A new Look
Austin's next iconic high-rise sets sail downtown with Google on board
Topped by what’s labeled a “pyramidal crown,” the 33-story Frost Bank Tower debuted in 2004 at East Fourth Street and Congress Avenue. It soon earned the nickname of the “Owl Building,” thanks to the owl-eye circles — actually Frost Bank logos — near the top of the high-rise.
Not far from the Frost Bank Tower is The Independent, a soon-to-open, 57-story condo tower. The building, at West Fifth Street and West Avenue, bears a strong resemblance to a stack of blocks, thus prompting people to dub it the “Jenga Building.”
Now, another one-of-a-kind structure is set to grace Austin’s downtown skyline. The 35-story office tower has neither a name nor a nickname yet, although it aptly could be christened the “Sailboat Building,” given the sail-like shape of its east and west sides.
The tower’s architects envision it being “a new icon for Austin.”
Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow Co. broke ground on the project in February. Construction is scheduled to be finished in May 2022. Google already has gobbled up all of the office space in the high-rise, which will feature nearly 794,000 rentable square feet.
At a recent meeting of the Austin Design Commission, project architects provided a preview of the Google tower. Bill Butler, principal of New Haven, Connecticut-based Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, said that based on its location — bordered by West Second Street to the north, West Caesar Chavez Street to the south, Nueces Street to the east, and Shoal Creek to the west — the building will serve as a “gateway to downtown.” It’ll sit about 200 feet north of Lady Bird Lake at 601 W. Second St. (next to Austin’s new Central Library), thus offering prime waterfront views.
The gleaming glass-and-steel office tower will add to the character of Austin, “but most importantly [it] will put forth the values of the city and really extend a kind of sense of how Austin likes to occupy the workplace [and] also how it respects the open public-space environment,” according to Butler.
Butler added that the tower “complements” the current skyline “but also stands out as being unique.”
On the Caesar Chavez side, the building will gradually taper from wider at the bottom to narrower at the top, creating the appearance of a sail from the Nueces Street and Shoal Creek ends — a nod to the neighboring lake and creek. Butler said he thinks this will be the first Austin office building to feature outdoor terraces at so many levels.
Austin-based STG Design Inc. is collaborating with Pelli Clarke Pelli on the design of the Austin high-rise. Aside from the Google tower, Pelli Clarke Pelli is leading the design of the new Frost Bank Tower in downtown San Antonio.