‘SoChaca’ develops, vendors join forces

Entrepreneurs in the southern Manchaca Road area are working together to brand local businesses as the area continues to grow.

Entrepreneurs in the southern Manchaca Road area are working together to brand local businesses as the area continues to grow.

The southern Manchaca Road area is poised for growth as new businesses and developments seek to capitalize on residential development.


Construction is underway on projects including Ravenscroft Retail, South Austin Beer Garden and the expansion of business park The Manchac.


In addition, to inform residents about goods and services available in the area, local business owners have dubbed Manchaca Road from Slaughter Lane to FM 1626 “SoChaca” and have begun a grass-roots effort to form a business district, SoChaca Austin Merchants.


Susan Harris, president of Site Solutions Inc., said when the company began work on The Manchac five years ago there was unmet demand in the South Austin market, which draws shoppers from Buda and throughout Southwest Austin.


“People don’t want to get out of their bubble,” Harris said. “They want to live and work pretty close together.”



Turning dirt


Several projects in the area are being developed. Construction was finished recently on the ninth of 11 buildings in The Manchac, and in May a 7,200-square-foot building was completed, Harris said.


Harris said permitting is in progress with Travis County to begin plumbing and foundation work in June on the final two buildings, which will likely be completed by November.


Work is underway on Ravenscroft Retail (See sidebar).


Also under construction is a new multipurpose classroom coming to Menchaca Elementary School. Site work, drainage and plumbing updates at the campus are part of $2.2 million in bond projects, according to Deborah James, architect and project manager with Austin ISD’s Construction Management Department.  The work is scheduled for fall completion. More improvements will be scheduled for summer, she said. 


Construction started in late January on South Austin Beer Garden at 10700 Manchaca Road. Co-owners Ryan Thomas, Davey Pearce and Chris Cantu are transforming a 1920s-era house into the bar area and will offer Texas beers on tap.  Thomas said the 1-acre property will have a covered pavilion, music stage and food trailers when it opens this fall. 


Ted Brackin, owner of Manchaca Plaza LLC, said plans are in place to develop Manchaca Plaza—buildings ranging in size from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet on 6.5 acres. There is no firm timeline, but site work began in spring 2014, he said.


Robert Amoroso, Manchaca Village Veterinary Care business manager, said the area is still establishing its identity.


“It has become more populated; there’s definitely a lot more traffic,” he said.



‘SoChaca’ develops, vendors join forcesInfrastructure plans


Some residents are concerned the development is progressing faster than the infrastructure needed to support it, said Roberto Talamas, president of the Hillcrest neighborhood’s homeowners association.


“We don’t have any problem with the development; the problem is the city has to move ahead of the development,” he said.


The Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to expand a 1-mile stretch of Manchaca Road from Ravenscroft Drive to FM 1626 into a five-lane road have stalled because of a lack of funding, said Greg Malatek, Austin district engineer with TxDOT.


Malatek said TxDOT plans to reach out to the city soon to discuss the project, which would establish two lanes in each direction and a center lane.


The project would cost about $10 million, and funds could come from the city, TxDOT or the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, he said.


“We’re still committed to having [the project] environmentally cleared and plans ready on a shelf in case funding does become available,” he said.


Hillcrest HOA members met with officials including Malatek to voice support of the roadwork, HOA board member Ron Richter said. The city controls Ravenscroft and TxDOT controls Manchaca Road, he said. 


“All we feel we can do at this point is follow up with how the process is going,” he said.


Richter said if the roadwork happens, the area has the potential to become a district similar to that of South Congress Ave.


“All of these elements are coming into place to make this road [from] Slaughter to 1626 really viable and alive,” he said.  



New growth, expansions


Co-owners Brenna Robertson, Clint Robertson, Rene Stokes and Caleb Horn opened local bar Indian Roller on Oct. 20 at 10006 Manchaca Road. According to Stokes, the general manager, the group found the property while looking in South Austin for a site away from downtown.


The owners did not plan on being so far south but fell in love with the neighborhood, Brenna Robertson said, adding they plan to open a wine and coffee bar sometime in 2016 as well as a rock music venue called She Wolf in 2017 on the group’s 8-acre property.


Moontower Saloon opened in winter 2012 and has expanded since then, adding parking, decks, volleyball courts and other facility improvements.


Co-owner Josh Bumb said the business also aims to build a 10,000-square-foot dance hall featuring medium-sized musical acts. A date has not been determined, but ideally work will begin in early 2016, he said.  


