ABJ Article: First look: Inside Austin's tallest tower, The Independent, as move-ins ratchet up

The Independent, Austin’s tallest tower, is now home for nearly 80 people.

Landon Turner, general manager of The Independent, described it as the "peak of our move-in process."

He said 133 of the tower’s 363 units are complete. Another 100 units will be approved by the development team in the next month or so with another 100 soon following.

Leon Chen and Tiffany Taylor Chen, married founders of the Tiff’s Treats chain of cookie stores, are some of the building’s first and notable residents, according to the developers.

Only eight of the 363 units haven’t been sold. All residents are expected to move in by November or December, Turner said.

It’s the culmination of more than three years of construction on the distinctly shaped 58-story building — the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi River. The Jenga-like high-rise, at the northeast corner of West Third Street and West Avenue, was co-developed by Aspen Heights Partners and CIM Group.

CREW Austin, a group of women in commercial real estate, took a tour of the luxury tower on Aug. 7 as crews finished up construction.

With 22-foot ceilings, concrete walls and art installations, the lobby of The Independent was designed to resemble a museum, according to Erin Nies, an architect who worked on the project for Rhode Partners. The custom-made mailboxes were positioned in the center of the lobby as their own “artful statement,” she said.

Art + Artisans Consulting sourced all of the artwork in the tower. The Austin firm brought together 80 different works by 23 artists from Austin and around the world.

Jennifer Seay, Art + Artisans president, said all of the artwork used in the tower looks handcrafted and handmade.

“We didn’t want it to feel corporate in any way,” she said, adding that she also didn’t want it to feel generic or similar to pieces that would be seen in a hotel.

All of the pieces have a point of view, Seay said — they are tactile, dimensional and have movement.

All of the ground-floor retail space at The Independent was purchased by Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors, the exclusive broker for the building’s residential units. One of the retail spaces will become a restaurant concept.

“We haven’t decided what that is going to be yet,” Turner said. “I have heard some pretty cool concepts, but I can’t share any of them yet. It sounds like some pretty neat ideas.”

Urbanspace is moving its design studio, furniture sales and real estate offices into the larger of the retail spaces. They are also going to operate a neighborhood coffee shop and bar.

“It will essentially expand that corner retail space with an outdoor patio area that lines the trail along Shoal Creek,” Turner said. He expects this space to be complete in November.

The general manager offered a few other interesting tidbits.

Turner said about 120 dogs will reside at The Independent. The building has a dog park with washing station. There is also a playroom for children.

The Independent will have four elevators. They travel at 1,000 feet per minute, meaning they will reach the 58th floor in about 40 seconds.

At least 25% of the building’s current residents are doing some sort of construction-related customization to their units including new flooring, countertops or paint.

The 58th floor is The Independent's last residential floor, Turner said — above it are a few spaces devoted to such things as mechanical rooms and elevator hoist rooms. There’s also a sway tank on the roof to help stabilize the uniquely shaped tower.

Rhode Partners was The Independent’s architect and Balfour Beatty Construction served as general contractor. Engineering firms included Urban Design Group (civil), Garza Bury (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and DCI & Lam Consulting Engineers (structural).