Photo by city of Austin
Developer to embark on dual high-rise and landmark restoration project at Old Depot Hotel
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 by Kali Bramble
A plan to develop the parking lot adjacent to the historic Old Depot Hotel is getting a new lease on life, with real estate firm Stonelake Capital Partners behind the wheel.
The project at 504 East Fifth St., which includes both a high-rise residential building and rehabilitation of the neighboring landmark, came before the Historic Landmark Commission last Wednesday for a certificate of appropriateness. After receiving the green light from commissioners, the project will proceed to the Design Commission later this month.
“This is the kind of project we want to see as preservationists,” said architect Tere O’Connell, who will oversee the rehabilitation effort. “Let’s develop on an empty lot!”
A similar project led by Allen Harrison Company gathered some momentum back in 2018, but fell through with a tumultuous series of ownership changes. Now under Stonelake, perhaps most notable for its work at the Domain, the project has axed the previous developer’s plans to directly attach the high-rise structure to the 19th-century railroad depot.
Instead, Stonelake seeks to bridge the scale jump between the two buildings with an outdoor courtyard and tree landscaping, activating the area for public use and appreciation of the neighboring landmark. The tower itself will rise to around 400 feet and offer roughly 241 rental units, though a finalized design is still in the works.
“We are really focused as a team on developing the interstitial spaces between the historic building and new construction,” O’Connell said. “It will be a public area outdoors that will really pay attention to the details of human scale and proportion, and we will preserve a heritage tree as well.”
Stonelake also has high ambitions for the Old Depot Hotel, which has been unoccupied since the closure of longstanding Italian restaurant Carmelo’s in 2017. Constructed in 1872, the building is overdue for a significant amount of maintenance, including masonry restoration, roof repair, and plumbing and electrical work. O’Connell’s team plans to remove non-historic kitchen, dining room and fence additions, as well as restore windows to their historic appearance.
Once finished, Stonelake hopes it can find a worthy food and beverage or commercial tenant that can supplement the neighboring residential tower and reopen the historic building for public appreciation. Such a project could contribute to Council efforts to revitalize Sixth Street, answering calls to reintroduce more mixed and daytime-use spaces that might counteract the district’s seedy nightlife reputation.
Those interested in the project can stay tuned for an update at the Design Commission on Monday, June 27.
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