Location Austin, TX
Size 450,000 ft2
Program Mixed-use, high-rise residential
Developer Riverside Resources
Architect Gromatzky Dupree & Associates
General Contractor Rogers-O’Brien Construction
Mechanical Engineer Bury & Partners Engineering
Downtown Austin, Texas, is experiencing a residential architecture renaissance, and at the center of the new building boom is the Whitley, a 16-story, mixed-use tower managed and developed by Riverside Resources and Principal Real Estate Investors, which manages or sub-advises $44.8 billon in commercial real estate assets as the real estate group of Principal Global Investors. The Whitley caters to Austin’s young, progressive demographic of technology workers by combining luxury accommodations, sustainability innovations, and the ideal downtown locale.
Riverside began working on the building in 2010 after realizing the potential inherent in its site, which is the former home of The Whitley Printing Company. “Austinites have embraced former mayor Will Wynn’s initiative to bring 25,000 residents downtown by 2015,” says Barrett Lepore, a Riverside associate who has overseen the Whitley’s progress. The Whitley is crucial to this initiative because it is located at the corner of East Third and Brazos Streets just a block off Congress Avenue, a main thoroughfare of downtown Austin. The location is also two blocks from the miles of hiking and biking trails along Lady Bird Lake and within walking distance of Austin’s growing number of technology headquarters and the city’s famous nightlife. “The neighborhood has a Walkscore.com rating of 98, a walker’s paradise,” Lepore says. “It’s a site that supports the live-work-play lifestyle that Austin’s young professionals want. It’s just right in the heart of it all.”
From the very beginning, Riverside knew that it wanted the Whitley to set a new standard for high-end, sustainable downtown living. “We want the Whitley to achieve a Silver LEED rating and three stars out of five on the Austin Energy Green Building [AEGB] scale while not compromising on fit and finish,” Lepore says. Achieving such ratings without sacrificing style isn’t easy, so Riverside teamed up with Dallas architecture firm Gromatzky Dupree & Associates (GDA) to devise an encompassing design and construction plan. “GDA has a lot of high-rise luxury experience, and its 1900 McKinney project in Dallas is a great example of a LEED building,” Lepore says.
GDA proposed a project plan that scores coveted sustainability points at all its stages. It started with the clearance of the printing company’s dilapidated warehouse. “The old building was mainly a one-story warehouse with a two-story office attached,” Lepore says. “Building line to building line, it sat on half of a block that’s 0.81 in acreage.” In other words, the old building covered a large area, but its simple structure didn’t require a complicated teardown. This enabled Riverside and GDA to locally recycle most of its materials. “The demo materials, when possible, were sent to locations around Austin—gypsum recycling facilities, masonry recycling facilities, etc., so a very high percentage of the materials were recycled,” says Joel Efrussy, a senior associate at GDA who worked on the Whitley project. The aggressive demolition and recycling program set the tone for the rest of the building’s design and construction.
Certification LEED Silver, 3 out of 5 AEGB stars
Materials American-made cabinetry, engineered hardwood floors, American-made porcelain and glass mosaic tile, Texas-fired brick, Texas-quarried limestone
Water Low-flow plumbing fixtures
Energy Low-E glass, brick cavity wall façade, compact fluorescent and LED lighting fixtures, 15–SEER split direct exchange cooling and heating systems, rooftop energy recovery wheel
Landscape Drip irrigation systems, native central Texas plantings
The finished building comes in at right around 450,000 square feet. A brick cavity wall with continuous rigid insulation and a liquid-applied air barrier composes the majority of the Whitley’s envelope, which greatly reduces its energy footprint by naturally insulating the structure. Inside, 12,000 square feet of retail space occupy the first floor, parking spans levels two through five, and 266 high-end rental units extend from level 6 to level 16. All floors are finished in a sleek, modern aesthetic aimed at being sustainable. “We approached the building with a holistic strategy to use responsible materials,” Efrussy says. “The plumbing fixtures are low-flow, the lighting is a combination of compact fluorescent and LED fixtures, and the prefinished engineered hardwood floors, all the adhesives, and coatings comply with AEGB’s stringent VOC requirements.” Even the beautiful landscaping on the common space sixth floor pushes the green threshold by using drip irrigation, which reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation when compared to typical spray irrigation systems.
“We are thrilled to deliver such a high-quality asset that will perform well financially and environmentally,” says Joe Wanninger, assistant managing director of asset management with Principal Real Estate Investors. The Whitley opened February 2013, and just as the development team planned, the building has set a new standard in sustainable luxury living, bringing downtown Austin 16 stories closer to that ambitious 25,000-resident goal.