SXSW Center

Client: CZ Properties LLC

Services: Civil Engineering, Site Design, Subsurface Utility Engineering, Surveying

Location: Austin, Texas

Each year South by Southwest Festivals & Conferences, better known as SXSW, hosts a festival in Downtown Austin. In 2016, SXSW announced their intent to build a new headquarters in Austin. Jones|Carter provided surveying, site design, and utility engineering for the 12-story, 145,000 square foot building. The headquarters will include office, restaurant, and retail space, as well as five floors dedicated to parking. The development is targeting a LEED Gold certification. The project limits are Lavaca, 14th Street, and Guadalupe Street. Located along 14th Street are several large heritage oaks, that quickly became a main focal point of the project. The architect designed the building in a serpentine shape to preserve the heritage trees.

The new building is about a block away from the Texas Capitol building, which puts it within the Capitol Dominance Corridor/Capitol Dominance Overlay. The design had to take into consideration the view corridors and maximum height to ensure the Capitol would remain visible from all designated areas throughout Austin.

To help ensure the quality of stormwater runoff, J|C designed three rain gardens. The team worked with the landscape architect to incorporate the gardens into the hardscape and landscape while avoiding the critical root zone of the heritage oaks. The first rain garden is located mid-block on the 14th Street side of the tower. This garden serves a dual purpose as both a rain garden and a detention pond. The pond and garden are stacked for aesthetic purposes. There is a garden at the main entry that features granite walls, native plants, and stone aggregate beneath a cantilevered walkway. The third rain garden is west of the elevated terrace, located partially under a paved ADA-accessible ramp. To connect with the three rain gardens on-site the installation of 18-inch storm sewer was necessary on 14th street.

The design team worked with the City of Austin to expand out the curb line on 14th Street and Lavaca Street to allow more green space around the critical root space of the heritage trees. This endeavor resulted in J|C redesigning the Austin energy primary duct bank underneath Lavaca Street.

For the building to tie into the public waterline, the J|C team had to remove and replace an existing eight-inch wastewater main in the public alley behind the development. The J|C team also designed dual fire line connections on Lavaca Street, which involved replacement of 100 feet of existing waterline within the roadway.

The large heritage trees created complications for some of the grading. Certain grades are locked in at the critical root zone and a few trees are higher than the finished floor elevation (FFE). The FFE cannot be raised due to the Capitol Dominance height restrictions. The team developed a solution – the decking was raised to cover the areas circling the tree trunks. Decking also runs along the front of the building to the finished floor, sloping downward into the street. A trench drain network was then designed to ensure that the areas around the trees drain properly.

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