Thomas Ranch could bring thousands of homes to a 2,200-acre site in the Hill Country west of Austin. ARETE COLLECTIVE LP

The Austin Business Journal reports, "a massive master-planned community could be coming to the border of Travis and Burnet counties.

Salt Lake City-based Areté Collective LP announced Dec. 4 plans for Thomas Ranch, a 2,200-acre neighborhood that could rise along State Highway 71 near Spicewood. It would feature a dense urban core that developers hope to anchor with a major grocer, plus thousands of housing units across multiple types of residences and price points, a school, health care options, a resort hotel and a golf course designed by the mind behind the newest addition to the world's oldest course — The Castle Course at Scotland’s St. Andrews Links.

“What we are trying to do is build an inclusive, livable community,” Areté Collective co-founder and CEO Rebecca Buchan said. “We really want to have all different sectors of income levels able to live and work within the community.”

Developers could build 3,500 or more homes on about 1,000 acres, said Joe Rentfro, managing director at Areté Collective. There will be single-family, multifamily, senior and affordable housing.

The exact mix of each housing type hasn’t yet been determined, but developers are “very close” to finalizing those plans, Buchan said.

Buchan said that she and Areté Collective co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Tom Hogan both have backgrounds in the luxury and hospitality markets, and found that oftentimes the people who work in luxury communities are unable to live in them. Because of that, it was important to plan options for people across a wide range of income levels to live within Thomas Ranch.

"We were really intrigued and thrilled to be able to develop this land and actually create a community where people could live, work and play and not just create another luxury golf community in the hills of Lake Travis," she said.

Thomas Ranch exemplifies how Austin's explosive growth has spilled into surrounding areas. But Thomas Ranch would stand out as a huge community in the area directly west of Austin, a wealthy but somewhat rural enclave. The community will be in the 78669 ZIP code, which ranked No. 7 on Austin Business Journal's latest annual list of the region's wealthiest ZIPs, with median household income of $133,673.

A community has long been planned on this site, about 30 miles west of downtown Austin.

As far back as 2017, an Illinois-based company called Blakefield LLC intended to develop Thomas Ranch, according to previous reporting. It is not known when or why Blakefield exited the project.

But Ralph Thomas, previous owner of the Thomas Ranch land, said in a statement he partnered with Areté "because, while they have a design-forward approach to modern living, the new development will honor the land and the people who have made it home for generations."

Areté Collective used its own land planning division to expand upon previously outlined plans with the golf course, residences and more than 40 miles of trails, a spokesperson said.

Thomas Ranch will feature a downtown-like district with restaurants, retail and other services, Rentfro said.

“We would like to attract an H-E-B, a Whole Foods or some type of grocer there,” he said. “Obviously everybody in our community, as well as neighbors that came to Thomas Ranch, would probably enjoy avoiding the drive up to Marble Falls or down SH 71.”

Current plans call for 250,000 square feet of retail space, according to the announcement.

Buchan added that Areté Collective is looking for a mix of local vendors and restaurants combined with some national brands.

Golf course, resort in the plans

The northern edge of the development will feature a golf course designed by David McLay Kidd. Kidd designed The Castle Course — which opened in 2008 — at St. Andrews Links, the world’s oldest golf course dating back to 1552.

“We are aiming to have a premier golf course,” Buchan said. “But we’re trying to do it as responsibly as we can.”

One of the reasons developers selected Kidd to design the course is because he utilizes natural elements of the land and does not reshape it, Buchan said. Hogan added that Kidd’s designs have historically been less intense with regard to water use.

Hogan has experience working with premier golf courses, having served as CFO at Augusta National Golf Club, the Georgia course home to the Masters tournament, from September 2012 to December 2018, according to his LinkedIn page.

Developers are planning a boutique resort at the development’s highest point, about 1,000 feet above sea level, Rentfro said.

The size of the hotel has not been determined, but Rentfro estimated the room count could be in the 90-120 range. The target clientele for the hotel will be leisure rather than business travelers.

What's next

Areté Collective have not yet entered into any development partnerships for the sprawling project, but is in talks with Baylor Scott & White Health, Marble Falls Independent School District, hotel brands and potential multifamily development partners, Rentfro said. The developer is also in talks with six to eight builders that are active in the Austin market, though decisions on that front will need to wait until Thomas Ranch’s infrastructure is in place.

Northmarq is representing Areté Collective on an offer memorandum for 95 acres in the northwest portion of the development, Rentfro said. That land is mainly being marketed for residential development, and Areté Collective would work with the selected bidding party to tie development in with the Thomas Ranch master plan.

Initial phases of construction should begin in the second half of 2023 with infrastructure projects such as a wastewater treatment plant and roads, Rentfro said. He expects full buildout of the community to last a decade.

Early residential sales will begin in late 2023, and a full sales rollout is expected in 2024, according to the announcement.

Areté Collective is in the process of finalizing the development’s sustainability plan, Rentfro said. The main pillars of that plan are centered around energy and water use, as well as using recycled, closed loop systems as much as possible.

In addition to using solar energy "as much as possible," Rentfro said steps like planting native, drought-tolerant flora can reduce water usage. He added that installing recycled greywater systems at the home level or recycling water through a wastewater treatment plant to reuse in landscaping are options developers could take to further reduce water usage. Buchan said that recycling rainwater had been considered.

"We’re highly focused on the drought and our use of natural resources," Buchan said. "We’ve been very focused in the early planning on how best to be a good steward of the land."

More than 40 miles of trails are planned for the development to make it a walkable community, Rentfro said, but the trails aren’t meant solely for pedestrians.

"We have bike paths along our walking trail, and we’re also planning to have electric cart paths as well," Buchan said. "Really, we’re trying to decrease the use of cars once you get into the community and have everything connected via some trail network for multiple modes of transportation."

Elsewhere, Areté Collective is developing a community on Oahu’s North Shore, adjacent to Turtle Bay Resort. It has completed a ski and golf resort in Montana, a resort in the Mexican vacation destination Cabo San Lucas and private clubs in Las Vegas, Park City and New York state, according to the company’s website."


Source: Austin Business Journal

Written by: Cody Baird

Published: December 4, 2022

Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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