Celebrate Afrofreque Day with Us!

AfrofrequePlease join us as Mayor Steve Adler and The City of Austin proclaim March 31 as Afrofreque Day in Austin, TX!

Afrofreque is led by our own customer service representative, Larry Williams, and he and the band are scheduled to perform at City Hall at 5:30pm. Please join us, or stream online via www.atxn.tv.

The city of Austin is blessed with many creative musicians whose talent extends to virtually every genre, the music scene thrives because Austin audiences support good music produced by legends, our local favorites and newcomers alike. We are pleased to showcase and support local artists.

How to Watch:
– Stream online via www.atxn.tv
– Time Warner Cable Channel 6 (or Channel 10.6 without a cable box)
– Grande Communications Channel 6 (or Channel 119.6 without a cable box)
– AT&T U-Verse Channel 99


Developer vows to move forward on Pflugerville mega-project; lawsuit pending

Renderings of Pflugerville Crossing

From the Austin Business Journal:

Scott Mann, the Houston developer behind the proposed $800 million Pflugerville Crossing LP mixed-use project north of Austin, said he has no idea why Pflugerville has backed out on an incentive agreement that was inked in January 2015.

“I don’t really know why (they) would terminate you with no discussion,” Mann said. “It bears investigating.”

The 119-acre project has two main elements: Sunshine Village Town Center and SunTech Office Park, which was previously profiled by ABJ.

Terri Toledo, a spokeswoman for the city of Pflugerville, said there’s nothing mysterious about the March 22 decision by City Council to void the agreement.

“The agreement was ended because the terms of the agreement weren’t met,” Toledo said. “The developer didn’t secure purchase of the land. The city didn’t receive completed development plans. It wasn’t progressing and letters were sent notifying Scott of the status of the project and the cancellation.”

Despite the cancellation of the deal, Mann said he is prepared to go forward.

“I feel (we’ve) done everything in good faith,” Mann said. “(The city) wanted to see this land developed a certain way and we did just that. We were ready to submit for permits.”

“The circumstances in those cases are on record. It was common knowledge,” Mann said.

Toledo said she could “confirm that the city was aware [of his criminal record].”

An attorney for landowner Kenneth Bohls Cousins Trust would not comment.

Major investment

Mann said his company, 88 North LLC, has invested as much as $1 million in planning and engineering fees. Mann, who is also a principal of Star Stream Capital, forged the agreement with the city, which included up to $303 million in property and sales tax rebates over 30 years, in exchange for creating the development and investing about $85 million in infrastructure.

Though he faults the city for unjustly yanking the project from his company, Mann directed his legal team to file suit earlier this month against the owner of the property. His company had not finalized the purchase from the Kenneth Bohls Cousins Trust.

In a complaint filed March 3 in Travis County District Court, Mann’s attorneys — Gray Reed & McGraw PC — allege that Phyllis Pastre as the trustee for the trust and another company, Green Island Investments LLC of Hackensack, New Jersey, committed fraud, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference, conspiracy and other charges. 88 North LLC is seeking exemplary and punitive damages.

J. Scott Jackson of Fishman/Jackson, the defendants’ attorney, said “the trust will answer the lawsuit in due course and expects that the lawsuit will be resolved in its favor quickly.”

Here’s what Mann’s attorney claims is the essence of the complaint: 88 North LLC hired Sikich LLP, a professional service firm, to identify potential investors and during that process introduced the development company to Green Island Investments. Proprietary information was supplied to the potential investor with an understanding of confidentiality, the lawsuit states.

“It now appears Green Island is trying to cut plaintiff out of the deal and execute its own deal with the trust and the city,” the lawsuit states.

It goes on to say that 88 North LLC submitted a sales contract and a $100,000 escrow payment to the trust before learning that the trust and Green Island “entered their own deal cutting out the plaintiff.”

Criminal past

During an interview Monday, Mann confirmed that he spent time in prison in the early 2000s in connection with a savings and loan fraud case that dates back to 1996 when he was an executive with Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas.

Mann said that the 1996 criminal case was intertwined with the federal government’s takeover and management of the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s and that many of the charges eventually were dropped.

He spent more than three years in prison. Court records show he was ordered to pay $460,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and $11,587,000 in restitution to other parties.

Mann said a settlement was reached with the IRS in 2001, but the other restitution is still pending in the courts — almost 20 years later.

“The restitution settlement is awaiting court approval,” Mann said. “Contractual and other obligations prevent me from providing the information you have requested.” Additional information>>>

Save time and money, print in Color

HP Why Color_Page_01The Impact of Printing in Color

Color printing has become an important component in projects because it can decrease human error rates. It has been proven that color documents are more easily understood and the information is retained at higher rates versus monochrome documents.

The use of color documents reduces errors and allows a team to easily understand the sections of a plan for which they are responsible. During the bidding phase, color documents make a more professional impression than monochrome documents.

