By Justin Sayers – Austin Business Journal
Developer’s pitch for one of them: ‘It’s going to be one of the highest rents in the city’
A trio of commercial projects could break ground in Leander soon, eventually bringing more than half-a-million square feet of retail, office, hotel and multifamily space to the fast-growing suburb northwest of Austin.
They exemplify the rush to develop the fringes of urban Austin. Leander especially has seen a large share of commercial projects, following the many new homes being built in the area. Its population grew faster than any other U.S. city with at least 50,000 residents from 2018 to 2019, with an estimated climb of 12%, according to Census Bureau data.
The 29 Gateway is a luxury multi-use development on the north side of Leander.
The 32-acre upscale 29 Gateway mixed-use project, which is being billed by developers as the “front door to Leander on the Northside,” received June 17 the initial OK for a zoning change from Leander City Council.
The project is set to include 200,000 square feet of commercial space, including retail, offices, schools and restaurants; 321 masonry luxury multifamily units and open space at a site at the corner of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and State Highway 29, across the street from an H-E-B set to open this fall.
The Council voted 4-3 in favor of the first reading for rezoning from single-family rural to a planned unit development with general commercial and multifamily zoning, with some Council members expressing concern about the density of the housing. A second reading is scheduled for July 1.
A pair of Austin-based companies hope to develop Pointe 183 on 22 acres, which would include a medical and professional condo office park, as well as a mixture of retail, restaurant, hotel and office buildings.
The Leander Planning and Zoning Commission on June 24 unanimously recommended approval for the project near U.S. Highway 183 and the 183A toll road.
Should City Council approve a minor planned unit development with general commercial zoning, developers hope to break ground in spring 2022, according to Ron Evans and Charbel Dahdah, partners at Huffman Builders.
Seven acres would be set aside for the medical and professional office park, while the remainder would feature the mixed-use portion. They’re estimating upward of 200,000 square feet on the site. Up to 70,000 square feet of the project would be available for purchase, while the remainder would be for lease only.
The developers chose the site due to its location directly north of a St. David’s HealthCare emergency center, which Evans called “critical.” It is also located north of the 115-acre Northline project.
“It’s very, very important to us to be part of that new downtown Leander and the growth corridor,” Evans said. “We feel like we’re ground zero for Leander, Texas, and ground zero for one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.”
He said they’ve already received commitments for the project, including for a veterinary hospital. They’re ultimately hoping to attract what he called “professional retail,” including dental services, title companies and financial services. The restaurants will be sit-down and other potential tenants include daycares and schools.
“It’s got to be upscale. We will not mix the doctors and the practices that we have with strip-mall retail,” he said. “It’s absolutely going to be high-end and professional retail.”
Evans said that the trend of mixed-use developments popping up north of Austin is due to demand, as developers and homeowners being priced out of the city are trying to bring something “cool” to the suburbs.
“I think people are more demanding of commercial product that provides them something that doesn’t look like a value product in the suburbs,” he said. “They want something that looks like high-end architecture, that gives them opportunities to see their doctor, locate their business or their office, and go to a sit-down restaurant.”
The duo has worked on projects that included medical offices, schools, office parks and more, but never anything of this scope, Evans said.
“That’s the kind of mixed-use component that we’re trying to bring in these,” he said.