From the glittering Fairmont Austin and JW Marriott Austin to the edgy Native Hostels, Austin has welcomed over a dozen hotels in the last five years. Few have garnered as much excitement though as the Line Austin, opening today in the Texas capital. As is the case with the L.A. and D.C. Line hotels, Sydell Group hospitality firm has reinvigorated an old landmark, in this case the 1965 Crest Inn, which languished for decades as a tired Radisson. Despite its mid-century architecture and prime location overlooking Congress Bridge and Lady Bird Lake, the hotel was for a long time somewhat of a downtown blemish. Its rooms were corporate, its lobby dominated by Texas kitsch, and its food and beverage—a TGI Fridays until 2014—was woefully out of touch with the capital’s renowned dining scene.
A top-to-bottom overhaul that includes expanded guest rooms and new public and meeting spaces not only rescued the institution, but also reconnected it to its Austin roots. In the meticulous hands of designer Sean Knibb, the brain behind the original Line Los Angeles, and local architect Michael Hsu, spaces now honor the hotel’s greatest asset, its setting. “We were inspired by beautiful local memories like the geology and greenery of nearby Hamilton Pool, our Hill Country sunsets, and the aquifer rivers flowing beneath us,” says Hsu.
The 428 guest rooms, all of which have city or water views framed by mid-century arches, are composites of the outdoor backdrop: Bed boards look like topographical maps, modern light fixtures are evocative of a cluster of fireflies, and stacks of tomes from nearby South Congress Books cover Texas history and regional art. Sydell also commissioned a slew of Central Texas artists to create over 500 original works, which hang in guest rooms and public spaces.
Like the growing city itself, the Line has also attracted new talent. The hotel’s Arlo Grey restaurant, which has a front row seat to Austin’s famous bat show at sunset (March to October), is the first from Kristen Kish, a Top Chef winner. Dishes like burrata in a cucumber and olive-oil broth and a damn good Texas beef hamburger with Kewpie mayo are positioned to attract Austin’s growing urban population, as are cocktails like the Devil’s Backbone (mezcal, pineapple, and lime) by ATX bartender Brian Floyd. Later this fall, a rooftop bar with panoramic water views (named P6 for the parking garage it took over) will open, as well as a 3,000-square-foot ballroom walled in glass.
And of course, there will be music. Touching on the building’s original incarnation—the in-house Club Seville, which broadcast live jazz on FM radio—the hotel will again have regular live music, local theater performances, lakeside sound baths, and an artist-in-residency program.
More than price point, it’s culture that defines Sydell Group’s hotels, including Nomad and Freehand, and the Line is no exception. “[Line] properties are direct responses to the buildings, cities, and locations they inhabit,” says Sydell CEO Andrew Zobler. In Austin, that means blending the city’s old and new identities, no easy feat in a capital that has a manic relationship with growth. The Line team seems to have successfully navigated that divide, thanks to its thoughtful combination of home team and national talent, not to mention a fresh coat of paint. Once putty-colored, the hotel is now a crisp white, born again—as a Texan might put it—on the evolving skyline.