For a project with a long lead-up, the new Whole Foods Market office complex in Downtown Austin has taken shape quickly. Plans for the site at the corner of Bowie and West Fifth streets have been discussed since at least 2017, when the Shoal Creek Walk office tower was under construction. That was before Amazon owned the Austin-born grocery chain, before the pandemic, before what now seems like the dawn of time, really.
Once the project broke ground in late 2020, though, it proceeded at a fairly rapid clip and now appears close to completion after just over a year of construction. Developed by Endeavor Real Estate Group, the new complex was designed by Gensler, which took the approach of creating a sort of urban corporate campus rather than a simple office building.
In the process, designers also brought a sense of unity and completion to the new building and its west Downtown surroundings, connecting the formerly empty lot behind the Shoal Creek Walk building at 835 West Sixth Street with an actual path along Shoal Creek as well as to an existing overhead walkway to the Whole Foods building across Bowie Street to its west.
In addition to the not-unformidable task of bringing aesthetic inspiration and utility to an urban infill project, Gensler designers faced other challenges: height limits imposed by Capitol view corridors, an existing below-grade parking garage, an additional above-grade parking garage, an elevated onsite driveway, flood plain status, and a requirement to maintain access to Shoal Creek. As much as possible, the team chose to embrace the site’s challenges and the creekside location in particular.
The result is a five-story, 145,150-square-foot office building that is sure to underline and enhance the Whole Foods brand. Inspired by the curving creek as well as the natural environment surrounding it, the building features contours and materials in a design that both evokes and protects from natural elements. Gray brick, glass, and extended floor plates with undulating aluminum fascia and woodlike soffits beneath create layers of texture and muted color as well as providing shade and other practical benefits.
Exterior elements such as the terraced pedestrian entrance, which follows Great Streets guidelines; the large, patinated copper sign that will mark it; and a plant-filled, second-floor terrace overlooking Shoal Creek (and providing all-important Capitol views) underline a natural feel that is not completely unexpected in a Whole Foods facility but also provides a sense of place and identity.
Plans for the interior design continue this natural theme, with such features as decorative, handmade, terra cotta partitions in the multifunctional lobby. The dividers will also filter light—another important element of the design; lighted from the inside, the building is meant to look all glowy and lantern-like at night.
The complex will also have a seven-level, above-ground garage building, which seems to echo the design of the office building and will feature a fitness center and yoga studio with large glass windows and an outdoor terrace in one corner.
DPR Construction is the general contractor on the project; Brockette Davis Drake is the mechanical engineer, and Bay and Associates is the mechanical engineer. Landscaping is by TBG. Estimated completion date for the project is spring 2022.