Bespoke Bunkhouse condo fetches record price in Texas capital

Standard’s Saint Cecilia Residences sell out in Austin

Standard International's Amar Lalvani and St. Cecilia Residences at 110 Academy Drive inAustin (Getty, DEN)
Standard International's Amar Lalvani and Saint Cecilia Residences at 110 Academy Drive in Austin (Getty, DEN)

As high-end condos in downtown Austin buildings such as the Austin Proper and the Four Seasons draw headlines, the penthouse at the Saint Cecilia Residences off South Congress Avenue quietly sold for a record.

Austin’s DEN Property Group listed the 2,710-square-foot condo for $5.25 million. It sold in September for just under $1,900 per square foot, according to a person familiar with the matter. That’s the highest square-foot price ever paid for a condominium in the urban core of Austin, according to comparisons of sold homes on Multiple Listings Services.

Bunkhouse is a line of boutique hotels and residences designed to resonate culturally and physically with the local atmosphere. Founded by Austin’s Liz Lambert, it’s now part of Standard International, the parent company of Standard Hotels.

“What you see with Saint Cecilia is the top end of the market,” Amar Lalvani, who is Standard’s executive chairman and oversees Bunkhouse, said in an interview. “It’s what happens when you create a lifestyle with amenities and a design that is unique and special.”

Saint Cecilia’s seven residences have all been sold. They were built as part of Bunkhouse’s Hotel Magdelena, which opened in 2020, and are next door to Hotel Saint Cecilia, another Bunkhouse property. Amenities of both hotels are available to residents. It was designed by central Texas architectural firm Lake/Flato and was the first mass-timber hotel to open in North America.

A group of mixed-use buildings informally called Music Lane is also Saint Cecilia’s neighbor. That gives the hotel and residences about a block of separation from South Congress Avenue, an increasingly lively street with a significant connection to Austin’s live-music scene. In addition, a nearby former music venue, the Austin Opera House, is on the verge of redevelopment and likely to be reopened.

Lalvani said the increasing activity in the area is a boon and on-brand for the Saint Cecilia.

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“Hotel guests and residents are coming to Austin for the music and the culture and are respectful of that,” he said.

Standard invested in Bunkhouse in 2014 and became majority owner in 2015. The Bunkhouse brand is part of the company’s move into even more bespoke and locally evocative properties than the brand for which it’s already known. It’s looking at cities with a particular “vibe, culture and a deep sense of place,” such as New Orleans and Nashville and is working on projects in Houston, Louisville, Kentucky, and Mexico City, Lalvani said.

Bunkhouse also revived and rebranded the Shady Villa hotel, formerly the Stagecoach Inn, in Salado, Texas. The company took over and refashioned the small-town property during the pandemic, when “we learned how important local travel can be,” said Lalvani.

In addition, Standard International recently developed two standalone residential properties: Midtown Miami and Palacio Santa Clara in Lisbon, Portugal. The expansion is in part due to “the way the world is moving,” said Lalvani.

That means they’re suitable for remote and from-home work, with outdoor spaces for working and areas for socializing. Lalvani, who lives part of the year in Austin, said Bunkhouse chooses places where “we want to live” when developing residences.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify that Liz Lambert is no longer involved in Bunkhouse and to correct the dates the Standard invested in and became majority owner in Bunkhouse, the number of Saint Cecilia Residences and a spelling error.

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