One of the nation’s largest architecture and design firms, based in St. Louis HOK Group Inc., announced plans for a new office in Austin earlier this week – and as part of that news, this new branch of the studio also gave us a glimpse of its latest local venture, the second phase of the Texas Facility Commission This will further transform the state offices north of the Capitol with new buildings, major pedestrian improvements, and what we professionally would describe as a “mess” of underground parking lots. As the first phase of the project seems to be around the corner, here’s what’s next.
The second phase of the project will bring two new government office buildings into the complex totaling about 525,000 square feet — but the big news for local people is the plan’s effort to add one more pedestrian mall to the Capitol Complex. important block, from 16th to 15th streets, which completes the outdoor plaza that extends through the complex to MLK Jr. Boulevard. When you’re not working in one of the shiny new offices, this pedestrian mall is the grand showcase of the project, making the area north of the Capitol grounds a real place to visit or volunteer to enjoy, the realization of a city planning dream that’s up dating back to the 1940s.
In the plot above we are looking at the northeast corner of West 15th Street and Lavaca Street where a new state office structure is set to replace the Capitol Complex Child Care Center and a large parking lot – here is the same view today:
The second building in the second phase of the complex will replace the Texas DPS District Office, located on the northwest corner of West 15th Street and Congress Avenue, which is also west of the final stretch of pedestrian mall in this part of Congress – the is what you see in the foreground of the render below:
And here’s a recent view in case you don’t fully remember this fairly lifeless part of downtown:
That’s all well and good, but one of the big additions to the complex in this next phase is what you can’t see in the renderings — the expansion of the project’s large underground car park, which will follow the path of the pedestrian mall and expand beneath the footprints of the new buildings to make room for 2,550 cars. We’ve already noted that this massive consolidation of parking should allow the state to demolish some of its above-ground garages in the area and replace them with buildings, but it’s still a striking number — especially since a lot of state employees seem to be working remotely these days , but maybe not forever.
Despite its parking lot-heavy design, the Capitol Complex’s state-sponsored urbanism is a step in the right direction, but for now it’s unclear how the TFC intends to activate or program the new public space created by the pedestrian mall. There’s a lot of potential to make this a downtown hotspot along the lines of the new Waterloo Park, but that’s going to require a slightly different set of skills than we’ve come to expect from the state of Texas. Still, almost any attempt to make this part of town more interesting is good news for us — drop by outside of government officials’ working hours and you’ll practically see steppe runners rolling around. In any case, the completion of the second phase of the Capitol Complex is planned for 2025.