Austin Business Journal writes, "While working on the future $130 million Shops at Flatrock Crossing development, Bobby Johnson heard a common refrain from retailers he was trying to court to Marble Falls over the last two years: they wanted to be in the fast-growing area northwest of Austin, but didn't have anywhere to go.

That's why he views it as validating that the project — which was officially announced earlier this month and is expected to bring more than 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space to Marble Falls next year — has already secured a tenant lineup that includes Academy Sports + Outdoors, T.J. Maxx and Michael's Stores, with other big names on the way.

"Markets like Marble Falls are the growth direction for a lot of these tenants," said Johnson, principal at Twenty Two Ten Group, which is a partner on the Flatrock Crossing project. "They've got plenty of stores in the major markets, so they're growing into these middle markets where they know they can do business. Marble Falls has experienced a lot of growth and tenants know that."

The Shops at Flatrock Crossing project is the latest evidence that Marble Falls is solidly on developers' radars. Other commercial projects in the area include the $750 million Legacy Crossing developmentFalls 281 from Capella Commercial LLC, the Ophelia Hotel boutique hotel and conference center and a potential ABC Supply Co. outpost. And housing developments like Gregg RanchThunder Rock and Thousand Oaks are adding thousands of homes to the area.

Those in the know chalk it up to the city's anticipated population growth, its large tourism base, its emerging employment base thanks to the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, its access to highways and its proximity to Austin. Marble Falls' retail trade area tops 100,000 and is expected to reach 150,000 in the next few years.

Christian Fletcher, executive director of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp., said the city historically has been a "commercial-first market," meaning people in the Highland Lakes region would live all over but visit it to eat, drink and shop. A shift to more residential housing started years ago, he said, but "the doors got blown off" amid the pandemic and the changes it brought, such as remote work.

"The influx of wealth coming into Burnet County is pretty phenomenal and obviously the developers, whether it's single-family homes or multifamily developers, have reaped the benefits of that migration activity," he said.

Subdivision growth, especially south of Lake Marble Falls, has served as more validation for retailers who have eyed Marble Falls for years, Fletcher said. But it took a new shopping center development to accommodate them because the city doesn't have much built-out space.

"We don't have a lot of turnover in our commercial buildings, which I guess is a good problem except when you have people who want to come in the market who need somebody else to build their buildings for them," Fletcher said. "We knew this was just a matter of time before some of the national retailers and restaurants started really making a mark in Marble Falls."

He said the influx of people to the area hasn't posed new problems for Marble Falls so much as it has exacerbated existing ones, such as the need for a new wastewater treatment plant and improved road infrastructure.

In addition, he said the city still wants to diversify its economy. Health care has become a big focus because of the hospital, he said, but attracting new industries is a goal, potentially at the last parcel remaining in its business park.

One man who has had a front-row seat to the city's growth is Darrell Sargent. He began visiting Marble Falls decades ago, when his parents retired to the area. He said Marble Falls and the Texas Wine Country resemble Napa Valley when he was a child, and he predicts it will be "a real deal" in terms of growth.

As a result, Sargent and friends began buying up land in the area at the turn of the millennium — and then waited. Until recently, that is. Now, they're well into a 500-plus-acre project called Legacy Crossing, and they're also working on another 500-plus-acre mixed-use project across the street that Sargent is calling H&H Ranch.

"I don't think any of us planned to have (the Legacy Crossing land) 22 years later, but we do, and it's all going to turn out well," said Sargent, who works with real estate firms Joe Williams Group and Keller Williams Commercial.

Both of his projects are near the corner of U.S. 281 and State Highway 71, which he called the "largest intersection in Hill Country."

Work on Legacy Crossing had been slated to start but has been delayed by a Texas Department of Transportation proposal to widen the highways, which would eat into it. Residential homebuilding on the site is continuing, but other plans for retail and restaurant pads are on hold.

That has prompted Sargent to focus on H&H Ranch. It also has a home-building component, and he said he's looking to supplement it with a medical office, retail space, climate-controlled self-storage and a longterm-stay hotel.

One thing that has remained steady? Demand. Sargent said there's a clamoring for more entertainment options in the region. He would know. He's not a big-time developer, but rather a man who had a vision 20 years ago.

Marble Falls is "where people want to be, and I love the simplicity of it," Sargent said."


Source: Austin Business Journal

Written by: Justin Sayers

Published: May 16, 2024


Posted by Grossman & Jones Group on


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