‘Little Luckenbach’ could connect Sam’s Town Point with the $270M South Austin entertainment district

Monday, November 20, 2023 by Chad Swiatecki

The owner of Sam’s Town Point hopes an upcoming mix of “rural retail” — including a farmer’s market and possible hemp cultivation along with live music offerings on the 10 acres surrounding the popular music venue — can connect with a planned entertainment district south of Slaughterhouse along Menchaca Road.

Ramsay Midwood, who took over ownership of Sam’s in 2017, said Austin Monitor his plans in partnership with Barton Creek Capital to create a “little Luckenbach” district that would serve to draw more retail and entertainment options to the popular region. Midwood expects the project to connect with a planned 1-mile pedestrian path that would be part of a series of apartment complexes and mixed-use buildings underway from a handful of developers who plan to inject $270 million in new business into the area.

“I kind of see it as a little Luchenbach, like a little town within a town, where you have a farmer’s market, kind of rural retail like beekeepers and whatever can be done with hemp production,” said Midwood, who is among them. hoping to preserve as much of the region’s old Austin character as is just across the road from the city limits in the extraterritorial jurisdiction governed by Travis County. “It just makes so much sense. First of all, the city needs to have more centers. … You can have it like Domain living, which isn’t really Austin’s brand.”

Rendering of a proposed development by Dwell Design Studio

Midwood’s project is in the design phase, meaning it will follow several other projects that have been in planning and permitting for more than a year from groups such as MNO Partners, Austin NNN, United Properties and Investcor Development, which have more than 900 apartments and residential units on the way. These companies are also involved in a number of other projects that are expected to double the 11 bars and restaurants currently located in the triangle bounded by Slaughter, Menchaca and Old Manchaca Road.

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United Properties’ 302-unit complex is believed to be the first mover to bring more housing to the district, with Local – a 233-unit project from Investcor – set to begin construction 45 days after a final $12 million investment is completed for to complete the capital stack.

“This is the next Rainey Street, with all the things that all the locals love about Rainey Street before it kind of disappeared into high-rises,” said Tylere Brennan, principal partner at Investcor. “That’s what we have to create down there. And with the 11 bars currently there, we’re just going to keep adding more, with another 11 on the way.”

The influx of residents and more hospitality businesses to the area is expected to multiply the roughly 2,000 customers who visit the bars and restaurants already in operation each weekend.

While the location in the extraterritorial jurisdiction means far fewer zoning or planning requirements on projects, Brennan said the developers planning to transform the region have a loose agreement to keep buildings low and preserve trees and natural features as much as possible.

“You can go as high as you want as long as you can (provide parking for) it. We didn’t. We’re trying to stick to that kind of area and stay true to why people love that area — kind of pet-friendly, and you’re with your friends under these amazing 100-year-old oak trees all around you. That’s why we limited it to just five stories.”

Frank Navarro, a partner with MNO Partners, said his group’s planned 429-unit complex is meant to fit in with the other residential and hospitality projects headed to South Austin.

“We’re fully aligned and definitely want them there,” said Navarro, who is working to finalize the investment package for the unnamed project. “It’s not like we mostly have legally binding agreements with each other, but there’s a lot of cooperation between the different property owners and the different businesses that are trying to come into the district and get things permitted.”

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Navarro said the years-long wait to complete the approval process with the county was worth the trade-off to avoid city taxes and the zoning regulations that would have limited some uses of the parcels.

“There’s no zoning or density restrictions or use restrictions or anything like that, which I think is what really makes this entertainment district work,” he said. “I mean, sure, sometimes zoning can be useful in certain scenarios, in more urban areas and things like that, but it often prevents you from having really cool mixed products.”

Bridget Dunlap, whose Luster Pearl South has helped establish the area as a destination in recent years, is in talks to bring a bar/restaurant concept to one of the mixed-use projects. She said the growth pressure forcing residents out of the Rainey district she helped create is what the South Austin district will help serve.

“A lot of people have been pushed out that way and they need more options. I think that’s where the locals live and the locals want to eat and drink like the locals and get away from tourism,” she said. “There sure is plenty of room down there. … I would love to feel like Rainey circa 2010, but I don’t see that happening. The traffic is so crazy.”

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