Austin’s constantly changing skyline will soon include the tallest building in Texas—as construction proceeds on the 74-story, 1,025-ft-high Waterline tower that will surpass its nearest rival when completed in late 2026.

The 2.7-million-sq-ft structure will have 351 luxury rental apartments occupying the top 33 floors that feature floor-to-ceiling windows and native stone.

The mixed-use project also includes 700,000 sq ft of office space, a 251-room hotel, above and below-grade parking as well as plazas and open space across a 3.25-acre site in the Texas capital’s downtown.

At Waterline’s halfway mark, Brett Bickford, project executive for general contractor DPR Construction, describes working on it as a “dream job.”

Neither the contractor nor co-developers Dallas-based Lincoln Property Co. and San Antonio-based Kairoi Residential disclosed a project cost, but it was estimated by media in 2022 at $520 million, sourced to the Texas Dept. of Licensing & Regulation.

Lincoln Property said Blackstone Mortgage Trust Inc. provided the construction loan.

The Waterline was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, whose portfolio includes the 55 Hudson Yards and One Vanderbilt Tower structures in New York City, along with Dallas-based HKS Inc. as architect-of-record.

The building’s ground floor will feature 24,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space, with a hotel set to occupy the next 13 floors. There will be a ballroom and meeting spaces on the 14th floor and a rooftop pool on the 16th floor.

The tower’s office portion will occupy 27 stories, with a 14th-floor amenity deck that has 24,000 sq ft of landscaped outdoor space and indoor areas for meetings and events. Office tenants will have access to a 7,000-sq-ft fitness center.

Three tower cranes

Three tower cranes are being used to construct the building.
Image courtesy DPR

Technology and Efficiency

In the tower’s design, planning and construction phases, crews are using BIM applications and other technologies to maximize efficiencies, according to Bickford and DPR project executive Nick Sultenfuss.

Using the latest technology ensured easier management of the massive project. The technology allows DPR crew members to work together to resolve issues before construction begins on the project that the contractor self-performed. Emory Sweeney, DPR senior superintendent, said real-time technology allows crews to coordinate and manage at the site.

Bickford added that a project of this scope is data-rich. Technology allows crews to incorporate speed, accuracy and time-savings into their project plans, he says.

“Monolithic poured columns on the ground floor required more than 22,000 lb of No. 18 rebar to hold the structure up.”
—Emory Sweeney, Senior Superintendent, DPR Construction

For efficiency, DPR is using a common tower to vertically transport materials to the building’s full height, says Sultenfuss, who explained it can support multiple car hoists during the project.

That type of hoist “serves as the mainline transportation for the duration of the project and will reach to Level 74,” the contractor’s website states. “All six cars on the hoist were custom built for this project, a lot more oversized than what you would normally expect. All cars will hit one common platform and then a single ramp into the building.”

The DPR managers said a traditional hoist system would have required waiting for the building to be topped out and the hoist to be fully removed before installing the exterior skin, which would seriously hinder project scheduling and efficiency.

“Using a single ramp allows us to minimize the space needed to block off on the skin of the building and to progressively remove much more easily the ramps and install the skin as we move up,” DPR’s Sweeney points out.

He explains that “with the common platform here and holding the hoist off the building, once we’re going to be done with phased levels, we’ll pull this platform out, put the crash wall and curtain wall in and be done—progressively closing up the building as we go.”

Hoists are not the only piece of equipment carrying construction materials to the levels.

Sweeney says the company is renting three tower cranes. At first, project leaders believed two cranes could handle the lifting, but they quickly realized that another one was needed.

Waterline building

When completed in late 2026, the building will have apartments, a hotel, parking garages, retail and dining space and green areas.
Image courtesy DPR

Columns and Pipes

Perhaps the most striking part of the building, according to renderings, are the gigantic concrete columns at the main entrance. These sculptural columns are responsible for lifting the tower 30 ft off the street.

The monolithic poured columns on the ground floor required more than 22,000 lb of No. 18 rebar to hold the structure up, Sweeney says.

All told, 91 megacolumns are planned for the tower, ranging from 30 ft to 53 ft in height and averaging 70 cu yd in amount of concrete used.

There also are two dozen complex teapot columns lining the building’s lobbies that share in the drama of the space with glass elevators connecting the upper levels with the garage and a glass terrace with views of the neighboring Waller Creek. The waterway also is being revitalized to accompany the landmark tower, the DPR website says.

The construction executives say it’s not surprising that a 74-story tower needs a solid base and a secure foundation, and the skillfully constructed concrete columns add more value to the structure than simply building aesthetics.

The heaviest columns average close to 28,000 lb, which is about equivalent to 21 Texas longhorn cattle.

For the first time ever, according to DPR managers and the company website, Austin contracted the general contractor to perform the underground piping for the chilled water system.

Two pipes, each 18-in., were tied into an existing vault located about 25 ft deep under the road. Due to the project’s location in a very prominent and widely used Austin intersection, logistics and planning were crucial, the DPR project managers say.

The Waterline

The Waterline will become the tallest building in Texas after the developer of the planned 1,035-ft-high Wilson Tower, also set for Austin, scaled down its height, citing rising building costs.
Image courtesy DPR

Environmentally Minded

When completed, the Waterline will surpass in height the 75-story JPMorgan Chase Tower in downtown Houston, which rises to 1,002 ft. It also will loom over Austin’s current tallest building—the 58-story, 680-ft-tall Independent‚ better known as the Jenga Tower for its unusual design.

The Waterline was not supposed to be the tallest building in the state but will have that distinction after the planned 80-story, 1,035-ft-high Wilson Tower residential high-rise, also in Austin, was scaled back last year to 45 stories.

Taylor Wilson, founder and president of project owner Wilson Capital in Austin, told local media that the downsizing was due to escalating construction costs and the rise in interest rates, which complicated financing.

While the Waterline is a massive high-tech building, the project is not just about the structure. Andrew Klare, Kohn Pedersen Fox design director, told ENR it is actually “grounded in reality” and “wasn’t doodled on a napkin.” The design team was cognizant of the future building’s natural surroundings and has opted to take advantage of them.

With the project site located at the confluence of Waller Creek and Lady Bird Lake and at the southern edge of the Waterloo Greenway, Kohn Pedersen Fox sought advice of environmental experts to ensure building design was in line with the area’s conservation goals, Klare told trade journal Bluebeam.

This also led him to ask his team to develop a design approach that fits within Waterline surroundings, despite its height, according to the publication

The supertall structure has ample outdoor space and will feature a new linear park and waterfront entertainment that is common in Austin developments.

When ground was broken in mid-2022, the Kohn Pedersen Fox team was certain of the building’s positive impact on surrounding lakes and greenspaces in the city.

“The Waterline seamlessly integrated nature and architecture at the project’s site, taking the utmost care and sensitivity when it came to environment at the creek and Lady Bird Lake,” Klare told Bluebeam.

Part of the work involves adding two pedestrian bridges over Waller Creek from the west as well as three public walking and bike access points to Waterloo Greenway from the east.

Additionally, the developer has pledged $1 million for upgrades to the greenway—the 1.5-mile trail that connects the University of Texas-Austin campus to Lady Bird Lake.