Towering buildings, hulking employers to even further shape North Austin

Austin Business Journal
April 11, 2022
By Colin Pope

Here are 9 must-know changes on horizon

Between all the new gleaming glass towers, the soccer stadium, a flood of new residents and restaurants — plus major employers flocking to the area — North Austin has a lot going for it. It’s arguably the most dynamic submarket in the region.

Here are nine game-changing things on our radar for the area.

Apple campus coming to fruition

It’s been more than three years since Apple Inc. announced plans to build a $1 billion office campus in Northwest Austin, and the first phase of the massive project appears nearly complete. Take a look at what our eye in the sky saw about two months ago.

More buildings are expected in the coming years.

Beginning April 11, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) expects its office employees to return to working at its headquarters and other workplaces at least once a week, Bloomberg reported. The company will gradually increase the number of days it expects workers to be in the office, ramping up to three days a week — Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays — beginning on May 23, according to the report.

The new campus is at the intersection of Parmer Lane and Dallas Drive on the southern edge of Williamson County. It represents an extension of its longtime Travis County campus, about a mile south on Parmer. Shuttle buses are expected to connect the two sites.

What’s pictured is just the first phase. At full buildout — construction is planned in five phases — the new campus is expected to be 3 million square feet and include 12 office and amenity buildings, parking structures, a central utility plant and a separate daycare building, according to past Austin Business Journal reporting. A six-story, 75,500-square-foot hotel and a three-story conference center are also planned.

The new campus is expected to host at least 5,000 workers from the start — with plans to triple that in coming years. If it does so, that campus alone will eclipse Dell’s headquarters in size. Apple also has a South Austin location.

7700 Parmer to go vertical

Just north of Apple’s new site is a roughly 130-acre business park named 7700 Parmer. Its footprint is mostly a sea of parking. There’s a plan to redevelop much of the surface parking lots into 1,800 multifamily units, a 340-room hotel and 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

The lawyers at Drenner Group have been helping push this project through the development review process, and Aquila has been responsible for leasing this site that’s owned by Accesso Partners out of Florida. The business park is already home to 955,000 square feet of office space among four buildings originally built for Motorola. The office space was 99% leased at last look, and tenants included Google Inc., Paypal Inc., eBay Inc., Deloitte, Electronic Arts Inc. and Polycom Inc.

The mixed-use features are expected to be constructed in 2024, according to a transportation impact analysis included in city documents. In 2018, Accesso received approval from City Council to amend the planned development agreement to add potentially add another 800,000 square feet of office space, according to city documents.

Amazon to deliver tons more jobs

Amazon is doubling down on warehouses and office towers in North Austin.

The e-tailing giant announced Dec. 21 plans to create 2,000 new jobs as part of an expanded hub at The Domain. To accommodate the new employees, Amazon has leased all 330,000 square feet of Domain 9, which is being developed by Cousins Properties Inc.

The space will house roles in operations technology, retail, business and Amazon Web Services, according to the announcement.

Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) said it already has more than 3,000 tech and corporate employees working at what it calls its Austin Tech Hub. It said the Domain 9 lease complements “three existing locations in Austin at The Domain.” The company occupies part of the Domain 8 office tower and has leased most of the Domain 10 high-rise. ABJ reported in October that Amazon had also taken over 114,000 square feet of office space in Domain 2 in a sublease deal from Vrbo.

In addition to leasing all of the Domain 9, Amazon already has eaten up most of Domain 10 and a big chunk of Domain 8, which is unlabeled directly left of Domain 9.

On top of the office jobs, expect Amazon to build a distribution center on almost 200 acres it recently bought just west of the La Frontera shopping center. The size and timeline haven’t been publicized, but a center that recently opened in nearby Pflugerville boasts of bringing about 1,000 new jobs online.

Facebook enters the fray

The big news in late 2018 was that Facebook had leased all of Domain 12, a big, new tower in Domain Northside flanked by towers occupied by Amazon and Expedia’s Vrbo unit. More than three years later, on a recent Monday afternoon, the Facebook and Amazon towers were ghost towns. Security personnel manned front desks with very little passersby, evidence that the work-from-home mentality is still prevalent.

The buildings are nondescript. They’re furnished and ready to occupy, but if Amazon and Facebook intend to put their logos on the towers or even on street-level windows, they haven’t gotten to that yet.

Domain 12 offers about 320,000 square feet. If one figures that the average tech employee gets 150 square feet at the office, Facebook’s owner, Meta, may house roughly 2,o00 employees here — more if flexible time and work-from-home options allow desk sharing.