Benefits include faster reading, more time efficiency, save time and money, reduce delivery time, and better communication. Download the white paper here>>

Four Seasons Austin hotel pricey part of blockbuster Blackstone deal

four-seasons-hotels-and-resFrom today’s Austin Business Journal:

The transaction involves Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group purchasing the luxury hotel portfolio of Blackstone LP (NYSE: BX). The total amount is estimated $6.5 billion, according to published reports.

The value attributed to Four Seasons Austin is an estimated allocation within the16-property portfolio, which includes the famed Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego and several other Four Season operated hotels around the U.S. The deal is under contract.

Here’s the chronology of events: Strategic Hotels & Resorts purchased the Four Seasons from Lodging Capital Partners and partner Prudential Real Estate Investors in the spring of 2015 for just under $200 million. Then the property quietly changed hands around Christmas when Blackstone purchased Strategic Hotels & Resorts (NYSE: BEE). About 10 days ago, Blackstone unveiled its deal with Anbang.

If Real Capital Analytics data is correct, the Four Seasons Austin will trade at more than $1.2 million per hotel room.

The Four Seasons, which includes 291 rooms and 2.3 acres of land, is located at 98 San Jacinto Blvd. and sits on 2.3 acres of land on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake.  Additional information>>>

Austin school district to seek bids on 10 properties worth $95 million

aisdFrom today’s Austin American-Statesman:

The Austin school district will seek bids for 10 of its properties, including its 128,000-square-foot headquarters on West Sixth Street, the former Millett Opera House currently leased by the Austin Club, and the Baker Center administration building in Hyde Park.

The district could sell, lease, swap or repurpose the properties to generate one-time revenue or create other long-term plans for their use. They have a total value of more than $95 million.

The most valuable of the offerings is the Carruth Administration Center, which sits on 2.75 acres at 1111 W. Sixth Street. Originally designed to be a mixed-use project with office, residential and retail components, the headquarters is valued at $33.6 million, according to district estimates.

The district bought the property more than 25 years ago and has looked into selling it at least once, but it never got an offer that was attractive enough to district leaders.

“I can certainly see this as an opportune time; the market would respond very favorably,” said Charles Heimsath, president of Capitol Market Research, an Austin real estate consulting firm, pointing to the major redevelopment taking place at the former Seaholm power plant and the former Green Water Treatment Plant nearby.

Regarding the Austin Club, which is a half-block off of Congress Avenue, Heimsath also said “there’s a wide range of possibilities for a property like that.”

District records show the Austin Club, which has had a lease with the district since 1979, paid the district about $48,000 in rent in 2014. The district has valued the property at an estimated $6.3 million.

The list of properties the district is offering includes the former Allan Elementary, and the school board is also considering options for other plots of land, ranging from an acre in East Austin to 32 acres in Northeast Austin, as well as its Central Warehouse and Service Center. The properties are labeled as being noninstructional, but some trustees pointed out that early education is being taught at Allan, albeit through partnerships with local nonprofits and not by the district. More than 12 acres of green space the district owns in Travis Country in Southwest Austin has been used as an outdoor environmental sciences classroom by the Green Tech Academy at Small Middle School.

The Austin school board will vote Monday night on whether to issue requests for proposals that allow developers and other entities to pitch ideas for using the lands and facilities. District leaders are considering a three- to four-month time frame to gather proposals, but the process could take longer.

“We’re hopeful that we can get some really thoughtful proposals back,” said Nicole Conley, the district’s chief financial officer. “There’s a lot of interest now in sort of partnering in the market.”

Community members and some city and district leaders have discussed ideas such as creating affordable housing for teachers and other civil servants on surplus property, doing leasebacks or swapping properties.

“These are not done deals,” Trustee Ann Teich said. “We’re exploring opportunities with this land, and it would be a better use of our time and our energy to do this rather than to just leave these properties unexamined.”

The Austin school district previously sought bids in 2011 for its West Sixth Street headquarters and the Baker Center in Hyde Park to ease a budget crunch, but it ultimately wasn’t satisfied with the offers. This time, trustees say looking at the district’s real estate resources is a necessary step for long-range planning.

As was the case in 2011, the district has retained Austin commercial real estate firm Southwest Strategies Group in seeking proposals for the properties.   

Previous board discussions on properties have dealt with how to more wisely use district assets, including leasing buildings for market value. The district last month hired consultant Brailsford and Dunlavey to look at facilities and planning in a broader way, as trustees tackle prolonged issues of underenrolled schools in some areas, overcrowded schools in others, and aging facilities. District leaders expect a master plan for all the facilities by May 2017, and they will consider any proposals made for the 10 facilities within that plan.

Trustee Amber Elenz said she is excited to see what ideas come forward and considers the requests for proposals a necessary step before the district can consider going back to voters with a bond request to address its needs. However, she cautioned that the district might need to place appropriate restrictions or expectations on any real estate deal.

“We’re approaching this as an opportunity to see what greater yields we may have in the use of these different properties,” Trustee Yasmin Wagner said. “It’s an exploration exercise at this point, not an austerity measure.”


Need a break from the SXSW madness?

