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Travis Commissioners approve plans for new office building

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by Jimmy Maas

The Travis County Commissioners Court approved design plans Tuesday for the county’s planned office building at corner of 11th and San Antonio streets. The plans for the building, which will house the District Attorney’s Office, were approved by unanimous vote.


According to Roger El Khoury, director of the county’s Facilities Management Department, the seven-story building will contain 133,500 square feet of office space. There will be an underground parking garage that will accommodate 150 cars, as well as a secure pedestrian tunnel that crosses underground to the county building across the street.


“It is a very constrained site,” Page architect Talmadge Smith told the commissioners. “Many things are limiting the development potential of the site. So, one of the big challenges for us in designing so far has been to make a building that’s beautiful, functional and fits within these many constraints.”


The site is next to the new Texas PTA building that is currently under construction. There is a heritage oak tree that will be preserved, pushing the beginning of the building 20 feet from the sidewalk. The building falls in two Capitol view corridors – the Zilker clubhouse view and the MoPac Bridge view, limiting its height to 94 feet.


Smith said they used the current Travis County Courthouse building as inspiration.


“It was really progressive for its day,” said Smith. “When this thing came out it was art deco. That was on the leading edge of what was going on architecturally in that era.”


Page is the current corporate descendent of Page Brothers Architects, who designed the 1930-era building that stands across the street from the project.


“Our building that we’re about to build is progressive and reflective of its era,” said Smith. “It’s respectful of its neighborhood, but it is forward thinking. That’s what architecture should be.”


Under the building’s current plans, it will be certified LEED silver, which was required in the contract. It uses regional materials like limestone and glass manufactured within 500 miles of Austin.


“I wanted to make sure the public is aware of the fact that Travis County is in the business of, especially with new construction, dealing with LEED certification,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis, “whether that be silver, gold or even platinum, which is very important for  us and the tax payers.


The outside will be primarily glass, allowing light in, provide great views and some energy cost savings. There are glass fins that will project vertically from the building that shades windows with different textures to help control sun heat.


“So, we’ve done a lot of care and a lot of attention that’s good, gets daylight into the space and also controls the sun,” said Smith.


“The project is under budget,” El Khoury told commissioners. “And the project is on schedule.”


The plan is to break ground in August, with completion projected for February 2016. Move-in date for county workers is expected around April 2016.


Page touts itself as a 400-plus person multidisciplinary architecture and engineering firm with offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas and Washington.

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