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Architect Collaborates With Local Counterparts To Bring Mixed-Use Projects To Life

Austin Proper Hotel & Residences in Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas, is perhaps best known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” However, within the commercial real estate industry, it is known as the metro area that had the most rapid population increase in the past decade among cities of 1 million residents or more. Between 2010 and 2020, U.S. census data showed Austin gained approximately 579,000 people. 

To accommodate this growth — which amounts to about 184 people per day —  developers and architects are seeking opportunities to create mixed-use buildings with the amenities residents need and within walking distance of where they live and work. 

This growth and the CRE industry’s response to it present an opportunity to “help enrich the urban experience,” said Glenn Rescalvo, partner at Handel Architects. He said Handel Architects is collaborating with local architects and developers on ways to contribute to the fabric of the growing city with mixed-use residential and hospitality developments. Its most recently completed mixed-use project in the city, the Austin Proper Hotel & Residences, opened in 2020 and has generated a lot of buzz, he said.

“We really love the urban character of Austin and the Texas hospitality that the community brings," Rescalvo said. “In strong markets, such as Austin, residential buildings are starting to take on the types of services typically found in a hotel, thereby increasing their amenities and services to become more upscale. This is a trend we have been seeing not only in Austin but in other cities across the country as well.”

Rescalvo noted that some of the more successful amenities include private lounge areas, communal work areas, fitness facilities, pet walking areas and an elevated pool deck, if possible. 

Rescalvo said that mixed-use developments provide opportunities for downtown Austin to continue to thrive as a live-work-play destination.

"Having these mixed-use projects integrated into Austin's older downtown office environment helps the area to flourish," Rescalvo said. "People like downtown areas where they can walk to work and have amenities important for their lifestyles."

Associate principal George Tolosa said that Handel Architects has drawn on its experience designing large residential and hospitality spaces around the country to provide Austin residents with additional amenities they may have had living in other metro cities. 

"We see a lot of potential for people to live in the downtown area and we want to help make it a great place to be," Tolosa said.

However, he added, when designing these buildings, it is important they reflect the character of Austin rather than being copies of buildings found in other cities. Handel Architects has begun to team with local architects on Austin mixed-use projects such as 321 West Sixth Street, a collaboration with Page Architects. The building will include 140K SF of office space and 369 luxury apartments, along with 1K SF of retail space. Thanks to its location in downtown Austin, the building’s residents will have access to shopping, dining and museums, all within a short distance.

Rescalvo said the firms have been working side by side and sharing their areas of expertise. It has worked so well that Handel and Page are collaborating on two other mixed-use developments in the Austin area, including the new Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin.

“Working with local partners helps because they have knowledge of how the approval process works and they have the most relevant contacts among the area’s trades,” Tolosa said. “They also have inside knowledge of the culture and character of Austin.”  

Rescalvo noted that the building process in Austin — from filing permits to move-in — can take up to eight years. That is why rather than relocating members of the team to Austin throughout the duration of the project, Handel relies on the local architect to oversee the project, he said.

“Instead of having to wait during periods of downtime, we would have the opportunity to explore projects in other cities and markets, and not have to move people to different locations,” Rescalvo said. “It’s a great way for us to work collaboratively with groups that are established in Austin.”

In addition to reaching out to local architects for opportunities to work together, Rescalvo said Handel Architects has also been approached directly by developers in various markets seeking its expertise with mixed-use buildings. 

“We know how to design successful mixed-use buildings and urban environments based on our experience working in markets around the world,” Rescalvo said. “However, instead of forcing any ideas of what Austin should be, we want to help it develop in an organic way. We’re excited to continue collaborating and bringing ideas to the table.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Handel Architects. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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