Talamas said he loves seeing new businesses but hopes police presence will increase to keep streets safe, considering the amount of bars in the area. 



Merchants joining forces


SoChaca Austin Merchants need to organize, said Jill Swift, Johnny G’s Meat Market co-owner. 


“We’re like the best-kept secret [in Austin],” she said. 


Restaurants, bars and a roller rink are among the establishments that make up SoChaca’s eclectic mix, Swift said.


When Earlita Hellums, owner of Austin Roller Rink, heard about the SoChaca merchants group, she said she decided right away that she was on board.


“It’s hard to be a small business,” Hellums said. “Every little bit helps, and there is plenty of business to go around. If you can help other businesses find success, then that’s great.”


The group formed a Facebook page in March and plans to publicize local events, said Diane Winslow, co-owner of It’s About Thyme Garden Center.


“Unless you are traveling through for your commute, I think people wouldn’t be as aware that all these businesses exist down here,” Amoroso said.


Business districts can help bring residents together, said Rebecca Melancon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, which has established its IBIZ districts —local business districts—in areas throughout Austin, including on South First Street. 


“It’s about local business,” Melancon said. “It’s not about how funky you can be or bizarre you can be. [Business districts] are neighborhood destination points of local businesses.”


Creating districts helps support community, she said.


“We’ve bridged the gap in so many ways [in terms of] helping the residents see the businesses not as those commercial entities on the street but as neighbors.” 


For additional coverage from our media partner KVUE, watch "Businesses want to nickname part of South Austin 'SoChaca.'"    

By Kelli Weldon
Kelli joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter and has been covering Southwest Austin news since July 2012. She was promoted to editor of the Southwest Austin edition in April 2015. In addition to covering local businesses, neighborhood development, events, transportation and education, she is also the beat reporter covering the Travis County Commissioners Court.


MOST RECENT

The 3.9-mile stretch of Hwy. 290 through the Y at Oak Hill was ranked the 43rd worst stretch of road in the state by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The report was issued in December, but used data from before the pandemic in 2019. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)
$674 million Oak Hill Parkway project set to begin in South Austin, but opponents are not giving up the fight

TxDOT says the highway widening is long overdue for a stretch of road that reached capacity in the 1990s, but some residents, environmental groups and politicians say the project is too big, too expensive and too harmful to the environment.

A tree with fallen branches has fallen on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri.
Does your emergency repair need a city permit? Here is how you can find out

The city of Austin has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with repairs following February's winter storm.

Sunset Valley Police Chief Lenn Carter led emergency efforts in the city during and after the Feb. 15 winter storm. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sunset Valley approves emergency declaration, reviews city operations during Austin-area outages

The city provided a review of operations during last week's winter storm and is seeking feedback on resident experiences.

Photo of Judge Brown in a mask and orange vest with megaphone
Travis County and 3 Central Texas neighbors to pilot mass vaccination site

Some 3,000 people will be vaccinated at a drive-thru event at the Circuit of The Americas this weekend.

Ally Medical Emergency Room opened on Menchaca Road this winter. (Courtesy Ally Medical Emergency Room)
Con Madre Kitchen opens, new local emergency room and more Southwest Austin business news

A new restaurant and emergency room opened, and a Dripping Springs fundraiser was rescheduled for early March.

The Rastegar project will total 530,000 square feet of industrial space. (Rendering courtesy Rastegar Property Co.)
50-acre industrial project coming to Southeast Austin along SH 130

The Rastegar Property Co. project will total 530,000 square feet of industrial space.

Austin Water has lifted its boil-water notice for the city of Austin. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Water lifts boil-water notice for all customers

Water quality tests have shown that city water is now safe to drink, and Austin Water continues to repair water mains and leaks.

Photo of school site from the air
Construction of Cypress Springs Elementary is over halfway done

Dripping Springs ISD's fifth elementary school is set to be substantially complete this summer.

Boil-water notices are still in place for some Austin residents. (Courtesy Pexels)
Austin dealing with ‘tens of thousands’ of water main breaks, officials say

Austin's water director said water main breaks during the winter storm were the likely culprit behind the draining of the city's reserves.

Photo of a desk with vials of Moderna vaccines on top
Austin Public Health resumes vaccinations, testing after weather-related delays

APH is currently in the process of rescheduling 3,300 vaccine appointments that were postponed beginning on Feb. 13.

Austin ISD staff at Pleasant Hill Elementary School distribute meals. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD offering free meals to children and caregivers Feb. 25

Austin ISD is distributing meals at 33 campuses across the city of Austin.