Congress Avenue luxury hotel sets opening after delays

The South Congress project began construction in early 2020

Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin general manager Harrison Compton and 721 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX (Hyatt, LinkedIn, Getty)
Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin general manager Harrison Compton and 721 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX (Hyatt, LinkedIn, Getty)

The Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin finally has an opening date, following a whole pandemic and a contractor bankruptcy.

The hotel is set to open Feb. 1 with Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. attached as the operator, according to the Austin Business Journal. Austin-based Nelsen Partners and Colorado-based real estate investment firm McWhinney have been waiting for this moment for three years.

The 31-story, 246-room hotel began construction in early 2020, before the disruption of Covid-19. The site at 721 Congress Avenue, next to the Paramount and State theaters, is uniquely narrow, so it required particular planning.

The contractor in charge of that daunting project was Katerra Inc., however the outfit filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2021. The SoftBank-backed construction company estimated its liabilities to be between $1 billion and $10 billion, with assets of $500 million to $1 billion, according to a filing in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. Katerra ultimately walked away from all of its projects and was liquidated.

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McWhinney has been hot on the Lone Star State recently, partnering with Goldman Sachs asset management to buy luxury hotel Austin Proper in September 2021. The firm, founded in 1991, assumed in-house developer and general contractor responsibilities for Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue following the dismissal of Katerra.

A penthouse called the “Artist Residence” will top the hotel’s luxury rooms and event space. Inspired by an artist’s loft, the penthouse includes living and dining areas with an outdoor deck showcasing panoramic views of Austin.

The hotel will also have Luminaire restaurant and Las Bis bar, both led by San Antonio chef and six-time James Beard Award finalist Steve McHugh.

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— Maddy Sperling