For a list of Austin’s largest tech employers, click here; Meta ranks No. 18.

The second downtown is getting an uptown

The Domain still has room for more big buildings, but the North Austin skyline will change the most dramatically in the coming years just to the east, where one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Austin’s history has just started rising.

Philadelphia-based Brandywine Realty Trust executives said their ambitious 66-acre, $3 billion master-planned and transit-oriented community called Uptown ATX will bring online about 7 million square feet of office, residential, retail and hospitality spaces — plus a new MetroRail station.

Seven million square feet is tantamount to building about 15 Frost Bank Towers.

The first three projects being developed on what used to be named the Broadmoor campus are called One Uptown, The Chase at Uptown and Skyrise.

One Uptown, which is already under construction, is a mixed-use project proposing to bring 348,000 square feet of office, 15,000 square feet of ground-level retail and 341 apartments online. The project’s residential component would measure 379,000 square feet. Brandywine stated One Uptown’s price tag is $328 million and is being developed as part of a joint venture it entered with Los Angeles-based Canyon Partners Real Estate LLC.

The Chase at Uptown is a two-building apartment project that will yield 529 apartments, and Skyrise will be the crown jewel of Uptown ATX — two office towers rising above the entire development.

Projects kicking off near stadium

Two high-rise developments are in the works around Austin FC’s new stadium.

Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corp. (NYSE: KRC) just bought a 2.9-acre development site next to the stadium in a $40 million off-market transaction. It’s fully entitled for up to 493,000 square feet of development, Kilroy said, and Capella Capital Partners had planned to build what it called Arena Tower on the site. Kilroy is using those 19-story plans but is expected to rebrand the building in the coming year.

Arena Tower will rise 19 stories at 10615 Burnet Road just south of Braker Lane and one block from The Domain.

Also next to the stadium, Karlin Real Estate LLC and Ironwood Real Estate LP have a plan that will yield 386,000 square feet of offices, 33,900 square feet of retail space, 280 apartments and a 160-room hotel. Verde Square, which will sit on about six acres, may yield four buildings and construction could start later this year and wrap up in 2025.

Parmer is popping

East on Parmer Lane from Q2 Stadium and The Domain, not far from the ever-expanding Samsung semiconductor plant, developer Karlin continues to flesh out a massive place to work and play called Parmer Austin.

This sports and entertainment complex at Parmer Austin is called The Pitch. It opened to the public in February.

It’s largely a burgeoning office park with major employers such as Apple, the Home Depot Technology Center, GM’s Innovation Center and 3M have leasing space — and more jobs are coming online by the day. Right now, defense contractor BAE Systems is ramping up its new $150 million, 390,000-square-foot research-and-development hub that is planned to employ about 1,400 people. Apartments will rise relatively soon, Karlin executives said.

Dig this on Duval

Construction heavyweights Trammell Crow Co. and Karlin are working together on a roughly 1.25 million-square-foot office park in North Austin called “Duval.” The two companies have a big plan for about 60 acres off Research Boulevard where Minnesota-based 3M operated a plant making copper and fiber connectivity products until the end of 2019.

More hospitals coming — stat

Three big hospital projects are in the works for the north side — two of them being children’s hospitals near Lakeline Mall.

Texas Children’s Hospital represents a $485 million investment for children and women at 9835 N. Lake Creek Pkwy. Texas Children’s said its hospital is set to open in the first quarter of 2024 and it’ll require roughly 700 workers. The hospital is planned as 365,000 square feet with 52 beds. Texas Children’s said it will include neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care, operating rooms, epilepsy monitoring, a sleep center, an emergency center, a special delivery unit, diagnostic imaging and acute care. There will also be a Texas Children’s Urgent Care clinic location on site, plus more than 1,200 free parking spaces.

Groundbreaking is expected in spring 2021 for Texas Children’s Hospital, at 9835 N. Lake Creek Pkwy., near U.S. Highway 183 and the State Highway 45 toll road.

About two miles away, Dell Children’s Medical Center North is rising. The hospital is taking shape on 34 acres at Avery Ranch Boulevard and the 183A toll road in Williamson County. Totaling more than 187,000 square feet, the four-story hospital will include 36 beds, emergency and trauma services, four operating rooms, endoscopy and procedure rooms, and in- and outpatient sleep labs, plus shelled space for future growth.

Just north of The Domain, cranes are in the air at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. On tap: a $33 million, 80-bed behavioral hospital and a renovation of the St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas, part of a $145.9 million investment at the campus.