First look: High-rise Hilton Hotel Opens in Fast-changing Part of Downtown Austin

Another big brand hotel is about to open in Austin, and it’s part of the rapidly changing area between central downtown and the University of Texas.

Hilton Garden Inn Austin University Capitol District is set to open its doors on Aug. 10 at 301 W. 17th St.

The new Hilton property rises 17 stories and features 214 rooms. Hotel rooms are on floors three through 16. The first, second and top floors have a combined 4,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space.

HRI Lodging LLC is managing the new Hilton Garden Inn on the corner of 17th and Lavaca streets. Columbus-based Rockbridge Capital LLC and New Orleans-based HRI Properties developed the hotel as a joint venture. San Francisco-based Gensler designed the hotel structure, while Dallas-based Studio 11 Design designed the interior.

The new Hilton is on the northwest side of downtown, which is seeing significant growth. Immediately to the west, The Linden, a 28-story condo tower, is now under construction. Farther west the Courthouse tower is getting closer to completion.

Several elements of the hotel pay homage to Austin, according to Hilton Garden Inn General Manager Andrew Dryden.

“As Austin is a thriving hub of art and culture, HRI Lodging wanted to see this reflected throughout the entire property, from the food and beverage offerings to the local art program to the vibe of the 17th floor rooftop deck,” Dryden said. “The hotel captures the distinct Austin personality, while still staying true to the Hilton Garden Inn brand standards.

“A few highlights that really capture the feel of Austin include locally inspired and sourced artwork, bites inspired by the food trucks of the city at Analog, the hotel’s signature restaurant, and live music from local artists.”

Hilton Garden Inn Austin University Capitol District is the latest hotel opening in Austin.

Opening earlier in the same area about six months ago was The Otis Hotel, an 11-story dual-branded hotel (Autograph Collection and AC Hotel Austin-University).

Also opening its doors earlier this year near the University of Texas was Moxy Austin-University, which is a Marriott/Bonvoy brand. Moxy Austin began welcoming guests a few weeks before the opening of Austin Marriott Downtown.

Those openings, however, were much earlier this year, when Covid vaccines were just starting to roll out and the futures of hospitality and travel were still murky.

Tourism nearly came to a standstill during the pandemic, and the hospitality industry was certainly hit hard. But hospitality jobs and room reservations have been recovering slowly but surely this year.

Tennessee-based hotel research firm STR Inc. found the average revenue per available room at hotels nationwide in June was 70% of where it was in June 2019. STR also found average RevPAR, a critical measurement of a hotel’s financial performance, crossed the $100 mark on July 24 for the first time since October 2019.

In metro Austin, the hospitality industry by May had recovered 74% of the 61,500 jobs lost at the outset of the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

It remains to be seen how the spread of the Delta variant of Covid- 19 will affect the industry’s recovery. Austin/Travis County announced on Aug. 5 the return of Stage 5 guidelines.

Christopher Toy, director of sales for the new Hilton Garden Inn, said his property is taking as many precautions as possible.

“Management is following not only the local, state and CDC guidelines, but we are also taking guidance from Hilton as well,” Toy said. “Hilton has done a fantastic job with its Clean Stay program and while we are seeing a return to life as it was, we continue to take on-property precautions to help better protect our staff and our valued guests.”

Inside the Hotel

On the first floor is the check-in desk, a snack market and restaurant/bar area called Analog. The restaurant/bar will start off with only a dinner menu but will eventually offer lunch. Just upstairs on the second floor is a breakfast dining hall with fullsized kitchen and a meeting room.

The third floor, meanwhile, features a full-service fitness center.

All the way up on the 17th floor is the “Apex,” a large meeting space as well as a rooftop deck. The rooftop deck features views of the University of Texas campus, Texas State Capitol and downtown Austin.

The hotel features Austin-themed artwork. A mural in the fitness center is an ode to all things Austin, including the famous maxim of Austinite Matthew McConaughey: “Alright, alright, alright.”

Austin’s live music scene is highlighted in the guest room décor, with artwork made from vintage posters of Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The rooms themselves are about 425 square feet. Most of the rooms offer single king-sized beds with a 55-inch flat screen television, bathroom with barn-style doors and unique views of the city. A few rooms offer two queen-sized beds. Rooms are also equipped with a microwave, small refrigerator and safe.

A formal grand opening event is scheduled for Sept. 16.

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