Food and Beverage Come First, Hotel Second in Austin

For Burton Baldridge, principal in the Austin firm that bears his name, the third time really was the charm.

The Columbia graduate and alumnus of Peter Gluck’s office presented his first design for an East Austin hotel to his new clients.

The response was underwhelming.

“They said it looked like a 1980s bank building, and not a good one,” Baldridge says.

So the design team looked back at the clients’ precedents and presented again. “It was a good hotel, but not a great one, and they said that too,” he says.

They swung for the fences on their third try. It was over budget, but the clients loved it. “It looks like it came out of Donkey Kong,” he says. “But they raised the budget, were all in, and turned out to be great clients.”

They had two development themes in mind. It was to focus on food and beverage first and being a hotel second. That called for two restaurants, connected by a kitchen.  “This is more of a collection of restaurants that happens to have a hotel in it.”

Equally important, because they’re used to doing renovations of older buildings, they wanted to incorporate an existing 1930s, one-story structure into the new building. “The guy listing it had a BMX racetrack in the back, with half-pipes,” he says. “Now it’s an open-air restaurant with burgers, and inside it’s Indian food, Goa.”

It’s sited on half an urban block in a former warehouse district that’s not only up and coming, but a neighborhood where things are happening all the time. Its height – 60 feet tall – was determined by city code. And that set a precedent.

“The entire street is now 60 feet tall,” he says. “It wasn’t when we got here.”

The architects’ material palette is fairly sublime – an iridescent black brick with a manganese spot. “It has a nice play in the sunlight,” he says. “All the interior is a thin brick that looks the same from the same company.”

With 82 rooms, the project is the largest Baldrige Architects has ever done. “It’s popular,” he says. “The revenue from the rooms is the best in Austin.”

That’s not bad for a hotel that places a premium on its restaurants.

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