May 21, 2024
Monday, November 20, 2023 by Chad Swiatecki

The owner of Sam’s Town Point hopes that a forthcoming mix of “rural retail” – including a farmers market and possible hemp cultivation along with live music offerings on the 10 acres surrounding the popular music venue – could link up to a planned entertainment district south of Slaughter Lane along Menchaca Road.

Ramsay Midwood, who took over ownership of Sam’s in 2017, disclosed to Austin Monitor his plans in partnership with Barton Creek Capital to create a “little Luckenbach” district that would serve to draw more retail and entertainment options to the popular region. Midwood expects the project could connect into a planned 1-mile pedestrian trail that would be part of a series of apartment complexes and mixed-use buildings underway from a handful of developers who plan to inject $270 million in new business into the area.

“I kind of see it as like a little Luchenbach, like a little city within a city where you have a farmers market, sort of rural retail like beekeepers, and whatever can be done with hemp production,” said Midwood, who is among those hoping to preserve as much of the old-Austin character of the region, which sits just across the road from the city boundary in the extraterritorial jurisdiction governed by Travis County. “It just makes so much sense. First of all, the city has to have several centers. … You can have it like the Domain living, which is not really the brand of Austin.”

Rendering of a proposed development by Dwell Design Studio

Midwood’s project is in the design phase, which means it will be following several other projects that have been going through planning and permitting for more than a year from groups such as MNO Partners, Austin NNN, United Properties and Investcor Development, who have more than 900 apartments and residential units in the works. Those companies are also involved in a number of other projects that’s expected to double the 11 bars and restaurants currently located in the triangle bounded by Slaughter, Menchaca and Old Manchaca Road.

United Properties’ 302-unit complex is believed to be the first mover bringing more residential to the district, with the Local – a 233-unit project from Investcor – set to begin construction 45 days after a final $12 million investment is completed to complete the capital stack.

“This is the next Rainey Street, with everything that all the locals love so much about Rainey Street before it kind of gone away to high-rises,” said Tylere Brennan, principal partner with Investcor. “That’s what we’re going to be creating down there. And with the 11 bars that are currently there, we’re just going to keep adding more, with another 11 coming.”

The influx of residents and more hospitality businesses to the area is expected to multiply the roughly 2,000 customers who frequent the bars and restaurants already operating every weekend.

While the location in the extraterritorial jurisdiction means far less zoning or planning requirements on projects, Brennan said the developers planning to transform the region have a loose agreement to keep buildings low and preserve trees and natural features as much as possible.

“You could go as high as you want to go as long as you can (provide parking for) it. We didn’t do that. We’re trying to keep to that sort of area and remain true to why people love that area – sort of pet-friendly and you’re with your friends under these amazing 100-year-old oak trees all around you. That’s why we capped it right at five stories.”

Frank Navarro, a partner with MNO Partners, said his group’s planned 429-unit complex is intended to fit in with the other housing and hospitality projects headed to South Austin.

“We definitely align with and definitely want them there,” said Navarro, who is working on finalizing the investment package for the unnamed project. “It’s not like we have legally binding deals with each other for the most part, but there is a lot of cooperation between the various property owners and the various businesses that are attempting to come into the district and get things permitted.”

Navarro said the yearlong wait to complete the permitting process with the county was worth the trade-off for avoiding city property taxes and the zoning regulations that would have restricted some uses on the parcels.

“There’s no zoning or density restrictions or use restrictions or anything like that, which I think is what really makes this entertainment district work,” he said. “I mean, obviously, sometimes zoning can be useful in certain scenarios, in more urban areas and stuff like that, but it often prevents you from having really cool mixed-use products.”

Bridget Dunlap, whose Lustre Pearl South has helped to the establish the area as a destination in recent years, is in talks to bring a bar/restaurant concept to one of the mixed-use projects. She said the growth pressures forcing residents out of the Rainey district she helped create are what the South Austin district will help to serve.

“A lot of people have gotten pushed out that way and they need more options. I think that’s where the locals are living, and the locals are wanting to eat and drink like locals and get away from the tourism,” she said. “There’s a lot of room down there for sure. … I would love it to feel like Rainey circa 2010, but I don’t see that happening. The traffic is so hellacious.”

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