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Austin skyline to change with new hotel

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The Austin skyline is continuing to change. One new project that scheduled to add to the change is also causing some concern for business owners along Congress Ave.

The two buildings at the intersection of Littlefield and Scarbrough were once the focus of Austin’s first skyscraper race. They’re overshadowed now by much more modern designs and one, a block away is the latest to cause some concern.

For the past year in a parking lot at the corner of 7th St. and Congress, the crew at Kababalicios has been serving up food. But moving plans are in the works because the corner is set to be transformed into a new high-rise hotel called Aloft.

"It’s definitely going to hurt, it’s going to take a little time to build back up to where we move to so people realize as to where we are ... and find us again," Kababalicios Manager, Austin Gonzales said.

The hotel will also demolish part of a building where Wholly Cow Burgers is located. Next door, The Hideout, a coffee shop and Improve Theater will be spared but co-owner Kareem Badr is worried the two to three year construction project may damage the building and drive off customers.

"If it’s just the coffee house will be impacted I can run some numbers and see what will happen if lose 25 percent of our business during the day, but if it’s the kind of thing where they're doing noisy construction for a year that renders our improve theater completely useless in the evening, that destroys half the business, we couldn’t sustain that," Badr said.

Badr wants the hotel ownership to put a promise of being a good neighbor into writing.

For the next few years, more structures like this will be going up downtown. As of the past fall, there were more than 50 projects underway or on the way in the core of Austin.

A city website tries to keep pace with the hi-rise boom, which is a mix of residential and commercial structures. They vary in shapes and sizes. Some will obliterate entire city blocks. Others like this project between 9th St. and 10th St. are designed to set behind historic buildings.

"It’s certainly density up,” said Jude Galligan, who tracks downtown growth.

Galligan is also a member of the city Downtown Commission and believes the boom is far from over.

"There is the re-urbanization occurring, we can’t ignore it is happening, and we have a huge migration of people from across the country into Austin and if we don’t manage that growth with mass transit and vertical density, it’s going to be really bad for everyone who lives here," Galligan said.

A rendering by a local blogger shows Austin’s future skyline.

As projection becomes reality, longtime residents like Brook Henckel hope a balance can be found between old and new.

"It’s part of what Austin is, these little businesses, and food trucks, it’s what Austin is known for, but change is sort of inevitable," Henckel said.

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