AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Digging down, for the past several months, has been the job on a North Congress construction site. There are currently two big holes which are located between MLK & 15th.
Both are 5 stories deep, but things are about to turn up according to John Raff with the Texas Facilities Commission. "It's extremely exciting, this is a career project for a lot of us in terms of the significance of it, for the state as well as obviously the size and complexity of it," said Raff.
The property on North Congress, undergoing this remodeling, is controlled by the facilities commission. It is a project costing almost $900 million. Phase 1 involves replacing the roadway and surface parking lots with a pedestrian only capitol mall.
Most of the parking is moving underground.
The transition from concrete to grass is a welcomed move for U.T. student Kaylee Graybill. "Austin is all about green space, promoting people to be outside, campus is right here, all these complexes will people to go outside and enjoy it," said Graybill.
The project is also anchored by two new high-rises. The 1601 building near the capitol is a clear glass structure. The other at 1801 North Congress is located across from the Bullock Museum and named after President George H.W. Bush. There is room for about 3,000 state employees who could start moving in by the Spring of 2022. "You gain perspective, the longer you are in the business, and 3 years is not a very long time," said Raff.
A child care center for state employees, located at 15th & Lavaca, will be one of the first tenants to move in. Vacating this area opens the way for Phase 2 and another state building.
The main idea for all this is not about urban renewal but about saving tax dollars.
The new buildings will be eliminating lease deals that several state agencies are having to pay. "The cost of those leases, a lot of people know, has been going up over the years and it's just a time now where it makes sense," said Raff.
Its estimated the annual savings will be about $25 million. That money will be used to pay off the construction bonds. No major commercial retail will be allowed in the new complex because of the way project is financed. But a cultural arts venue will be located inside the Bush building which is to complement the Bullock and Blanton museums.