MG Properties: More Land Purchased for Waller Creek Development

February 11, 2015 |
Austin American-Statesman |
Shonda Novak
One of downtown Austin’s largest proposed developments just got even bigger.

Developers of a project planned at East Cesar Chavez and Red River streets, along the banks of Waller Creek, said Wednesday that they have acquired more land that could allow their project to grow to 2 million square feet of development.

New York-based MG Properties, the real estate arm of McCourt Global, and The Sutton Co., based in Austin, envision a mix of apartments, condominiums, office and hotel space, along with shops and restaurants, for the project.

The new 1.39-acre tract is at the southeast corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River, across from a 3-acre site MG Properties and Sutton already own. In March 2014, they announced plans for a project calling for about 1.4 million square feet of development in three skyscrapers, the tallest of which could be more than 50 floors.

The new site provides an additional 607,640 square feet of development, which potentially could be used for a second phase, said Mac Pike, chairman of the Sutton Co.

Pike said construction is expected to start this summer on the larger site, where three buildings are still planned. Last March, the developers said they expected to break ground in the fall of 2014 on the project, which Pike said at the time estimated to be a $400 million development.

In a statement, Drew McCourt, president of MG Properties, said the new purchase “clearly demonstrates MG Properties’ firm commitment to both the Waller Creek project and the City of Austin, and to delivering what will be a valuable asset to the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.”

McCourt said the tract “will provide additional frontage along Cesar Chavez Street and enable us to deliver safe and efficient pedestrian access to our property, the waterfront trails, and the many other attractions” he said will be created by Waller Creek’s revitalization once an ongoing flood-control tunnel project wraps up.

McCourt and Pike declined to say what they paid for the land. They also were mum on specifics on how the new tract would tie in with their land across Red River, as well as other details about the project.

However, Matthew Rose, managing director of external relations for McCourt Global, said more details are coming soon.

“I do believe we’ll be able to provide additional details in the near future,” Rose said. “We expect to have another announcement quite soon and that will open up the door for discussion” about other aspects of the project.

Dale Glover, a co-founder and broker with Rainey Ventures, an Austin-based commercial real estate investment and development company that jump-started the nearby Rainey Street entertainment district, said Sutton’s additional land purchase “seems like a good sign the entire project is moving forward.”

Doug Kissner, a partner in an eight-story apartment project under construction called The Millennium in the Rainey district, said that “subject to anything unforeseen economically happening” he thinks Sutton and McCourt will pull off their ambitious project because they already have financing lined up.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic addition to the area,” said Kissner, a member of the Rainey Neighborhood Association board. “It would also be good economically for the city,” adding to the tax base.

The Millennium site, on Rainey Street, is where The Sutton Co. previously planned a mixed-use development with two towers, before moving on to its 3-acre site at East Cesar Chavez and Red River.

In 2012, Kissner introduced The Dinerstein Companies, based in Houston, to the then-Sutton site. Dinerstein bought the land in late 2012 and broke ground in Millennium in April 2014.

The 326-unit Millennium is due to open next year. It and the Sutton/MG Properties project are among a growing number of new and proposed projects on downtown’s east side. A Fairmont Hotel has broken ground at Cesar Chavez and Red River, and a new medical school and teaching hospital will be at the north end of Waller Creek. Sutton’s Pike has said the Waller Creek project “will undoubtedly provide a significant amenity to their students, staff and administration.”