Construction is underway on a two-building expansion in the Covered Bridge development that will bring retail businesses, office space and a seafood restaurant to Oak Hill by early 2018.
Developer Bill Schultz purchased the 195-acre swath of land where the Covered Bridge community now sits in 1993. Since then single-family homes have been built on the property, and in 2011 Schultz partnered with AMLI Residential to bring 360 luxury apartments to the development.
“I bought the land and had no idea what to do with it; all I knew is that it was beautiful,” Schultz said. “I wasn’t looking at demographics, density, highway counts, none of that; I just thought I would like to live here, and I bought it.”
In late 2011, Schultz worked with RUNA Workshop principal Aaron Vollmer to apply for a 40-acre planned unit development, or PUD, designation through the city of Austin. Though the land was already entitled for dense development, Schultz and Vollmer negotiated with the city to preserve the area’s natural beauty, including 39 heritage trees.
“[Schultz] said we would not max out [the density]that was allowed,” Vollmer said. “In the end, the city was really happy because we kept a lot of the natural features of the place.”
Following the approval of the PUD in 2013, Schultz constructed a 4,800-square-foot building now occupied by Southwest Vet and Serenity Dental. Last year he began developing the adjacent 19,500 square feet where construction on the two-building expansion recently began.
Brad Singleton, medical director of Southwest Vet, said his team is excited for the potential business the expansion could bring to his practice.
“I think the new buildings will give all businesses at this intersection a boost, as the middle building is two story, and will be much more visible to cars traveling at highway speeds,” he said. “Dentists and veterinarians do not generate much in-and-out traffic the way a coffee shop or restaurant does, so we think more folks stopping by to get coffee or the like will notice the other tenants in the area.”
Dr. Mahwesh Razzaq of Serenity Dental echoed a similar sentiment about prospective clients and said the adjacent businesses will also provide area employees a range of amenities to access during work hours.
“It’s great to walk to a place for coffee or lunch without the hassle of taking your car out,” she said.
The first building, Schultz said, is comprised of 6,500 square feet and will include a one-story restaurant and a coffee shop. The second building will be a two-story structure of 13,ooo square feet geared toward retail uses on the first floor and either executive suites or medical offices on the second floor. Both structures are two-star rated green buildings by Austin Energy, meaning they have met high standards for energy efficiency and water use.
Vollmer said he and his partners drew inspiration from rustic structures typical of the Hill Country to design buildings that meshed with the landscape.
“We were intrigued by barn forms with thin-lined roof structures and large overhangs that take into account orientation and breezes,” Vollmer said. “Those strategies were taken from the Hill Country vernacular.”
Shawn McClain, owner of Japanese restaurant Tadashi, has partnered with Rick Wahlberg, whose background is in ranching and restaurant consultation, to bring seafood restaurant Shore to Covered Bridge. The menu, McClain and Wahlberg said, will feature dishes found in traditional seafood restaurants but with accoutrements typical of interior Mexican fare, such as poblano sauce.
Head chef Brandon Silver and executive chef David Garrido will execute the menu while artist Todd White will oversee the restaurant’s design, McClain and Wahlberg said. White, official artist of the Grammy Awards and lead designer for SpongeBob Squarepants, is drawing from the faux-industrial aesthetic for the restaurant’s interior.
Shore, slated to open in early February, is designed to accommodate up to 300 people and will be open for lunch, dinner and eventually brunch, its owners said. Live performances by blues and rock artists will also be regularly hosted.
“We are going to be part of that [Austin] music scene,” Wahlberg said.
Schultz said he is in talks with a coffee shop to lease the corner unit of the one-story building. Vertical construction is slated to begin by the end of August on the second building, which can house up to six retail tenants on the first floor and two or more office spaces on the second floor.
Covered Bridge Property’s Association board member Mike Conner said nearby residents are looking forward to having access to nearby amenities, which, according to Schultz, could include businesses such as a dry-cleaning facility, salon, fitness studio and liquor store.
“I think the majority of the neighborhood is excited about it,” Conner said. “The area is growing, and we need amenities.”