CONCEPT: Located on the shores of Lake Travis in Austin, TX, the Lakeway Resort and Spa has been renamed, repositioned and reinvigorated since being acquired by Dallas-based real estate investment company Behringer Harvard Funds, which, together with management group Dolce International, oversaw an $18.5 million renovation of the 17.5-acre property.
According to general manager Jeff Burns, the idea was to take advantage of the property site. “We just realized it was an irreplaceable location…the canvas was there to create something special. In our quick study of the Texas resort market, we came to the realization that there was a huge opportunity for a high-end, lake resort,” he said of the former Lakeway Inn.
The owners worked with Austin-based Susman Tisdale Gayle (STG) Architects and Lake/Flato Architects of San Antonio, TX, not only to leverage the lake location but also to refresh the existing property with its multiple buildings while taking its legacy into consideration
“It is an older property that had kind of seen its better days, but it is excellently located,” said Jack Tisdale, founder/studio principal of STG. “Our charge from the developer/management team was to do something exciting, put the shine back on Lakeway and really draw people here.”
They developed the concept of the five-star lake house, blending a luxury hotel with the casualness and relaxation of a lake house.
One of the cornerstones of the redevelopment is a 5,200-square-foot, glass ballroom that juts out over the body of Lake Travis. “When you’re inside you feel like you’re hovering over the water,” said Burns. “With the extensive amount of glass work, it embodies and incorporates the natural beauty of the land; still, it’s not too over the top.”
“It becomes kind of the lantern at night; it just glows and you can see if from up and down the lake,” said Tisdale. “The views are just spectacular.”
To add to operational efficiency, a service skybridge was added between the existing hotel tower and the new ballroom.
Also, 24,000 square feet of lakeside meeting rooms were upgraded; a new, full-service spa was added; and the resort’s original lodge building is now a major restaurant facility. “We totally redid the kitchen,” said Tisdale. “We had to gut it and just start over.”
The resort’s 166 guestrooms and presidential suites were remodeled as well. “We asked a lot of questions and stayed in a lot of rooms” to help ensure the design would meet guests’ needs, added Burns. “We thought of really simple, plain, sophisticated design points,” that would not conflict with the lake views.
Installed were 32-inch, flat-screen, swivel televisions set on a custom-made shelf system and highlights such as ceiling fans, standalone vertical floor mirror and a wicker chair as a “tribute” to the lake, set against a natural-tone palette with some punches of color.
Another signature feature is the three multi-tiered pools that incorporate infinity-edges and swim-up bars, plus cabanas.
Tisdale said to create cohesion the lodge/restaurant and the existing hotel were bridged together by the new ballroom, which has the spa tucked underneath. The spa in turn opens out onto the new pool complex. “So you’ve got the new program elements linking the two existing elements together,” said Tisdale. “There were some real challenges (such as grading) to do that.” The 30-year veteran said Lakeway Resort “may be the most the most complex, complicated project I ever worked on.”
Since the ballroom opened in March, Burns said “we have quadrupled our catering business over last year. We’re booked solid on the weekends and we’re having two, three, four weddings per weekend. People are lining up out the door to have their weddings here.” Additionally, the GM said meetings business has “really” picked up.
“If there’s been one component that we wanted it was to incorporate the lake in every design aspect. We certainly didn’t overlook that when it comes to the ballroom; that’s just shown such a tremendous ROI, even in a short period of time.” Burns said the property has increased its ADR 60%-70%, occupancy by 10 points and “well over double-digit RevPAR growth….guest feedback has been awesome.”
Owner/Ownership Group: Behringer Harvard Lakeway, L.P.
Design Firm/Designer: Susman Tisdale Gayle
Design Team: Jack Tisdale, principal in charge; David Lynch, design architect; Angela Peterson, Patrick Ohrt
Project cost: $18.5 million
Theme/Influence: Five-star lake house
Signature features: New “ballroom” located over a full-service spa, all of which open out to spectacular views and new resort pool complex. Also, all guestrooms were dramatically renovated to incorporate the “five star lake house” theme.
Purchasing agent: R. R. Williams & Associates
Major vendors: Shaw carpet in guest rooms and public areas; Designweave carpet at Ballroom; Ambienti custom millwork; Dell flat-screen televisions; Kojo linens/drapery; Sherwin Williams paint; Mechoshade window treatments in ballroom and spa; Acoustical slatwall in ballroom by AEC; custom “feature wall” in spa by Nagelhaut Millwork.