Stream Realty details plans for Austin’s Sixth Street

Project would shift area back to music and arts rather than booze and partying

Stream Realty’s Lee Belland and the corner of I-35 and Sixth Street (LinkedIn, Google Maps)
Stream Realty’s Lee Belland and the corner of I-35 and Sixth Street (LinkedIn, Google Maps)

Dallas-based Stream Realty Partners’ campaign to convince Austinites that its plans for Sixth Street won’t gut the city’s heritage continued last week with an earnest plea to the Austin Arts Commission.

“It’s not a renovation, it’s a revitalization,” Stream senior vice president Caitlyn Ryan told the skeptical panel last Friday, according to the Austin Business Journal.

Austin’s reputation as the “Live music capital of the World” was earned through the sheer volume of music venues that sprouted up on and around Sixth Street in the 1960s. But over the decades, the famed downtown strip picked up a dubious name, The Dirty Sixth, better known for litter and drunken brawls than live music.

Stream Realty Partners picked up more than 30 storefronts along East Sixth Street during the pandemic, when the downtown bar scene was temporarily shut down. Now the firm wants the city to approve construction permits to build an office building that will go up to 122 feet on Sixth Street’s 600 block and a hotel that will rise 70 feet for a new 150- to 160-room hotel on the street’s 500 block.

Building heights on Sixth Street are capped at 45 feet but on June 9 the Austin City Council unanimously voted to direct staff to create a code amendment that, if passed, would allow Stream to move forward with their plans.

The rest of downtown Austin is not subject to height requirements. Blocks away from Sixth Street, Texas’ tallest tower is currently under construction.

The change requires approval from the Historic Landmark Commission and the Planning Commission before it can be brought to Council for a second reading prior to a Nov. 3 deadline.

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Stream Realty Senior Vice President Caitlyn Ryan told the Austin Arts Commission at an Aug. 15 hearing that the firm’s plans would uphold and preserve the city’s identity as a haven for musicians and artists — with an emphasis on local businesses and organizations.

“As local Austinites, we thought it was our duty to come here and really create something special,” said Ryan, who is based in Stream’s local office.

Stream’s plans have faced pushback from local leaders because it would require the demolition of at least eight properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. In June, Austin City Council Member Kathie Tovo introduced a resolution earlier to designate Sixth Street a Local Historic District, which Stream Realty opposed.

Ryan told the Austin Arts Commission that the commercial tower and hotel were positioned to replace buildings determined to have the least historical significance, and would add a new live-music venue in the hotel.

The plans also include a 600-space parking garage to compensate for the elimination of street parking, which would allow for doubling the width of the sidewalks to make room for sidewalk cafes and outdoor performances.

“Sixth Street does not have a bar problem. It has a ratio problem,” Ryan said. “Right now, it is 5 percent restaurants and 95 percent bars. We just want to even that out a bit.”

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East Sixth Street in Austin with Armbrust & Brown's Richard Suttle (Google Maps, Armbrust & Brown PLLC)
Stream Realty wants to clean up Austin’s ‘Dirty Sixth’
Stream Realty's Lee Belland and the corner of I-35 and Sixth Street (LinkedIn, Google Maps, iStock)
Revitalization of Austin’s ‘Dirty Sixth’ a bit of a mess
Texas’ tallest building underway in downtown Austin

— Karn Dhingra