This article was originally published in AQUILA’s 1Q 2021 Austin Office Market Report. This article will not be updated, but please contact us if you have specific questions regarding the information in this article.
It’s no secret that Austin has had a thriving commercial real estate market in recent years, piquing the interest of local, national, and international commercial real estate investors looking to make a return on their money. We know Austin is transforming from a locally owned, secondary market to a nationally owned, primary market as a result of this, so this quarter we set out to better understand what the landscape of office-building ownership in Austin looks like today and ultimately, find out who owns the most office space in Austin.
In this article, we’ve used building ownership information from CoStar to take a look at:
- The 10 largest Austin office owners
- A breakdown by ownership type
- Where office-building owners are located
10 Largest Austin Office Owners
According to CoStar, Austin’s total existing and under-construction office market is composed of 108.3 million square feet across 3,675 buildings. To put that in perspective, the total land area of Downtown Austin, UT Austin, and West Campus combined only totals roughly 70 million square feet. The Domain, between Mopac and Burnet Road, is only 17 million square feet of land.
Needless to say, 108.3 million square feet is a lot of office space. Those properties are split between roughly 2,000 different owners who, on average, control 54,140 square feet of space each. That said, there are a few owners who have gone well beyond that average.
Largest Austin Office Owners
|Company Name||Owner Type||Amount of Space Owned (Square Feet)|
|Cousins Properties||Commercial Real Estate Investor||5,029,912|
|Brandywine Realty Trust||Commercial Real Estate Investor||3,324,356|
|World Class Property Company||Commercial Real Estate Investor||2,413,191|
|State of Texas||Government||1,811,014|
|CalSTRS||Commercial Real Estate Investor||1,543,746|
|Karlin Real Estate||Commercial Real Estate Investor||1,481,789|
|Trammell Crow Company||Commercial Real Estate Investor||1,327,969|
|Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation||Commercial Real Estate Investor||1,296,963|
|Starwood Capital Group||Commercial Real Estate Investor||1,176,404|
As you can see, the top 10 owners of Austin office buildings control a significant amount of existing and under-construction space (about 20% of the total market). These groups are owners of some of the most prestigious and notable properties in Austin, ranging from downtown towers to massive corporate campuses.
Cousins Properties, the largest office owner in Austin, has been an active player in our market for several years. In 2016, Cousins merged with Parkway Properties in a $2 billion deal, giving it ownership of notable properties in Downtown Austin, including Colorado Tower, 816 Congress, and 111 Congress. Cousins then merged with TIER REIT in 2019, giving the firm major ownership of the Domain and further growing its Austin footprint.
Brandywine Realty Trust, the market’s second-largest office landlord, has been in Austin for roughly 15 years, originally entering the market with an acquisition of Prentiss Properties. The firm owns several office parks in Austin, including Barton Skyway and River Place, along with a number of development projects like 405 Colorado.
Apple, an interesting outlier in this group of real estate developers and government entities, comes in at number five. The company has established a sizable presence in Austin over the years, leasing and purchasing properties to accommodate its growing Austin workforce. The company is also currently under development on its $1 billion, 3-million-square-foot campus in Northwest Austin, which will likely move Apple up in these rankings once construction is complete.
Breakdown by Ownership Type
Another interesting way to look at the office-owner landscape in Austin is to break it down by the types of entities that own these buildings. Whereas the Austin of old was largely owned by individuals, small-time commercial real estate investors, and family trusts, the Austin of today has become a playing field for some of the largest ownership groups in the country.
As you can see below, commercial real estate investment managers, REITs, pension funds, insurance companies, and REOCs own the largest portion of space. This category includes companies like Cousins Properties, Brandywine Realty Trust, CalSTRS, and Starwood Capital Group.
Not far behind are the developer/owner groups, who control roughly 27% of the market. This group includes national companies like Trammell Crow and CIM Group, along with regional companies like HPI Real Estate Services and Endeavor Real Estate.
Breakdown of Ownership Type
Corporate users also make up a notable portion of office ownership in Austin. This includes companies like Apple, Oracle, and Dell, which have all established a sizable presence in Austin from both an employment and a real estate perspective.
With well over half of the office market owned by institutional groups or corporate users, it’s clear that the Austin market has transformed from a landscape of local owners and developers to a hotspot for the world’s top real estate groups.
Where Office-Building Owners Are Located
Just as the types of commercial real estate investors in the Austin office market have transformed over the years, so have the locations of where those commercial real estate investors are coming from. Our office market has attracted commercial real estate investors from all over the country and the world, leaving a notable portion of that market in control of companies with headquarters outside the Austin city limits.
Still, a majority of those owners are based in the Lone Star State. Roughly 53% of Austin’s office space is owned by companies located in Texas, with 81% of that subset owned by firms with a headquarters in Austin. The Austin group includes companies like HPI Real Estate Services, Stonelake Capital Partners, and Congress Holdings Group. Other Texas-based companies include Trammell Crow and Lincoln Property Company in Dallas and Lionstone Partners in Houston.
Breakdown of Where Austin Owners are Located
On the other end of the spectrum, 47% of space is owned by entities with a headquarters located outside of Texas, either in another state or another country. While they may have an Austin office, these companies have their official headquarters elsewhere. States with the largest portion of ownership (excluding Texas) include California (12.87%), Georgia (5.58%), and New York (4.89%).
Three of the 10 largest office owners in Austin are based in California, including Apple, CalSTRS, and Karlin Real Estate. Other companies, such as CIM Group, based in Los Angeles, have been actively growing their Austin portfolio in recent years. Currently ranked number 13, CIM owns roughly 1 million square feet of office inventory in Austin, including properties like 5th + Tillery in the East submarket and Chase Tower in Austin’s CBD. CIM also has plans to redevelop a warehouse at 1300 E. 5th St. into a 246,774-square-foot building.
Georgia’s ownership share is primarily attributed to Cousins Properties, which is headquartered in Atlanta. Ranked as the 30th largest Austin office owner, Invesco is also based in Atlanta and owns roughly 650,000 square feet of office space in Austin spread across 100 Congress and Barton Oaks Plaza II and III.
While no ownership groups based in New York rank among the 20 largest owners in Austin, the volume of owners based in New York have helped the state rank closely to Georgia. One company in particular, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., only recently made its debut in the Austin market with the purchase of the eight-property, 688,000-square-foot Riata Corporate Park in late 2019.
With firms like CBRE ranking Austin as the number one destination for commercial real estate investment in the U.S., and billionaires like Elon Musk predicting that Austin will be “the biggest boomtown that America has seen in 50 years,” it’s likely that commercial real estate investors from across the country, and the world, will continue to grow their portfolios in our city.
Learn More: Download our latest Austin Office Market Report
The Austin office market has made a name for itself as a primary office market in the United States, drawing commercial real estate investments from some of the biggest names in commercial real estate in the country. As Austin continues to grow, it will be interesting to see which ownership groups expand their portfolios further, which pull out of the market and which begin to enter the market for the first time.