Rainey Street watchers have known about the condominium tower rising at 84 East Avenue for a while. Until recently referred to by the placeholders "84 East" and "East Tower," the new residential high-rise was dubbed “Vesper” in August, when it officially broke ground after crews completed demolition of the buildings that formerly occupied the site (RIP, Phoenician Resto-Cafe).
Project co-developers Pearlstone Partners and ATCO Properties and Management, along with with designers, contractors, and city and state officials, gathered in the historic district Friday to reveal new details about, comment on, and generally herald the development, which will bring 284 condos to the rapidly densifying area. To the latter point—the need to provide housing for an increasing number of residents in a small, central area of the city—STG co-founder and project architect Jack Tisdale pointed out that Vesper will be a “point tower,” a term applied to a tall building that maximizes floor area relative to its footprint with a narrow, vertical profile. The 270,000-square-foot, 41-story high rise will be built on 0.41 acres and will reach a height of approximately 446 feet.
The building style is one that is increasingly necessary in Austin and other growing urban areas where there is a desire to make room for large numbers of residents, workers, and visitors in a small amount of space such as a downtown (rather than, say, in suburbs that encourage highway commutes). Pearlstone CEO Robert Lee spoke to how Vesper could help fulfill housing needs in the urban core—partly by simply adding substantially to the overall residential inventory in the area, additionally by offering some of them at prices meant to make them attainable to some folks priced out of units starting at upward of a million dollars.
US Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), whose East Austin home is not far from Vesper, also spoke at the event, commenting on both the desirability of walkable, bikeable neighborhoods and to the demand that will be filled by the condominiums.
“What Vesper is doing here is unique—not the lowest-end, tiny-house-type construction to get people off the streets nor the highest-end luxury homes—though these are really stunning, thoughtfully designed condominiums in which anyone would find comfortable living,” said Doggett. “What they have designed is right in the middle—meeting the needs of the many newcomers to our community and the many long-term residents who are tired of wasting so much of their time in heavy traffic, commuting.” (Doggett also noted that "Vesper" is the name of James Bond's favorite martini.)
Vesper does seem to be walking a line between touting what its website calls “luxury condominiums” and easing the housing shortage with homes for people whose incomes fall somewhere in the middle ground of people seeking housing in the area. Prices for the condos will start in the low $500,000 range. Due to the city’s Downtown Density Bonus program, 10 of the units will be city-designated as affordable housing and reserved for buyers who earn up to 80 percent of the Austin median family income.
Adjacent to the Homewood Suites on IH-35, Vesper will offer penthouses, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom condos with an average size of 975 square feet. Planned amenities include a rooftop pool with cabanas, an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, a lounge, and a clubhouse; a resident fitness center with private spin and yoga studios; a dog park and dog-washing station; a 24-hour concierge; valet parking; a community courtyard; co-working space; and a public art gallery on the ground floor.
In addition to Pearlstone, ATCO, and STG, other project partners include landscape architecture firm DWG, interior designers McCray and Company, general contractor AECOMHunt, and civil engineers at Wuest Group. Units are expected to be completed by 2024.