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Seeing Green: AKOYA Austin

Source: RARE Magazine, November 2007
Written By: Tolly Moseley

Sometimes it feels like the green lifestyle has two chief representatives: Hollywood A-listers who drive luxe hybrids, and dreadlocked co-op residents who ride bikes. These days however, more mainstream folks are flirting with the green lifestyle but don’t know where to begin. Buy organic? Wear Stella McCartney? Fortunately for eco-curious Austinites, environmentally-conscious products, clothes, and restaurants are fairly abundant in our city – this is home of the flagship Whole Foods, after all – and now, we can add “green condos” to the local list of eco-friendly resources.

AKOYA Austin is the brainchild of Stuart Thomajan, CEO of The Chameleon Group, a local investment organization. “The whole feel that we’re striving for at AKOYA is the ‘understated elegant’ look,” says Thomajan. “I’m a huge fan of the French West Indies, and St. Barts specifically. We wanted to re-create that feeling because we thought it would do well in Austin – that whole warm and clean, laid-back and cool environment.”

So how did Thomajan channel St. Barts here in Central Texas? The Chameleon Group first searched for a property that would accommodate both a central courtyard and a pool, but was still located in the heart of the city. “It was a priority to use a property not too far out, because we wanted to retain that fun, hip energy of downtown Austin,” says Thomajan. His company purchased the Barton Court apartment complex at 2200 Dickson Drive, just off South Lamar Boulevard – “about a mile away from Whole Foods,” Thomajan explains. The company then approached Michael Hsu Design Office, the design team behind Uchi, to develop modern, intimate living units. Some of the green highlights? Think bamboo flooring, energy efficient and Euro-style washers and dryers, and double-pane windows for effective insulation.

But the best kind of green? That which you will not be spending. While the average price of a home in south Austin hovers around $300,000, units at AKOYA start at $140,000. Of the property’s 64 units, half are one bed/one bath, half are two bed/two bath. “Most of our buyers tend to be young, professional couples, and this is their first home purchase,” says Will Steakley of Urbanspace Realtors, the marketing team behind AKOYA.

AKOYA’s shiniest accolade to date is its pending 4-star green rating, to be granted by the City of Austin. “We are currently the first and only 4-star green condominiums in town,” says Thomajan. Since the project is an extensive remodel/conversion – a thorough overhaul of an existing property, rather than starting from scratch – its construction materials were selected mainly based on their green friendliness, low maintenance requirements, recycled content and potential for future reuse and of course an important source of materials was from the site itself. For example, “There are approximately ten 40-foot palm trees at AKOYA that were there already on the existing site,” says Steakley. “We dug them up, trimmed them, and replanted them on the property in different patterns.” Oh, and those bricks to build the barbecue pits at the outdoor community kitchen and the walls surrounding portions of the pool? Re-used from the original building’s exterior walls.

Much like AKOYA’s green island-oasis feel in the middle of bustling 78704, both Steakley and Thomajan feel the project is only an extension of Austin’s charmingly “different” status in the middle of Texas. “I love this city. I love visiting New York, Vancouver, cities we enjoy for fun and research for potential Austin projects,” says Steakley. “But we have our own little culture here. Whenever we leave for a week or two, I always came back saying, ‘thank God!’”

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© 2007 AKOYA Austin. All Rights Reserved. Email sales@akoyaaustin.com for more information

This is not an offer where prohibited by state law. All advertising, promotional materials, site plans and pricing information associated with the project and the units, if any, are preliminary in nature and are subject to change by the developer without notice. Pricing and availability are subject to change without notice.