Redevelopment of former Austin Energy downtown site into condos adds partner, moves ahead

Dec 22, 2014
Austin Business Journal

Constructive Ventures, which plans to redevelop the former Austin Energy Control Center at Third Street and West Avenue, has a new partner — Austin-based Aspen Heights — and formally named 

the residential condo tower project "The Independent"

The 1.7-acre site, near the hub of the city's most intense construction activity, is owned by the city of Austin. Constructive Ventures — a local development company headed by Perry Lorenz 

and Larry Warshaw — has had a master development agreement in place with the city dating back to November 2010

The project is part of the complicated redevelopment of several adjacent properties that had been owned by the city — the Seaholm Power Plant, Green Water Treatment Plant and the Austin 

Energy site. Seaholm and Green Water are in the midst of most the downtown building action

The actual Seaholm Power Plant — a landmark 1950s Art Deco building — is being retrofitted into corporate office space. A condo tower and a low rise office and retail building are the other 

main elements, along with public parking and an outdoor public plaza

The former site of the water treatment plant, meanwhile, is now ground zero for the construction of a luxury high-rise apartment building and a new office tower. And, right in the middle of 

it all, the city is building its new Central Library

The redevelopment of the Austin Energy Center will be the last piece of the puzzle

Constructive Ventures has brought on Aspen Heights, a fairly recent addition to the local development community, as its financial and development partner

Aspen Heights has built its business dating back to 2006 primarily through student housing projects near college campuses around the country

The specifics of the redeveloped Austin Energy Center have changed over the years. Constructive Ventures now says the main element will be a for-sale residential condo high-rise — perhaps 

in excess of 50 stories — with 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level. That retail element is dictated by the MDA, a 122-page document that includes numerous benchmarks and 

timelines that must be met before the city will convey the property

The agreement provides for different scenarios and options to delay construction, so it's not easy to determine exactly when Constructive Ventures must break ground on the project or 

forfeit its development opportunity

Though property values have skyrocketed since the agreement was signed more than four years ago, a spokeswoman for the city says the agreement to sell the parcel for $14.5 million — a price 

that hasn't changed — still represents the best outcome

Those community benefits, Alvarado said, include $1 million for infrastructure, an estimated $2.7 million to the Housing Trust Fund — which supports affordable housing opportunities in the 

city and about $350,000 in public art contributions

Shaw said there is no need to modify the MDA to add Aspen Heights as part of the development team

"The MDA specifies that (Constructive Ventures) cannot transfer, sell or reassign its ownership interest without the city's prior consent other than for purposes of securing project 

financing," she said. "Aspen Heights is providing financing for the development, and thus did not require prior approval from the city"

The Constructive Ventures-Aspen Heights team have retained other vendors on the project, including Kevin Burns, CEO of Urbanspace, a brokerage that sold out the condos at the Seaholm Power 

Plant in record time. Burns will have the exclusive listing

Though no renderings have been released, Rhode Partners will be the designer. Architect Brett Rhode is quietly leaving his thumbprint in downtown Austin as the designer of two significant 

apartment projects that will deliver early next year: The Catherine on Barton Springs Road and Seven at Seventh and Rio Grande Streets. Rhode is also on tap to design another residential 

project for Aspen Heights at West Eighth and Nueces streets

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