Redevelopers wanted for high-profile downtown site

Miller statesmanFrom today’s Austin Business Journal: The first steps to redeveloping the the Austin American-Statesman’s prime downtown waterfront property are underway.

Today, the owners of the property announced they were soliciting mixed-use redevelopment proposals from qualified developers for the 18.9-acre South Congress Avenue site on the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake, the Statesman reports. The request for qualifications was sent Monday by Austin law firm Armbrust & Brown LLP.
The land represents one of the highest-profile redevelopment possibilities in town. The Travis Central Appraisal District values the property at $39.8 million.

For the time being, the Cox Enterprises Inc.-owned newspaper will remain at the location. The paper previously shifted its printing operations offsite. Then in December, Cox Enterprises sold the property to members of the Cox family.

In an email to newspaper employees, the paper reported Statesman publisher Susie Gray said the latest move was an effort by the Cox family to seriously consider potential future uses for the property.

“As you’ll recall, members of the Cox family purchased the land that houses our facilities,” the email said. “You may have heard that a Request for Interest and Qualifications was recently distributed. The RFIQ does not mean there will be any immediate changes to the property. It does, however, signal the owners’ long-term investment in the property, and their desire to seek the best strategy for determining the future of the site.” Additional information>>>

How an Austin developer overcame racist deed restrictions to create a thriving retail space

DaiDueShop1From today’s Austin Business Journal:

Renovating an ugly commercial building takes guts. Shalou Barth believes she’s proved her mettle by turning an aging, ugly strip center into a cool East Austin retail project at 2406 Manor Road.

“It was a dump. It had been on the market for over a year. It had temporarily been Obama’s [campaign] headquarters,” Barth said. “I had a vision of totally re-imaging this place.”

Three years after Barth put a contract on the property, which reportedly had been a grocery store and rehab facility in a previous life, it’s now a thriving, fully-leased gold mine of a retail center boasting the likes of Dai Due restaurant and butcher shop and Raven + Lily boutique.

When Barth put in the contract In December 2012, however, the daughter of Indian immigrants couldn’t believe what she discovered in the antiquated deed restrictions: Only caucasians could own the property and only certain types of alcohol could be served.

She also discovered that the property next door — leased by restaurant and bar Haymaker — was also under the same restrictions. But changing deeds isn’t an easy fix.

Barth, 37, met with about 10 stakeholders, including her broker Jon Switzer, to come up with a solution. She was undaunted by the all-male phalanx involved considering that, for several years, Barth worked for General Motors, gamely assisting dealership owners about how to improve their sales.

“I had the responsibility of telling 50- and 60-year-old men how to run their business,” Barth said. “It actually taught me a lot about different ways of thinking.”

The legal requirement to change the deed mandated that all 15 owners of 21 surrounding land parcels approve those changes.

“Who can get 100 percent of anything, especially since many of them are rental properties?” Barth said. “It was all pretty discouraging.”

Doors were slammed on her. Phone calls disconnected. Barth was disconsolate, until she woke up one morning and started researching information about deed restriction legislation.

It became apparent that she wouldn’t need 100 percent buy-in, but she would need one more person to sign off on the changes. She was at day 28 of a 30-day extention she received to meet the deed deadline.

“My only hope was this one last property owner — and I got it done,” Barth said.

The fun part was yet to come: Finding cool tenants and designing the space. It helped that Barth’s husband, Eric Barth, is co-principal of A Parallel Architecture, the firm that designed Paul Qui’s signature restaurant and a host of contemporary Austin homes.

Pretty quickly, Dai Due, Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop and Raven + Lily all came on board.

“I had a target list of who I’d like to see and what would succeed here,” Barth said.

She couldn’t believe how intense the interest was and how many other people insisted that they had tried to buy the property.

“It was funny because I know it sat on the market for at least a year,” Barth said.

The fortunes of Barth and her husband turned again when another retailer signed a letter of intent for the remaining space in the 6,500-square-foot building but it fell through.

The Barths considered the possibilities over a bottle of wine and pizza.

“We penciled out some ideas on a napkin,” Barth said.

