Investors buy 390 acres near Austin airport, plan mixed-use project

Jan 12, 2015
Austin American Statesman

Nearly 400 acres in Southeast Austin have been sold to local investors who say they plan a mixed-use commercial project on the site, which is just east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

The previous owner, Eastbourne Crossing LP, sold the 390-acre tract to a Texas limited partnership that includes Karl Koebel, Doug Launius and George Robinson III. The partnership is named SH 71-130 Holdings LP

The sale closed Dec. 19, with the purchase price undisclosed

In a previous offering, the land, at Texas 71 and the Texas 130 toll road, was marketed for $27.75 million, but that price was later reduced to $23.2 million

Several years ago, it was on the market for more than $30 million. The land was considered as a possible site for a new campus for state offices a few years back

The general partners of the new ownership group are Koebel, Launius and Robinson, who is a member of the family that owns the Robinson Ranch in Northwest Austin. Koebel and Launius, both with Austin-based Marketplace Real Estate Group LLC, represented buyers in the purchase. Launius declined to name other investors but said it is a small group

Koebel and Launius said the property is ideally suited for a commercial development that could include office space, retail and hotel uses, manufacturing and industrial uses and even a corporate campus. It would not have a residential component, they said

The land is near the Circuit of the Americas, where the annual Formula One race and other major events take place year-round. It also is in an area where millions of dollars in road improvements are underway or planned, and where a triple Freeport zone has been established. The zone was created by local government entities and exempts goods in transit, or “freeport goods,” from ad valorem taxes as long as the goods are stored for no more than 175 days before being shipped out of state

The freeport zone, Launius said, will be a “major, major catalyst for industrial and manufacturing growth” in the area, a part of Travis County where Marketplace Real Estate Group owns or contrals about 1,500 acres

Charles Heimsath, a local real estate consultant, said the land, which has city of Austin utilities, is a good fit for any commercial or industrial use

The sale involved two tracts. Eastbourne Crossing was the seller of 385.68 acres, while an Eastbourne affiliate sold an adjoining 4.88 acres at the corner of FM 973 and Texas 71

The 2014 market value of the large tract is listed as $17.35 million by the Travis Central Appraisal District (its appraised value is shown as $89,567 after an agricultural exemption) while both the market and appraised value of the smaller plot is listed at just over $1 million

The sellers were represented by Joyce Jane Weedman, Josh Hubka and Kurt VanderMeulen, all of REOC Austin, a commercial real estate services firm

Hubka said the flat, open tract is “well located and easily developable” and attracted high interest

Koebel and Launius said they and the other new owners had the land under contract most of last year but waited to close until they were sure a contract for some of the nearby road improvements was a done deal. They said improvements being made to Texas 71 and FM 973, which will be expanded from two lanes to a four-lane divided road, will ease bottlenecks in Southeast Austin

Toronto-based Eastbourne bought the larger tract in 2006 for $33.9 million. The company planned to build a project, Eastbourne Crossing, that was to include 1.4 million square feet of retail space and as many as 1,200 housing units, but the project never materialized

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