SXSWFor our friends NOT attending SXSW who want to escape from the crowds and lines, here are a few restaurants outside of downtown to enjoy Austin’s great food suggested by Eater Austin:

  • Barley Swine
  • Black Sheep Lodge
  • Dai Due
  • East Side King Thai Khun
  • El Meson
  • Epicerie
  • Fabi & Rosi
  • Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub
  • Hoover’s Cooking
  • Jack Allen’s Kitchen
  • Jacoby’s Restaurant & Mercantile
  • Olive & June
  • Papalote Taco House
  • Pieous
  • Porter Ale House
  • Quality Seafood
  • Salt & Time
  • Sichuan River
  • The Peached Tortilla
  • Vinaigrette

More information>>>

Don’t panic: Here are 5 last-minute SXSW survival tips

SXSWFor our friends attending SXSW events; so much great information and so many fun things to do, it can be overwhelming! A few tips from the Austin Business Journal:

• Plan and RSVP where you can. Some events may be full. But you still can and should RSVP everywhere you possibly can. Often you can get in by lining up early. Have your badge, be on the list, get in line, and hope for the best. No badge? Don’t forget the handy-dandy official link to the free stuff. Also look for other great resources like Do512, and several Facebook Groups including “RSVP for your Life” and “Free at SXSW.” Keep up with social media during the events to keep up with news real-time.

But have a backup plan. Even with perfect planning, panels will be full, parties will be overflowing. Make sure you have several choices for panels, parties and events. You are probably not getting into the main room to see President Obama unless you had amazing luck in the ticket lottery, so be prepared to watch the live stream version on your laptop at a cool downtown coffee shop or bar.

And when that fails, be flexible. Much of SXSW is kismet. If none of your plans work out, go with the flow. I’ve had some of the best experiences when all my plans failed, I found an old friend or met a new friend, and just wandered around. Downtown will be absolutely full of stuff going on that you hadn’t planned for, so you have no excuses for not making the most of your time.

Get into survival mode. Yes, we are expecting some weather for SXSW Interactive. Have a lightweight rain slicker, a tiny umbrella and maybe mittens. It’s not supposed to be freezing, but anything is possible. Dress in layers and try not to drown. Pack some protein bars and jerky. Get some sleep. Plan your transportation carefully. With the Obamas in town the always-epic traffic and parking situation will be exponentially worse on those two days. Check out the new CapMetro app for schedules and to buy tickets and special passes for SXSW. Have ride-sharing apps ready. And APD has instituted no-refusal from now through the end of SXSW. If you plan to drink, plan ahead.

Don’t forget the after-show. You did it. You survived. Don’t let it be just a — possibly hazy — memory and a few extra pounds of barbecue and beer weight. Make sure to organize your cards and do your follow-up with all the great contacts. Assimilate what you’ve learned, and put some of that great stuff into practice. And we’ll see you back here next year! Additional information>>>

2nd Date added for Miller IDS Fine Art Reproduction Seminar

iStock_000040430134LargeDue to popular demand, we’re adding a second date for the Fine Art Reproduction Seminar!

Join us on Saturday, March 26th or April 2nd from 1pm-3pm and learn helpful tips and important details that can make an impact on your artwork, making reproductions cost effective and color accurate.

There are still a few seats available for March 26th if interested, and 10 seats available for April 2nd.

Whether you want to sell prints of your work, give prints to friends and family, or archive a quality scan before you sell your original masterpiece, Dana Burton of Miller IDS can help you navigate the decisions – and explain the relative benefits of those decisions.   Register today!

Thanks for the Stars!

David Bowie Aladdin SaneOlivia Rains, an Austin-based artist, wanted to reproduce her Bowie-inspired artwork for the recent David Bowie Tribute Art Show at Jerry’s Artorama. Olivia tells us “I wanted prints that would look exactly like my paintings and wanted to find a local art reproduction business with great quality. I have tons of artist friends in town and almost all recommended Miller. I was floored and ecstatic when I picked up the prints; they were perfect and with the fastest turnaround ever and a great price for the quality. The people at Miller are very professional and very helpful, translating what I’m looking for into print terms. The first run sold out and I ordered more, plus ordered stickers. Can I give you six stars?”

Congratulations to Ali Khataw for receiving “Engineer of the Year” Award

EOY_Graphic_mxw326_mxha_e0The Texas Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE) Travis chapter has named Ali Khataw the recipient of its 2016 Engineer of Year award.  Khataw, an accomplished entrepreneur, photographer and philanthropist was also a “featured artist” in August of 2015 on the Miller IDS website.

The Central Texas business community knows Ali Khataw as the founder of Encotech Engineering Consultants, Inc. a leading engineering firm specializing in MEP, Structural, Civil and Transportation Engineering. However, Khataw is also an avid artist and adventurer and is increasingly known for his insightful photography, which not only documents his extensive travels and experiences, but reflects the socioeconomic issues of the countries he visits and helps direct help to those issues through Photo Philanthropy.

Each year, the TSPE recognizes the achievements and contributions of a professional engineer with this prestigious award. This year’s award was presented to Ali Khataw, P.E. on Friday, February 26 at its Engineer’s Week Banquet, held at the Barton Creek Country Club in Austin. To read the full article, visit this website>>