With the Texas Lottery Commission would have completed its move to new excavations in the George H. W. Bush Building of the Capitol Complex Project earlier this summer it seems yet another The downtown Austin block, formerly occupied by a state agency, is considering its future – a site plan filed with the city earlier this week shows the Grant Plaza office complex in 611 East Sixth Street could soon be redeveloped by its owners, a New York-based private equity firm Empire Square Group.
Built by developers Trammell Crow in 1984 with a fairly modest masonry design by longtime local architects Danze & Davis, Grant Plaza occupies a full city block in the Sixth Street entertainment district, with the complex’s largest main office structure set back behind two smaller commercial buildings positioned directly against the street, both of which originally contained spaces retail on the ground floor to provide a more active pedestrian environment – but these days the only commercial presence on the Grant Plaza block is the all-important storefront of Jim-Jim’s water ice, with the rest of the block-sized plaza acting as something of a dead zone, especially now that you can’t sit and watch live Texas Lottery drawings through the studio window around the corner Sixth and Red River. (In case you were wondering, public viewing of lottery drawings now takes place at the new state studio in the Capitol complex.)
While the site plan submitted this week contains little concrete information on the terms of the redevelopment of the site, the project – known for the moment simply under the name of “The Grant Building” – is described as mixed-use, and we think its owners are probably savvy enough to recognize that there is a lot of potential for additional retail in this area. A big reason for this potential is the ever-growing influence of a small company called Stream Real Estate Partners, who in recent years has purchased a truly impressive number of plots in the Sixth Street District with plans to revitalize wrestling entertainment district with new developments and spaces for live music and the arts.
Stream currently owns the entire Sixth Street block of properties between Red River and Sabine streets north of the Grant Plaza property, with plans to increase the filling behind historic storefronts with heights of 120 feet or more – meaning anything built on the Grant site will also contribute to the neighborhood’s new center of gravity assuming Stream’s plans cross the finish line.
Connor Greissing, vice president of Stream Realty Partners, said there is huge redevelopment potential for Grant Plaza, a mid-rise office complex just two blocks north of the Austin Convention Center. “This building resembles those renting at the highest rental rates in the city of Denver,” he said. Greissing said the Grant Plaza redevelopment could be a “big catalyst” for more revitalization along Waller Creek in the Red River Cultural District.
A more practical reason for including substantial retail in this development is the fact that despite the block’s impressive 1.75 acre size, the whole site is covered by several Corridors with a view of the Capitol, meaning a project here won’t be able to rise much beyond what currently exists – so focusing on a dynamic environment at street level rather than the height of a new building feels like moving. Remember, the Sixth Street entertainment district is quite a recession proof industry!