Even though it’s Bunkhouse Group’s largest property, with four buildings a stone’s throw from one of Austin’s busiest pedestrian walkways, the new Hotel Magdalena is not easy to find. Not even when you’re standing outside, looking right at it. “Hotel Magdalena is the first one truly developed from the ground up and is a hidden world unto itself just off South Congress,” says Amar Lalvani, CEO of Bunkhouse, contrasting Magdalena with the group’s other nearby properties: Austin Motel, Hotel Saint Cecilia, and Hotel San José, all historic renovations. The new hotel’s discreet design is a marker of the tranquil experience promised within. But tucked away on the quiet, winding Music Lane, its unassuming facade could easily be mistaken for apartments—which, if you’re familiar with the history of that slice of town, might impart a bit of déjà vu.
Back in the fifties, Austin architects Niggli and Gustafson broke ground in the same spot to build Terrace Motor Lodge. Its 366 in-demand rooms were accompanied by multiple restaurants, pools, shops, and a convention center. It was a bustling fourteen-acre stretch until a little over a decade later, when Interstate 35 opened to the east and brought travelers to that side of town, too. When Willie Nelson bought the complex in 1977, it had largely lost its charm. South Congress had become, as Texas Monthly’s Michael Hall described it, “a seedy stretch of crumbling motels, drug dealers, and working girls.” It was, however, an eminently affordable place for musicians and artists to live. Nelson transformed the former convention center into Austin Opry House, and he rented the mid-century modern rooms to musicians and their families as affordable apartments.
With the help of Lake/Flato architects, Bunkhouse designed the new hotel atop the same storied site. On a more intimate scale (89 rooms) but equally of-the-moment, the quartet of buildings encase a central courtyard, lush with fresh landscaping by Ten Eyck (whose principal architect recently shared planting tips with Texas Monthly) and anchored by the long sliver of a swimming pool.
Many of the rooms look out onto that sparkling oasis, a fitting feature given the escape’s design inspiration. “When you’re in Austin, you absolutely first should go to Barton Springs—there is nothing like that magical place—then you can come swim at the hotel once you’ve checked that off,” says Tenaya Hills, Bunkhouse Group’s VP of design, who is so passionate about taking a dip that she drew on the style of traditional bathhouses to create the courtyard’s powder room. While some interior design seeks to bring the outdoors in, Hills regards the property as a space for nature enthusiasts to luxuriate in Austin’s moderate climate year-round. With open-air hallways and paths that wind along the courtyard, traveling from one space to the next—from your suite to the lobby, or from the event space (Bunkhouse’s first) to the Summer House on Music Lane restaurant (set to open in November)—always means taking a stroll outside.
Magdalena’s construction also includes the addition of a new set of luxury apartments. “Hotel Saint Cecilia is right next door to Hotel Magdalena, and the Saint Cecilia Residences were developed as part of the project,” Lalvani says. “Residences are technically a departure for Bunkhouse, but it felt very natural as an extension of Hotel Saint Cecilia, given its residential feel and incredibly loyal guests.”
Join us below for a virtual tour of the hotel, which is in a soft opening stage until October 1.