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AUSTIN-The Downtown Austin Alliance has chosen five recipients for the organization’s 2001 Impact awards, recognizing local architects, designers, community and city leaders for projects that have had a dramatic and positive effect on Downtown Austin and surrounding neighborhoods.

This year’s awards will be presented Jan. 12 at a luncheon at the Marriott at the Capitol.The third annual Impact awards will be given this year in five categories, one more than in previous years, in order to recognize both new construction and renovation projects in the Project Impact award category.

Post Avenue Properties wins the new construction category for its Post West Avenue Lofts, 239 apartment units at 800 W. Third St. The property previously had been a city-owned lot used for storage of light poles. The developer is Kent Collins of Post Properties. RTKL Architects did the design.

“It is a good example of taking under-utilized land and turning it into a property that increases the tax base. In this case, it resulted in much needed Downtown residential living,” says Stan Allison, a project manager with the Downtown Austin Alliance.

A Project Impact Award for renovation/rehabilitation will be awarded to developer Tom Stacy & Associates and architect Jim Nix for the renovation of the 189-room Stephen F. Austin Inter Continental Hotel at 701 Congress Ave. Work on the 76-year-old hotel was completed in June after three years at a cost of $30 million.

“The economy had picked up, but the hotel was still sitting there in the dark,” Stacy says of the property, which had been abandoned for a decade. “We completely gutted the building and the scope of the project continued to be expanded–several times.” Using just one original black and white photograph, the developer successfully captured the original splendor of the hotel’s grand staircase and front desk.The hotel was purchased this year by Inter Continental Hotels, a division of Atlanta-based Bass Hotels.

The organization category winner is the city of Austin, recognizing Mayor Kirk Watson, city council and city personnel for their involvement in public/private partnerships, adoption of new Downtown design guidelines and participation in a number of Downtown projects. The Downtown Austin Alliances calls the mayor and the city’s cooperation a “crucial component” to ongoing and future projects.

The design award will be presented to Susman Tisdale Gayle for the renovation of Caritas of Austin and the design of the new Texas Trial Lawyers Association Building. Working with Zydeco Development, Susman Tisdale Gayle had taken the Caritas project pro bono, transforming 20,000 sf at a former 7-Up bottling plant into a permanent space for the Austin non-profit. Caritas, 611 Neches, provides refugee and social services and a community kitchen. Susman Tisdale Gayle’s design of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association Building incorporates 35,000 sf in a six-story building with a seventh-floor roof terrace that overlooks the Capitol.

The chair emeritus award will go to Ben Bentzin, chairman of ARTS Center Stage for leading efforts to transform Palmer Auditorium into the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. The center will be a public/private project with the city to create a home for Austin’s community-based arts organizations. Bentzin has helped raise $47 million for the project, which will include a 2,310-seat symphony hall, 720-seat theater and a 250-seat hall for drama, dance, chamber music and children’s theater.

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