Landscapes of the Month: Installing Landscaping in a Tight Downtown Space - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Installing Landscaping in a Tight Downtown Space

Photo: Casey Dunn

Located in Austin, Texas, this client desired to develop a retro 70s-style hotel, the Hotel Magdalena, in the downtown area, which would include a landscape inspired by the natural springs of Barton Springs. In order to complete this project, the client hired Custom Greenscaping, based in Irving, Texas, to take on the job.

Custom Greenscapes’s successful execution of the project earned them a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence.

Photo: Casey Dunn

“Winning an Award of Excellence, especially a gold award was such a special feeling for our team,” says Kevin Paepke, president of Custom Greenscaping. “Everyone involved in the process of this project put in so much effort to create such a showstopping site. Being honored by the industry and peers lets us know we really are creating projects that stand out among the rest.”

The client was Mycon General Contractors, who has been a client of Custom Greenscaping for many years.

“We have completed many successful projects in our partnership,” says Paepke. “Mycon has always leaned on us for our expertise in the landscape and hardscape portions of their project to deliver exceptional projects.”

Photo: Casey Dunn

Despite this project’s success, it did not come without its own set of challenges. The site conditions were not ideal. The Hotel Magdalena was constructed on one half of a city block, which consisted of four buildings and a pool, leaving little to no room for anything else.

“To say logistics was tight is an understatement,” Paepke says. “Having virtually no place to receive, load, or unload materials took careful planning, with a lot of deliveries coming early mornings.”

Due to the hotel’s location downtown, deliveries were coordinated on a main road during busy traffic, which proved cumbersome with numerous street closures and fast unloading times.

The site is built on top of limestone, so the crew used chipping hammers and rock-breaking equipment to create accessible areas for planting trees. The limestone created less than ideal digging, trenching, and planting conditions. Lots of organic soil was brought in to elevate the hard stone sub base.

On top of an already tight timeline, there were five building structures all going up at one time, which resulted in serious congestion and coordination for all the trades that were involved. To alleviate this issue, most of the large blocks for the retaining wall were constructed at night. Due to location, there was no use of any cranes to aid with setting the blocks; the largest piece of equipment that fit on the site was a small material handler.

During project execution, material delivery and working around clients spending large amounts of money to stay next door proved to be a challenge due to an existing hotel being connected to the new one being built.

Photo: Casey Dunn

During hotel construction, another large complex office and retail space began construction in a neighboring area. Both of the projects were incredibly large-scale, so having the two being constructed at the same time in the middle of downtown Austin proved seriously challenging.

The plant and hardscape palette were selected by the Landscape Architect Ten Eyck. The palettes were selected to feel like Barton Springs, which is a well-known tourist destination located in Austin. Barton Springs is a natural spring that consists of many rock formations and unique plants surrounding it. Lots of native grasses, shrubs and trees were selected for their habitat as well as the design aspect.

“The installation of all of the hardscape, irrigation, and landscaping took well over a year,” Paepke says. “With the tight logistics of this project, there were a few periods where we paused our installation to allow for other trades to work in areas before and after us.”

Paepke also adds how the ability to bring together the exterior stylings, along with the landscape and hardscape, represents how impactful a landscape can be in just a city block area.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects when entries open in February 2023.