way that individuals benefit from being at SXSW."

SXSW has to be close to its venues, so its location needed to be Downtown. The block at 1400 Lavaca, home to the Texas Restaurant Association, was attractive to founder Roland Swenson because it was a couple of blocks from the original Austin Chronicle offices, Young said. That was the original home of SXSW before it moved Downtown to 400 Bowie.


View from the eighth floor of SXSW Center

The location is Downtown, but not in a heavily trafficked area, Young said. It also has great proximity to the development in and around the University of Texas and Dell Medical School. 

"It's a part of Downtown with a lot of opportunity," said Young, referring to a number of undeveloped blocks in the area. "We see this building being a catalyst for growth and transformation in this part of Downtown."

The building on Lavaca is designed as a long-term investment for SXSW, Young said. It will allow SXSW to consolidate its 250 employees on three floors and lease out the remaining space. The structure is designed by Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, which was also the architect on Fountain Place in Dallas and JP Morgan Chase Tower in Houston. Features will include column-less floor plates, a rooftop garden, indoor and outdoor meeting space on the ground floor and grab-and-go breakfast and lunch, catering to building tenants and Capitol employees.

The fact the floor plates have no columns means the interior will likely be a single tenant or a common co-working space. 

"One tenant per floor is probably the most efficient way to use the building," Young said. "We feel like there are no columns, so why would we subdivide the floors? We want to use the creative and inventive design for single-floor users, or users that may want two or three floors, as well. We're open to that."

The building also will include three smaller spaces: an east and west tenant on the ground floor and a penthouse tenant with 3K SF.

Young will be a speaker at Bisnow's Future of Downtown event on Dec. 6.