They decided they would open Unit D Pizzeria, a wood-fired Neopolitan style pizza joint and wine bar, in the remaining 1,600 square feet.

Finding the right oven was crucial — and expensive. So how would she pay for a $10,500 piece of equipment? By being a contestant on “The Price Is Right.”

It wasn’t part of the business plan, but the trip to California and appearance on the TV game show just happened when family members took one of their own on a vacation — to forget about the pain of a relative’s bout with cancer and just to enjoy each other’s company.

Barth was the last contestant of the day and won.

“It was hilarious. Drew Carey was so funny. And my husband was crying,” Barth said.

The episode ran on April 10, 2015. Unit D Pizzeria opened July 23.

Barth didn’t disclose the amount of her investment in the property but it appears to have been a wise acquisition. When she purchased the property, it was valued at $451,002, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District. Last year, the appraisal had jumped to more than $1.9 million, county records show.

Full story>>>

How a savvy businesswoman helped bring Antone’s back downtown

miller antone'sFrom today’s Austin Business Journal:

Thanks to the business and real estate matchmaking skills of Meredith Sanger at the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Antone’s blues club is settling into its new home.

Antone’s co-owner Will Bridges said the Alliance “is really under-credited” for finding appropriate real estate for local businesses in the tight and pricey downtown market.

Bridges and his partners, including musician Gary Clark Jr. and Susan Antone, had been looking long and hard for the right place to re-establish Antone’s, which had its genesis in 1975 when Clifford Antone opened the blues club at Sixth and Brazos streets in a former furniture warehouse. Over the years, the club moved several times.

The club’s cachet survived — greats such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters performed there — even when Clifford Antone served two prison terms stemming from drug trafficking and money laundering charges. He died in 2006 at age 56.

In subsequent years, the club operated at Fifth and Lavaca streets but moved to East Riverside Drive in 2013.

“We knew we had to represent Antone’s in the right way,” Bridges said. “We talked to a lot of people and made a lot of runs at a lot of places. We were looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Enter Sanger, who enjoys a challenge. She lured nationally lauded Houndstooth Coffee to a spot in the Frost Bank Tower and persuaded Portland, Oregon-based Voodoo Doughnuts to open its first Texas store on East Sixth Street.

“Will gave me an idea of where they wanted to be and I could tell that the Maxey’s building didn’t look like what he wanted — at least at first,” Sanger said. “But once he got in there he realized it was a hidden gem in downtown.”

Bridges expected it to be “all offices, but then we saw the beams and columns, I just knew that was the spot. Something with soul, great bones. It just spoke to us.” Additional information>>>

Here’s how much UT will pay for its Houston land

miller The-University-of-Texas-Health-Science-Center-at-1DE07852From today’s Houston Business Journal:

The price tag has been revealed for the University of Texas System’s previously announced 300 acres in southwest Houston.

UT will pay $450 million over the next 30 years for the property, situated 3.5 miles away from the Texas Medical Center, the Houston Chronicle reports. The purchase price was just over $200 million, and the $450 million figure includes debt service.

The final price dramatically exceeds some experts’ predictions that the land would cost UT somewhere between $39 million to $65 million for the full 300 acres.

Chancellor William McRaven plans to make the campus an intellectual hub, one of the eight “quantum leaps” he announced in November. However, his plan has faced a great deal of backlash from University of Houston alumni and supporters who see the move as illegal or unfair competition.

Welcome Wilson Sr., former chairman of the UH board of regents and chairman of the UH Political Action Committee, recently issued this statement in an op-ed piece submitted to the Houston Businesses Journal:

“Competition is good in business. Competition is bad among Texas state agencies. A university is an agency of Texas. It creates unnecessary duplication and it wastes taxpayers’ money. The Texas Legislature created the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the specific purpose of preventing such action. Will Texas universities continue to be coordinated, or will it be dog eat dog?”

UH Chairman and Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta reportedly went as far as calling the plan the “most asinine thing I’ve ever seen,” and some UH law professors argued that UT’s plan violates state law. A UT spokesperson disputed that claim.

