Seaholm Power Plant site to be developed into public space for retail, apartments


Maria Arrellaga

Scheduled to be finished in June of 2015, the Seaholm Power Plant, otherwise known as “The City of Austin Power Plant”, is being redeveloped into a public space that will include shops, apartments, and restaurants. 

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

The site of the iconic “City of Austin Power Plant” sign, the Seaholm Power Plant, will soon be redeveloped for use as a pedestrian-friendly public space including shops, restaurants and apartments.

The new site, located on Cesar Chavez Street just east of Lamar Boulevard, is scheduled to be completed in June 2015. The site will include the preserved power plant building and two new buildings to serve as apartment, office and retail spaces. In 2012, Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store signed on to be the site’s first retail location.

The historic plant generated the city’s power until it was decommissioned in the late 1980s. In 2000, the city created a master plan that recommended redeveloping the site for urban use and selected the final team to lead the project in 2005. Seaholm Power, LLC is comprised of three organizations leading development of the site along with several other consulting groups.

John Rosato, principal for Southwest Strategies Group, which is one of the organizations chosen to lead the redevelopment, said many factors slowed down the intricate process of securing the site, creating the development team and finalizing design plans.

“This project is unlike any other in Austin’s history, and it took an extraordinary amount of cooperation from the governing bodies and private sector to reach this point,” Rosato said. “Right of way and environmental issues slowed things down, not to mention the collapse of the capital markets. Getting all the moving pieces of this puzzle in alignment was a challenge that took a great deal of ingenuity and time to solve.”

Though the total costs for the development have not been made public, figures of more than $100 million have been estimated, according to public relations officials for the project. The city’s $27.5 million contribution will go into rehabilitation of the plant, street infrastructure, underground parking and the creation of the new Bowie Underpass, city spokeswoman Melissa Alvarado said.

Jack Tisdale, principal on the project from STG Design, said the team has been in talks with upscale retailers for the area, though nothing has been secured yet aside from Trader Joe’s.

“There have been some very high-end national retailers looking at it,” Tisdale said. “There’s currently a very large user looking at the whole power plant building. They want to be in Austin because of the way Austin is — the entrepreneurial spirit and the creative energy here.”

Rosato said the location of the power plant is a feature of the site that will make a positive addition to Austin’s skyline.

“Being right along Lady Bird Lake, [the plant] offers the eye a more gradual way to build up to the other, taller structures,” Rosato said. “It also preserves an iconic architectural gemstone that helps keep some history along with the new development.”

As ground breaks this month for excavation of the parking garage area, Rosato said the whole team is ready to finally get started on the development.

“We’ve reached a historic point, and we’re really looking forward to transforming our vision into a reality,” Rosato said.