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Spencer Hayes' Blog

By Spencer Hayes | Agent in 36117

816 Congress Renovation to result in Roof Deck, Outdoor Terrace

AUSTIN-Renovations have been underway on a new amenity at the 433,024-square-foot 816 Congress, a class A office building.  When work on the 15th floor is completed this fall, the result will be a 12,300-square-foot outdoor terrace, complete with an adjacent executive lounge and enough environmental sustainability to fit into Austin's green culture.

Upon completion, the project in the 20-story building will offer three rooftop terraces, along with native and low-maintenance flora that will be watered with condensation from the building's air conditioning units.  Another sustainable element is the railing around the deck, which is made from frosted ecoresin, consisting of co-polyester recycled content. But the main benefit of this terrace will be the view.

“One aspect of this roof deck that makes it very special is that it sits below the top five floors of the building which are set back, so tenants on those floors will not only have the opportunity to enjoy this new space but will have dramatically improved views looking down,” says Ashish Gupta, senior vice president with building owner Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Gupta tells GlobeSt.com that accessible roof decks have been around for awhile, and the idea to build one at 816 Congress came about when, during the spring or summer of 2009, he took the elevator to the 15th floor. “The expansive tiled roof deck right off of the elevator bank was inaccessible by the general public and only housed some air conditioning units,” he recalls. “What struck me almost immediately was the potential to create something unique that took advantage of the extraordinary views looking north and south along Congress.”

To accomplish the goal of the roof deck, Gupta got together with Daniel Woodroffe with urban landscape architecture firm dwg and Thomas Properties Group Inc., which handles property management and leasing at the office building. A plan was developed and renovation launched

As lovely as the finished product will be, there is an element of practicality in the project as well. “The roof deck was designed to give our existing tenants an additional amenity but, as building owners, the parallel objective is to draw more interest to the building to maximize value for ownership,” Gupta says. “As companies look to establish or expand their footprint in Austin, we want to deliver a product that is unrivaled in the market and exemplary of everything that makes Austin a preferred destination. And we want 816 Congress to be their preferred place of business.”

The office building is approximately 80% occupied with tenants including Texas Monthly, AT&T, Gordon & Rees LLP and Teachers Retirement System of Texas. The office building was developed during the early 1980s and underwent renovations in 1994 and 2008. It's located two blocks from the Texas State Capitol and Capitol Complex, views are of the Capitol Building as well as the University of Texas at Austin campus.

Though the roof deck terrace is an amenity being used to help retain current tenants and to attract new ones, Gupta acknowledges that this isn't something that can be built on every office building. Not many downtown office buildings, including those in New York City, where Lehman Holdings is located, could accommodate a rooftop terrace. "If this project is successful, designing something like this at other buildings is something we'll explore but the potential may not exist," Gupta says. "Green roofs are increasingly being incorporated into new building design but it is rare to find existing structures that are transforming common areas to this magnitude. As a practical matter, many existing buildings can’t accommodate something like this because of limitations on the physical design itself."

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