While the recession has hampered new high-rise starts, several continue rising skyward, and at least one, the $180-million, 850,000-sq-ft, 35-story, mixed-use Block 21/The W Hotel in Austin, broke ground last year. Meanwhile the 54-plus-story Austonian, designed by Zielger Cooper of Houston and being built by Balfour Beatty of Dallas, nears completion and will become Austin’s tallest skyscraper.

The Hess Tower, conceptualized in the front, right, designed by Gensler and being built by Gilbane.
Image: Courtesy of Gensler
The Hess Tower, conceptualized in the front, right, designed by Gensler and being built by Gilbane.
Units at San Antonio’s The Vistana feature high ceilings and large windows. C.F. Jordan built the 17-story brick-clad building.
Photo: Courtesy The Vistana
Units at San Antonio's The Vistana feature high ceilings and large windows. C.F. Jordan built the 17-story brick-clad building.

And as projects across the state wrap up, developers are finding success.

The Vistana
Developer Ed Cross, CEO of Cross & Co., of San Antonio, saw a need for apartments in downtown San Antonio—near the city hall and historic El Mercado—and began working on The Vistana, which includes ground-floor retail.

“The submarket in downtown hasn’t had a new building in 20 years,” Cross says. “We are ahead of schedule with [leases] and tickled pink with the response.”

As of mid-summer, 147 units were leased, with about eight leasers signing weekly. The project will wrap up this fall.

C.F. Jordan of San Antonio broke ground on the $46-million, 17-story Vistana in 2007. The building features 247 apartments and four levels of parking with 485 spaces; a C-shaped tower atop the parking deck; and a sixth-floor amenity deck, with a pool, fitness center and party room. The top two levels contain two-level penthouses. Six-ft-tall by 8-ft-wide windows allow natural light to flood the units, each with 10-ft-high ceilings.

Three San Antonio architectural firms collaborated on The Vistana. Michael G. Imber, Architects, PLLC, designed the exterior with art deco influences; B&A Architects created the interior layout of the units; and RVK assumed responsibility for documents and permitting.

Cross sought a brick-clad building that blended with the surrounding community and offered a “wow” factor when people walked into the units. Until the 1930s, San Antonio’s high-rises were brick, says Michael Imber, president of the firm that carries his name. The orange-hued bricks complement nearby warehouses with clay block and terra cotta.

“We wanted to tie into the character of San Antonio, with a statement of what San Antonio was, is and will be in the future,” Imber says. “We wanted it to be simple, strong and expressive.”

The structure fills the entire half-block parcel, with C.F. Jordan building within inches of the property line. Crews poured 605,000 sq ft of structural slabs, including the roof slabs, on the cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete building. Some 23,000 cu yds of concrete was used.

The building sits on a peer foundation, with 144 piers. The building does not include any below-grade space, due to the high water table, says Dave Baer, C.F. Jordan executive vice president of the Central-South Texas Region. C.F. Jordan participated in early constructability and budget meetings and suggested several cost-savings ideas, some accepted and some revised.

“We build to own it for a long period of time, rather than to build to sell,” Cross says. “A number of decisions with the construction led to a better-quality building.”

During value engineering, C.F. Jordan investigated many options for the exterior. Brick clad the lower levels, but was cost prohibitive for the entire structure, so company officials came up with the idea to mix terra-cotta-hued brick with EFIS on the higher levels.

“We carried vertical lines of brick,” Baer says. “It is infilled with windows and EFIS detailing. The top portion of the building has a lot of detailing made out of EFIS.”

In addition, rather than simply placing a backlit architectural tower feature, similar to a beacon, on the southwest corner of the building, C.F. Jordan suggested building a three-story, three-bedroom, 3,500-sq-ft penthouse with views spanning 270 degrees.

“It took quite a bit of structure to get that wedding-cake design,” Baer says. “We suggested spending more to have an ideal and exclusive apartment in that space.”

Cross has not leased the penthouse unit yet, but he says he is pleased with the interest people have expressed in it.