By Marissa Luck - Staff Writer, Austin Business Journal
As the east side buzzes with new development, Cielo Property Group and DPR Construction Inc. will be at the center of it all. Cielo announced Monday it has broken ground on The Foundry, its three-story, 95,000-square-foot creative office and condo building at 310 Comal Street, a few blocks from I-35.
DPR Construction will build the "modern warehouse-style" building, and then turn around and lease 30,000 square feet of it for its own offices.
DPR Construction — which also is building Third + Shoal, the 29-story office tower Cielo is developing with TIER REIT Inc. — said it has outgrown the office it has occupied for 20 years in Stonebridge Plaza, at North MoPac Expressway and Capital of Texas Highway.
Based on the projects it's handling, DPR can have between 550 to 650 employees at a time in Austin — quadruple the number it had in 2013, said Matt Hoglund, Central Region leader for DPR. It also billed $239.85 million in the region in 2016, making it one of the busiest commercial builders in Central Texas.
DPR plans to move into The Foundry by March 2019. That will allow it to be be closer to many of its projects and clients downtown, Hoglund said.
“We want to be part of the development on the east side and downtown and be a contributor down there,” he said. The space will also offer employees better access to restaurants and other amenities.
The Foundry will be half a block from the MetroRail stop at Plaza Saltillo and adjacent to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. A bike maintenance facility and 75 bike spaces will be available on site, along with a fitness center.
The Foundry also represents Cielo’s first leap into the growing East Austin market.
“We like the innovative things happening over there," said Bobby Dillard, Cielo co-founder and principal. "We saw a lot of tenants occupying spaces in older warehouses and we wanted to deliver some really cool space ... that fosters creative tenants."
An underground parking garage will offer 255 spaces, which can double as nighttime parking for visitors to the area’s nearby restaurants and bars, Dillard noted.
The Foundry’s design is a modern take on the warehouses dotting the east side.
Sixthriver Architects incorporated exposed ceiling, concrete, warehouse-style columns, reclaimed wood, brick and decks to create an industrial design. Steel from the original Driskill Hotel laundry facility will be incorporated into some art.
After Austin City Council unanimously approved the project in April 2016, Cielo waited to break ground until it could secure significant pre-leases. DPR's 10-year lease will occupy just under half of the 76,000-square feet of office space.
For the remaining space, Cielo seeks office tenants from industries where a little invention and creativity is needed — such as such as engineers, programmers, designers and architects. The building's name refers to a term for a metal workshop.
“We wanted to connect to the entrepreneur vibe of East Austin,” Dillard said.
In addition to office space, Cielo has pre-sold eleven of the 17 condos on site, according to the company. The condos range from about 664 square feet to 1,240 square feet. Independent Bank provided the construction loan on the project. Troy Holme, Casey Ford and Katie Ekstorm of CBRE Group Inc. are the leasing brokers.
The Foundry site was previously occupied by Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Cielo worked with Habitat for Humanity to devise a unique solution to meet the city’s affordable housing requirements. Under city code, the size of the project would require Cielo to preserve 10 percent of the building for affordable housing or else pay a fee. Cielo volunteered to pay $93,000 (above the minimum fee), and reserve a three-bedroom, family-friendly condo as an affordable unit at The Foundry. The complex plan also involved a land swap between Cielo and Habitat that enabled Habitat to build an affordable condo project a few blocks away. Cielo also donated $200,000 to cover the non-profit’s cost of relocating utility lines at Habitat's new location.
Another innovative twist to the project: Cielo said it will also seek to become one of the first Austin buildings to earn WELL Building Certification from the International WELL Building Institute. The certification designates buildings designed with employee wellness in mind — setting standards on everything from air pollution and water quality to access to fitness programs on site.
The wellness factor and the hip new location will help attract talent for “the new generation” of workers who increasingly demand a ‘live-work-play’ environment, Hoglund said.