Mixed-use area attracting higher education, office space, retail
When developers announced in September they were knocking down the Garden Ridge store near SH 45 N and I-35 to put in new national retailers, it hardly came as a surprise to those paying attention to the area.
The SH 45 N toll road has added a new corridor for residents to access businesses, services and living areas. A roughly 2-mile stretch between I-35 and Loop 1 seems especially viable, according to local officials.
"We see that area as the key economic corridor for Round Rock," said Ben White, vice president of economic development at the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce.
Traveling west on SH 45 N from SH 130 drivers can see not only mainstays such as Dell, Inc. and the La Frontera shopping center, but also new developments such as an office building, a new hotel, the construction of a university campus and a hospital.
"Looking out, you just see cranes," White said.
The most recently announced addition to the corridor, a development to be built where the Garden Ridge store stands, will house national retailers in 100,000 square feet of space.
The current building will be completely razed, and a new, modern shopping center will be built in its place, according to Andrew Sudderth, senior vice president of brokerage at The Retail Connection, which has been contracted to bring stores to the center.
Sudderth said the new center should be open to the public in late 2015 to early 2016.
The Retail Connection could not release names of retailers interested in the space because the firm is still working on lease agreements with the stores.
A Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel is under construction west of La Frontera Boulevard and east of the Emerson buildings.
Justin Mabey, co-owner of the Home2 Suites by Hilton location, said he and his partners chose the corridor because of its proximity to other developments.
"We felt like there was a nice energy in the area that we felt would help the hotel be successful," Mabey said.
West of the Emerson buildings is the coming South University campus, a for-profit university based in Savannah, Georgia.
North of the campus, the Camden at La Frontera apartment complex, though still under construction in some parts, is now leasing. By the time it is finished it will add 300 units to the area.
Drivers will also soon see office space going up off the westbound SH 45 N frontage road, though it will be outside the city limits. The office is called Frontera Ridge and will be composed of two four-story office buildings with about 200,000 square feet of space.
Mobility, visibility and density
Charles Harvey, vice president for commercial real estate firm Don Quick and Associates, said the corridor is popular for businesses not only because of high amounts of traffic in the area, but also for ease of access for employees and customers.
"Visibility is important," he said.
White said being on a toll road has not hurt businesses' interest in the area.
"We haven't seen that as a negative at all," he said. "We see it only as positive and diverse."
Mabey said he is from the region and was not surprised to see the SH 45 N corridor flourish.
"I've been doing development for quite a while," he said. "When you have a company like Emerson come in, it has a major impact. I knew it was a matter of time because of [the corridor's] proximity to Austin, too."
Russ Boles, a commercial real estate broker with Round Rock–based Summit Commercial, said the corridor is one of the densest in the city.
"You get shopping, jobs and medical care within 1 mile," he said. "That's what people 40 and under look for. They're busy and working and don't want to drive here and there."
The Camden at La Frontera apartments is intended to give residents easy access to the corridor's shopping and entertainment.
"That's an area of Round Rock that looks a lot more like Austin than Georgetown," Boles said.
Brad Wiseman, director of the Round Rock Planning and Development Services Department, said the city has not done any studies to prove the corridor is denser than the other parts of the city. However, he said Camden at La Frontera is the only four-story apartment complex in the city, and the corridor has the tallest office building—Emerson—and the tallest hotel — Marriott. Furthermore, Wiseman said, that area has more parking garages compared with other parts of the city, which developers typically build when space is an issue
"Generally we don't aspire to be a dense city," Wiseman said. "But there are exceptions. We'd like to see La Frontera become more dense.
Not so dividing lines
Though the corridor is a major economic hub for Round Rock, much of it is outside the city limits. Residents might not know it from driving on SH 45 N, but they are in the county's jurisdiction after passing CR 172. If they do a U-turn onto the south side of SH 45 N they are then in Austin and can see the corridor's biggest development.
The Auro development, which got its name by fusing the names of the cities of Austin and Round Rock together, is a planned 59-acre, mixed-use development on Austin's northern border with Round Rock.
The Neil Richards Group, the project's developer, states Auro will have multifamily housing, retail, office space, entertainment and hospitality. Furthermore, a new hospital will sit in the middle of the development, providing jobs and health care to the region.
Sitting outside Round Rock's city limits, the city will miss out on potentially millions in tax revenue. But Wiseman said what is good for the region is good for Round Rock.
"With more folks working along that edge, they're going to go shopping, go eat lunch, they'll have folks in from out of town," Wiseman said. "They complement each other."
Harvey agreed, saying Auro could help spur more developments in Round Rock.
"Although the hospital may be in Travis County it will benefit Round Rock just as much," he said.