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As many people already know, Austin, TX is currently in the midst of the South By Southwest festival, in which music venues, event spaces, and, yes, hotels, are overrun with artists, musicians, filmmakers, tech start-up hopefuls, and pretty much anyone with a bent towards modern-day media culture.
Which makes this a pretty good time for Hyatt to announce their recent acquisition of the city's historic Driskill Hotel. The Statesman reports that Hyatt bought the iconic hotel (and classic SXSW celeb hangout) for $85 million, and plans to spend another $8 million renovating the place over the next two years.
Comprised of 189 rooms, and originally built in 1886, the Driskill occupies a bustling corner of downtown Austin and remains the city's most beloved historic hotel.
According to hotel lore, the original structure was named after Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who wanted to build the "finest hotel south of St. Louis." Looks like he had the right idea, as 126 years later, the hotel is not only thriving, but also incorporates its colorful past into its current identity (case in point: the Cattle Baron Suite).
After a drawn-out renovation process that completely overhauled the top five floors of the building, Omni Austin has reconfigured its suite options, creating twenty-five new one-bedroom suites.
Though the hotel had previously offered suites, it nixed a bunch of the pre-existing two-bedroom suites in order to cut down on space that guests apparently weren't even using. Which sounds a little strange when we put it like that—Texas is generally known for doing everything bigger than the rest of the country. However, if it's a space efficiency issue, then we totally get it. Bigger is better, most of the time. Until, that is, you end up paying for extra beds you're not even sleeping in...
You don't really want to look down when you're plunging nineteen stories in a glass elevator. But of course, you do look down. Because the view is awesome. Here's a quick snapshot we took from inside the elevator at Omni Austin, which, we admit, we rode like a five-year-old on a Ferris wheel over and over again.
Interestingly, the hotel is housed under the same roof as an office tower. So when you look down on the lobby from above, you can also look directly across and into the windows of the neighboring offices. Whose occupants didn't look nearly as amused to be inside their glass cages as we were to be inside ours. Then again, theirs weren't motorized.
We've got a copy of the letter the hotel gave to its guests on Monday. Indeed the guest who sent us this letter actually witnessed some of the glass carnage on Tuesday (glass fell from the building on Monday and Tuesday) as he was having lunch at Wich Wich across the street. (You can see a larger version after the jump.)
For the third time in just two weeks, the W Austin shed more glass panels from its increasingly hazardous steel frame. The 36-story building, which houses both the hotel and condominiums, lost several of its window panes on two separate occasions throughout Monday and Tuesday, and now has evacuated all of its guests to a separate hotel until further notice.
Local reporters were all over the story yesterday and this morning, and we enjoyed a particularly well-angled candid photo from FOX reporter Sara Talbert (@saratalbert, see above), taken this morning—can you spot the missing three panels?
This week, voters in Austin, Texas get to decide if the Marriott is worthy of a $4.3 million break in building fees for a prospective 1,000-room-hotel they're planning to open on Congress Avenue and East 2nd Street.
The huge scale of the property would make it a Marriott Marquis, putting it on the same level as the giant Times Square tower. The Austin Marquis would have between 27 and 30 floors, and create around 300 new jobs for the city (at a time when unemployment is rearing its ugly head in almost every corner of the country)—maybe this is reason enough to condone the multi-million dollar allowance?
News of the development comes exactly one year after a report showed Austin suffered a six-year low in hotel occupancy. Though those figures still stand, it seems the mayor is counting on Austin strengthening its foothold in the competitive tourism market:
Our brother site Jaunted happens to be down in Austin, Texas this week for the SxSW Festival. Over the next few days, they'll be filling us in on the hotel scene and what celebs are disco napping where.
Yesterday, Ashton Kutcher sent his Twitter followers on a scavenger hunt through downtown Austin. Between 10am and 2pm, he tweeted four clues referencing four different Austin landmarks where you could check into location-based social networking app Foursquare, culminating with a live appearance by @aplusk himself at The Driskill Hotel downtown.
@aplusk: Last stop! Ghostly apparitions of the Colonel make this the most haunted place in Austin http://twitpic.com/48xvjp #SXSWNikon
The Omni Austin has a massive atrium with a bar that gets majorly packed
Well, it's officially that time of the year when warehouse loft spaces around the country go empty, as bands, film and tech companies make the big pilgrimage to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Of course the biggest hotels closest to the panel action have been sold out for some time, but let us recommend learning from this year to start thinking about next year's SXSW already.
Just as you may find yourself at many of the events at the Hilton Austin, you'll likely sidle up to the atrium lobby bar at the Omni Downtown at some point or another. It's just a hot meeting spot, and those with the foresight to be booked into the hotel have it really good this year. The Omni tells us that they're going out of their way to make SXSW-ers welcome, installing a cyber cafe and having an "Early Riser Bar" with Bloody Marys and free breakfast tacos.
Update: The W Austin is now open with rooms available at $229 a night on December 10.
Except in usual W trickery, the hotel opens on December 9 but reservations are not being accepted until December 12.And you can't book a room online until December 16. That's when we found a Wonderful nonsmoking room, fully pre-paid for $209 a night. And the spa and the fitness center will not be open then. Those are coming later.
We're sure all systems will be a go for South by Southwest in March but we're a little disheartened to see that W charges $14.95 a day for internet in the guestrooms.
The soon-to-open W Austin will try to fit in the city nicknamed the Live Music Capital of the World—which boasts more than 200 live music spots and hosts the SXSW music festival—by having its own rocking venue.
The hotel, which will anchor a shopping and cultural center complex, will be attached to Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater, a new venue for music and events. The theater will also be the new home of the famous long-running Austin City Limits concert music show.
We really wouldn't expect any different sort of behavior from the wackness that is Courtney Love but we do think her recent hotel stay at the Driskill Hotel for South by Southwest last month is interesting in light of her recent love interest.
Here's how a Billboard magazine reporter describes meeting with Love to discuss her new album with her band, Hole:
In six hours at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, the day after two excellent, return-to-form performances at South by Southwest (SXSW), she will do the following: show off all her clothes; explain her new style, which she calls “kook”; display financial documents on her battered laptop which, she says, prove she’s a victim of embezzlement; Google her new crush’s ex-girlfriend; learn two Big Star songs; and yell at various people about various things. She will talk. She will smoke.
On two occasions, she will smoke, talk and pee with the door open, all at once.
If you're one of the lucky ones to be absent from the Twitterverse today then you are missing out on the constant updates from SXSW attendees. Half of the tweets we don't even understand since they are full of software names, hash tags and inside jokes.
I can tell you there is free WiFi throughout Austin convention area via SXSW network -- and that the conference is taking place in three hotels as well as the convention center this year.
However, if you skip on over to the Four Seasons Austin, Mark says the WiFi is definitely not free but rather $11 per day. Judging from this picture, it doesn't look like too many SXSW attendees are keen on paying this fee.
On the bright side, while the Hilton Austin may struggle with "For Square", their WiFi is free so says @Taylorchoi. Awesome. And stay tuned tomorrow as we'll have our post on our hotel stay in Austin then.