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AUSTIN-A hotel development group, staking its second US claim, will build a $200-million mixed-use tower in the Downtown. The 44-story 21c Austin will add 209 hotel rooms, 202 condos and 14 to 20 “for rent” affordable lofts for starving artists.

Steve Poe, president and CEO of Louisville-based Poe Cos., tells GlobeSt.com that the Whitley Printing Co. building at 301 Brazos St. will be razed at the end of December, with 21c’s construction getting under way as 2008 begins. The plan is to deliver the high rise in 2010.

Poe says talks are under way for “at least four more sites” in the US in a long-range goal to add one development per year to the roster. The 21c Austin will be the only one in Texas, he says. The plan is rolling out as the development group preps to start condo sales in September on a $468-million flagship project, the 62-story 21c Museum Hotel at 700 W. Main St. in Louisville, which opened in early 2006.

“Seeing how people embraced this in Louisville is what gave us the confidence to expand,” says Michael Bonadies, CEO for development partner Art Commerce Entertainment, operating as ACE Unlimited LLC. Three months ago, Bonadies left New York City-based Myriad Restaurant Group for ACE, which includes Lauralee Brown, Steve Wilson and Craig Greenberg. Bonadies is best known in the industry for helping to mastermind the Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Rubicon concepts.

Besides ACE and Poe, the development group for the 21c brand and restaurant sister, Proof, includes REI Investments Inc., a Carmel, IN-based company, led by president Michael Wells; Ironwood Real Estate of Austin, headed up by Matthew Hooks and Scot Krieger. Denver-based Sage Hospitality Resources Inc. is the hotel and spa operator. Kevin Burns of urbanspace Realtors in Austin will market the condos.

Bonadies says the Austin construction start, like Louisville, isn’t predicated on condo sales. “We’re pretty confident we’ve got the financing in place. Certainly getting some condos sold would be good, but it’s not a requirement,” he says. Austin’s condos will average 1,800 sf, with the price points still being calculated.

Poe acquired the Austin site last December, getting a tract one block from the Austin Convention Center and Congress Avenue. Bonadies says the entitlement process is being worked out now with city officials, but he’s not anticipating any roadblocks. “We’re not asking for anything more than any other developer,” he says, adding the city’s all-clear sign could come in early fall.

The Austin project has been designed by Deborah Berke & Partners of New York City, Goody Clancy Architecture of Austin and Susman Tisdale Gayle of Austin.

The 779,000-sf 21c Austin, including an underground parking garage, has a museum as its hook to make it stand apart from other product in the capital city. “We discovered in Louisville that art drives commerce,” Bonadies says, “and that’s a fun way to make money. The quality of art that Lauralee and Steve collect is an added value for hotel guests and diners.”

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