Austin has experienced steady growth in the past decade, with its tech scene continuing to blossom. The metro attracted some of the biggest names in the tech industry—such as Oracle, Samsung and Tesla—an influx that translates into a growing need for modern office space with a wide array of amenities.
And while it’s true that the pandemic has impacted office leasing activity across the metro, construction has maintained momentum. According to CommercialEdge data, some 8.8 million square feet of space across 49 properties were under construction in Austin as of July.
Springdale Green is one of the largest and most amenity-heavy office projects currently underway in the vibrant East Austin submarket. The mixed-use development is set to feature 872,500 square feet across two six-story buildings and it is taking shape on a brownfield site formally used by oil companies to store fuel and chemicals.
A partnership between Jay Paul Co., Gensler and local landscape architect dwg is behind Springdale Green. Targeting LEED Gold certification and planning to become Austin’s first office campus to meet Sustainable SITES standards, the project focuses heavily on outdoor space, utilizing native meadows, woodland and plantings. George Blume, Gensler’s design director and the project leader for Springdale Green, revealed both the challenges and the exciting elements of this unique, green-oriented development.
What made you choose East Austin for Springdale Green?
Blume: East Austin is a wild and creative part of the city with amazing energy, lush verdant landscapes and a place where you can experience the unexpected—a quality we sought for Springdale Green.
The site selected for the project had to undergo rezoning. Please tell us a few details about how this process went and what it entailed.
Blume: Rezoning was essential to achieve the right density, achieve the highest and best use of the land, as well as serve the community. In fact, the owners have devoted more than $7 million in community benefits and will also help correct persistent flooding and drainage issues that currently affect local residents.
Previously a “tank farm,” the project’s site was used by oil companies to store fuel and other harmful chemicals. How are you preparing the site for development?
Blume: The ground soil will undergo extensive treatment, along with restoration of the flood plain to make the site and experience as verdant and health-focused as possible.
More than two-thirds of the site will be preserved and restored with native meadows, woodland and plantings. What determined you to allot such a significant portion of the site to environmental restoration?
Blume: The majority of this land is in a flood plain, and as such, is beautiful and lush. It is unusual to have this much natural landscape in an urban area of Austin, which is why we are making every effort to preserve it as integral part of the office campus.
Please tell us more about the sustainable features that will make the project unique.
Blume: High-performance, energy-conserving building enclosures combined with state-of-the-art mechanical systems will optimize the performance of the project.
Other features include a 600,000-gallon underground cistern which will capture and store rainwater, as well as harvest air conditioning condensate that will be used for irrigation. The entire site’s stormwater will be treated and cleaned using rain gardens and a bio-retention basin that will help prevent downstream flooding.
In addition, an on-site parking garage will support multiple modes of transportation, including secure indoor storage for 308 bikes and 46 electric vehicle charging stations, expandable to support a total of 345 electric vehicles.
Did the 2020 experience change the design of the project in any way?
Blume: We had always designed the project around the healing qualities of nature and establishing a connection to the outdoors, prior to 2020. What is interesting is the pandemic only amplified the need for wellness-focused spaces and outdoor amenities, so in a sense, we were a bit ahead of the times.
Are there any elements of the project you are particularly excited about?
Blume: The landscape is almost resort-like in its beauty and we are very much looking forward to sharing it with the market. With elements like raw, exposed concrete and artisanal terracotta, the aesthetic inspires a level of design never seen in this market for a commercial office project. The team used a series of “rules” that would empower us to create something “unexpected” as previously noted. The flowing geometries, lack of corners, abundant curves, are all examples of this ethos.
How do you expect Springdale Green to impact Austin’s office market?
Blume: We hope to shake it up and provide a slightly different type of office building for the Austin market. With large flowing floorplates, unique architectural aesthetics and natural beauty, Springdale Green will be the epitome of a modern, wellness-focused workplace designed for Austin’s creative professionals.