Austin's skyline continues to "reach for the sky"

The ground breaking ceremony, Monday, near the corner of W. 3rd St and West Ave. was held in the parking lot of a site once used by Austin Energy. From that spot the tallest residential high-rise west of the Mississippi is to be built. The 58 story - Independent- is a reflection of the city it is to tower above, according to developers.

"Austin is one of the few cities you get to express creatively in different ways; Austin itself is sort of a paradox so we love the idea and the acceptance of the Austin market for this kind of design."

The 685 foot tower will have 370 units that range in price from $400-thousand to $.3.4 million. Shane Hipps is among those waiting to move in.

"Everything to do with locations, and amenities.” And then I love the design I think it is really cool."

The largest building in the state, located in Houston, is the JP Morgan Chase Tower and stands at 1002 feet. San Antonio's Tower of the Americas is at 750 feet. The current king in Austin is the Austonian which is 683 feet tall. Reunion Tower isn’t’ the tallest in Dallas - but it is a major landmark at 560 feet.

Austin's skyline has undergone some major changes in the past decade. Things got kicked off with the Frost Bank Tower which opened in 2004. Despite all the new buildings, the most recognizable in Austin continue to be the State Capitol and UT's Clock Tower.  There is a reason why Austin doesn’t have a lot of large scale creative designs like those seen in other countries. Wendy Dunnam Tita, with the Austin chapter of the American Institute of Architects - says the going price per square foot here makes it difficult to re-coup elaborate design costs.

“Part of it is dollars and cents, part of it is also maintaining the cultural identify of our city and understanding what is the role of a high rise building in Austin verses elsewhere, but there is a very practical component to that."

The Independent-- may be an attempt to balance art and being practical. It’s been compared to the game Jenga, but the architect says that really never came to mind when hit the drawing board.

“I’m interested in how the building changes as you move around it. It is not really a static design because of the way the building shifts, as you go up, so I think what’s going to be really  interesting is its going to look different on the skyline  depending on where you are looking at it."

The tower is set to open in 3 years.

Along with turning a profit on a $300-million investment the development team promises to contribute $2.5 million to Austin’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a million for city infrastructure.