Royal Blue Grocery Announces Next Location @ The Whitley

Royal Blue Grocery Announces Next Location @ The Whitley

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Big news for those living and working on the east side of Congress Ave.  Royal Blue proprietor, George Scariano, confirms with DAB that the lease is officially signed with The Whitley!

This will be the locally loved grocer’s fourth location.  The 2300 ft store will anchor the Railyard District, and we can expect an opening in July.

The store will be a full blown coffee shop, offering beer & wine, with an on-site kitchen serving baja-style seafood tacos, tacos al pastor, and flattop burgers.

We can’t wait!





Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

Why Are Prices Surging At The Railyard Condos?

The Railyards Unit 235

The Railyard condos are unique.  The two low-rise buildings sit on two of the best sites in downtown Austin, and have usually been more affordable than the newer, sexier high-rises.  Part of the appeal is location: situated across from the Austin Convention Center, 100 feet from the MetroRail, one block from Congress Avenue, three blocks from competing luxury towers, the Austonian and Four Seasons.  The Railyard has enviable proximity to most anything in downtown Austin.

Remember last year’s NIMBY fury over Austin’s Short Term Rental ordinance (pdf)?

You would be in good company if you assumed that all of downtown Austin’s condos and apartments were making money on STRs.

You would be wrong, though.  

Downtown condos have home owners associations (HOAs).  HOAs have rules, and in downtown Austin those rules are usually antagonistic to short term rentals.  Breaking those rules could result in a $1000 per day fine by the HOAs.  Despite the fact that the STR ordinance does not regulate apartments and condominiums, last year’s fight with the City of Austin to regulate STRs wasn’t going to impact most of us living in downtown because of these HOA rules. [UPDATE: rules have been revised to cap STR permits in CBD multi-family buildings at 25%]

The Railyard condos are very, very unique.

This past November, just a month after Austin’s new Short Term Rental ordinance took effect, an enterprising Railyard owner recognized the Railyard’s bylaws did not forbid short term rentals and put together a fund to purchase several units.

The investment rationale is simple: opening up your condo as a vacation-rental-by-owner (aka. VRBO) during SXSW, ACL, F1 (just to name just the big opportunities, not to mention conventions) can yield more rent during those events than the total rent from a typical 12 month lease!  Same for Railyard owner-occupants who can lease their place out for a few nights, take a vacation, and make a couple thousand bucks.

The economics of Railyard ownership shifted overnight. Word quickly spread to the owners and a handful of Austin Realtors.  In the previous year (Nov 2011 – Nov 2012), 1bd/1ba units at the Railyard condos were trading at an average of $285/foot, and units with at least 2bd/2ba units were trading at an average of $275/foot. [UPDATE: one year after posting this article, the last recorded MLS sale at Railyard was a building record $415/foot]

Going forward, expect sale prices at the Railyard condos to be 20-25% more than last year, reflecting the new economics of embracing downtown short term rentals.  Owner-occupants are getting in on the action, too.

Offering the flexibility to lease your condo on a short term basis is a privilege that makes the Railyard unique among downtown condos.   This privilege has significant value.

STRs can be a win-win for owners and associations.  The key is balance and monitoring the impact on residents.

The Railyard HOA is smart to approach STRs with reasonableness and attach fees to the process.  These extra fees will help fund their operations, building improvements, and keep HOA dues low for homeowners.  Homeowners, who are also able to capitalize on their property.

I’ll stop short of advocating that all downtown buildings should permit STRs – I don’t agree with that.  However, there are several buildings that should be paying attention to what the Railyard is doing.  It seems reasonable for more HOAs to experiment with loosening their STR rules, monitor the process, use the money for building improvements, and course correct as needed.

-Jude

[updated 06/01/2014: It has been discovered that Brazos Place Condos at 8th Street & Brazos Street is doing something similar by permitting one-month minimum lease terms.]





What’s Missing? Clues To Downtown Austin’s Next Apartment Tower

What’s Missing? Clues To Downtown Austin’s Next Apartment Tower

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What’s missing is a clue to what might become downtown Austin’s next apartment high-rise.

Back in August we discovered the old warehouse on the corner of Trinity and Cesar Chavez had been acquired by World Class Capital Group, and quickly conceptualized into an apartment tower, with the working name of Trinity Place.

For decades, two small billboards stood at the eastern edge of the lot.  If you were heading east or west on Cesar Chavez you wouldn’t have missed them.  As of this week, those billboards have been taken down!

Now, WCCG would not decide to forfeit that steady billboard lease without a good reason.  I speculate this is a signal that development efforts are progressing.

Trinity Place conceptual footprint – Cesar Chavez @ Trinty (pdf)





87 Rainey Street Downtown Austin Update: NO VA (not NOVA) to Open End of 2012 (Hopefully).

87 Rainey Street Downtown Austin Update: NO VA (not NOVA) to Open End of 2012 (Hopefully).

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UPDATE 8/31/2013: No Va is OPEN for Business!  Check out pics and my review HERE.

UPDATE 7/1/2013: Just got a note from Brad Sorenson with an update on what is going on with NO VA

Things are getting really close now. Construction is pretty close to complete with inspections taking place and little odds and ends being finished. I have started hiring for the kitchen and we should be training with in a couple weeks. I don’t want to make a guess on when an opening date will be until we have set it in stone on our end.

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Remember that mega post I did on what’s happening on Rainey Street?  In the post, I talked about 87 Rainey Street located in the Rainey Street District of Downtown Austin, and how I had not heard any updates on just what exactly was going on in that space.  Well, that must have hit Brad Sorenson‘s (the head chef of the new concept, perhaps more widely known for his stint on The Next Food Network’s Star) Google Alerts, because he promptly posted a comment on the Blog saying things were still a go for the restaurant concept.

Which was great, but I wanted more info – so I emailed him and asked if we could meet.  I was actually very surprised when he said okay.

So we met.  Last week.  And, let me just say this – the guy OOZES affability. He’s also real, real tall.

I was absolutely charmed, I will admit – but not only by him as a person, but also by what he told me about NO VA.

First off, NO VA is the name (there’s a space in between “O” and “V”, 2 words), not NOVA, as it’s previously been reported.  There’s actually a cute little story behind the name, too, Brad tells me.  “No va” is what the owner of the business said when he looked at the house at 87 Rainey Street when he initially purchased it, in late 2009.  He said “No va”, because, at the time, [Read more…]





Whitley: Downtown Luxury Apartments

Whitley: Downtown Luxury Apartments

Whitley Austin

Developers of the Whitley have launched their marketing website for the forthcoming 16-story, 266 unit downtown Austin apartment high rise.  AustinTowers broke the news in July that the apartment building, currently under construction in the Railyard District, would be branded as “Whitley” – a hat tip to the Whitley Paper company that used to occupy the site.

On the new website, we learn the 6th floor will host a mezzanine level pool deck.  The website also reveals certain amenities that suggest the building is targeting luxury apartment renters, by including a “Dog Park with Artificial Grass and Dog Washing Machine”, “Guest Suites Available”, and “Oversized Private Garages Available”.  Make sure the checkout the construction timelapse video.

Whitley Austin - Lobby RenderingThe Whitley’s site plan includes 10,000ft of retail space at the ground level.  CBRE is handling the commercial leasing with retail space being quoted at $36ft NNN.

Completion should be Q2 2013.

The address of the Whitley is officially:
301 Brazos Street (Brazos @ 3rd)
Austin, TX 78701

Whitley Austin Apartments - Pool Deck