Despite the concerns, the system closed on its first 100-acre plot of land at the site earlier this week. McRaven has tasked a group to begin the planning phases for the new campus and will present his plan to the state’s higher education coordinating board on Jan. 21.

McRaven previously said that the task force will look to avoid duplicating programs and initiatives that other Houston schools and institutions are providing. Additional information>>>

Hundreds of affordable houses, new commercial projects set for Southeast Austin

mapFrom the Austin Business Journal:

Hundreds of new affordable housing options and more space for commercial projects are on the drawing board for Austin now that City Council has taken the final step to approve a new zoning designation for an undeveloped area of Southeast Austin.

The developer, Brookfield Residential, received final approval of its Planned Unit Development zoning at the Dec. 17 City Council meeting (the one where ride-hailing was debated into the early morning.) The new zoning allows the site to be developed with as many as 14,300 dwelling units and up to 4.6 million square feet of civic or commercial space, as well as 400 acres for parks and open space. Additionally, 200 acres are set aside to develop a mixed-use town center area.

The developer has committed to setting aside 10 percent of the owner-occupied homes to be affordable for a family making 80 percent of the median family income and set aside another 10 percent of the owner-occupied rental units over the next 40 years to be affordable for a family making 60 percent of the median family income.

The city has been working to get Pilot Knob developed for years now. Back in 2011, Austin City Council created the Municipal Utility District for the area to help raise funds for utility connections to the site.

Additional information>>>

On the market: Windy Point Park and a whole lot of memories

Windy pointFrom today’s Austin Business Journal:

A prime piece of Austin real estate is on the market — complete with colorful history, azure blue views and some of the best scuba diving access in these parts.

Windy Point Park is almost 12 acres on the shores of Lake Travis near Hippie Hollow — the nudists’ beach — and upwind from the Oasis development, where sipping cocktails on the terrace at sunset is a not-to-be-missed experience. Windy Point Park isn’t to be confused with the county’s beach-like Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point, though they are next to each other.

Additional information>>>

Amazon Prime Begins Austin Eats Delivery

miller amazonFrom Eater Austin:

Amazon is joining the food delivery waters in Austin today by testing out Prime Now in Austin starting today. Only 15 Austin zip codes will be able to place orders, with more added soon. Participating restaurants include Terry Black’s Barbecue, Chi’lantro, Taco Flats, and Michi Ramen. The full list follows below.

Through the app, only members of the service ($99 a year) can order food from the city’s restaurants and food trucks, delivered in an hour. First-time meals are $10 off with the discount code.

Amazon announced last month that it would expand Prime Now to new cities after trying out the delivery service in New York and Seattle. Prime joins the crowded delivery scene in Austin, including UberEats, Favor, and PostMates.

100 Pizzitas

416 Bar & Grille

aRoma Italian Kitchen & Bar

Arpeggio Grill

ATX Boudain Hut

Austin Daily Press

Austin’s Habibi


Barlata Tapas Bar

Benji’s Cantina

Billie Jean’s Burger Pub

Bombay Dhaba

Boteco ATX




Clay Pit

Conscious Cravings

Cool Beans

Daily Juice Cafe

Delicious Thai

Dock & Roll Diner

Emerald Tavern Games & Cafe

Fat Sal’s Deli

Gus’s World Famous Friend Chicken

Heros Gyros

Il Forte

J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge

Juice Austin

Kesos Taco House

La Cocina de Consuelo

Llama’s Peruvian Creole

Mama V’s Quezzadillaville

Michi Ramen

Monkey Nest Coffee

Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill

NO VA Kitchen & Bar


Pie Plante

Rebel Pizza Bar

Republic of Sandwich

Rollin Smoke Barbecue

Royal Jelly



Sala & Betty

Shawarma Point

Slake Cafe

Snap Kitchen

Southside Flying Pizza

Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop

Taco Flats

Tamale House East

Tea Haus

Terry Black’s Barbecue

The Backspace

The Halal Bros

Thistle Cafe

Way South Philly

Xian Sushi and Noodle