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Downtown 1980s-Era AT&T Building to Get Overhaul Next Door to Firestone

The Orange Avenue-facing side of a large downtown block will soon contain a renovated Firestone building and a renovated AT&T Building. Downtown rebirth, anyone?

A Staff Report was presented to the Appearance Review Board March 15th for the building project at 500 N. Orange Ave. The building is owned by John Sabty, WSSA Houston Blue Stone LLC.

The Requested Action from the owner is a Request for a Major Certificate of Appearance Approval for the substantial improvement of the existing 116,650 s.f. office building including new retail uses, exterior treatments, landscape, and hardscape with and without the addition of a new 436 space parking garage.

The 5-story mid-rise office building was constructed in 1980 by AT&T with surface parking. In 2015 the site was purchased by WSSA Orlando LLC. An ARB Courtesy Review was done June 2017 and a final staff review was conducted March 2018.

The applicant is actually requesting two approvals. One approval for the rehabilitation of the building and the construction of a new parking garage, and a second approval for the building rehabilitation without the parking garage. Based on the level of detail in this submittal, project staff is supporting the applicant’s request for approval of both options, with conditions.

The project design has been refined and improved since the June 2017 ARB Courtesy Review. The primary discussion about the project at the Courtesy Review meeting was about how the new 7-level parking garage needed a treatment on the north façade that was pleasing while, at the same time, overwhelming to the tower feature on the historic Firestone Building landmark next door to the subject site. Staff believes the applicant has solved the parking garage design concern by proposing some new architectural fenestration for the north façade that includes 2-3 blank panels that frame the tower element of the historic Firestone Building, rather than overwhelming the feature with a busy, over detailed background.

Other than installing new windows, the applicant is proposing to preserve the north façade treatment of the existing building for the no parking garage option. Staff is supporting that option, with conditions.

Staff concurs that the rest of the project has been well defined and detailed.


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