Austin Power: “You can’t turn me on.”
Austin Powers: “Au contraire baby, you can’t resist me.”
Austin Power’s getting turned back on, after two-plus dormant decades, as its transformation from an Art Deco design icon to a “future urban oasis . . . in downtown Austin” gets underway. Our city can’t resist a redevelopment opportunity this big in such a prime location.
Built between 1950-1958 and intended as a coal power plant, the Seaholm Power Plant building boasts three-foot thick concrete walls, includes a towering turbine room and is lit by clerestory windows that flood its three lower floors with sunlight. Before the building’s completion, it was converted to burn fuel oil, and later natural gas, but its energy-generating life ceased in 1989. Imagine that, not being turned on for 24 years.
Underutilized ever since, Seaholm’s rebirth comes with inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The project’s developers, Seaholm LLC, envision the 7.8-acre site with a mix of office space, local retail shops, restaurants, contemporary apartments, Traders Joe’s and an outdoor terrace overlooking Lady Bird Lake.
Walter Seaholm, a former utility director and city manager whose name was posthumously dedicated to the plant, sadly did not live to see any Austin Powers movies, either. ♣
BUY A PRINT: Choose from 99+ Vanishing Austin prints and a poster by Jann Alexander, starting at $25.
Shop my Vanishing Austin series: While many Austin landmarks are lost, many are survivors still. Admire them all in a slideshow, HERE. Prints start at $35.
Marvel at what’s lost and what’s survived in my Endangered Species of Austin poster, featuring 16 Austin icons, and sized at a handsomely large 24 x 36,” available for $25, HERE.
- How the Vanishing Austin project began
- The 99+ photographs in the Vanishing Austin series
- More articles in Vanishing Austin blog series
- The Endangered Species of Austin
This is just what Austin needs! More retail, restaurants and apartments downtown. Now finally something to do once folks go down there.
Redeveloping Seaholm makes sense; it offers in-city residents (a number that’s increasing with every keystroke) a chance to make our downtown vibrant; and it rescues a grand Art Deco-designed building from the bulldozers. The developers’ challenge will be to integrate Seaholm with other nearby districts, by providing more than mere office space. A full range of activities are needed to keep it from becoming an upscale island. Luckily, no landmarks vanished in the redevelopment of this abandoned site!