Prime lakefront site under contract to Austin developer

Shonda Novak |

A piece of prime Austin waterfront property that’s currently home to Joe’s Crab Shack is under contract to be sold to Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group.

The 1.8-acre site on the shore of Lady Bird Lake is near the boardwalk the city is building as it works to guide development in the area.

Jamil Alam, a managing principal with Austin-based developer Endeavor, said Endeavor has no current plans to redevelop the site, which is at 600 E. Riverside Drive next to Blunn Creek. Alam declined to give financial details of the proposed sale.

“It’s great real estate,” Alam told the American-Statesman on Monday. “It’s one of the only pieces of private property on Lady Bird Lake in the whole south shore area and we just thought it would be good to own it.”

Alam said Endeavor intends to honor the lease for Joe’s Crab Shack.

“We ‘re going to continue to collect rent for the foreseeable future,” Alam said. Ed McGraw, senior vice president of development for Joe’s parent, Ignite Restaurant Group, confirmed through a spokesperson that the restaurant’s lease remains in effect but did not comment further. The lease expires in 2020.

In 2012, the city of Austin had a contract to buy the Joe’s site for $5 million from the owner, Rogan Giles Jr., president of Garwald Co. Inc. However, the city withdrew its offer after an independent appraiser estimated the property’s value at $3.47 million.

In September 2012, Giles put the property back on the market, asking $5.2 million. That price was based on an appraisal the owner commissioned by Clint Sayers.

The Travis Central Appraisal District valued the property at just over $3.5 million last year, down from $3.63 million.

Endeavor’s play on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake comes as that area is at a tipping point, city officials say, with development pressure heating up and redevelopment imminent or already under way.

With input from planners, citizens and others, the city wants to create a plan to guide public and private development over the next 20 or so years.

The 97-acre “South Central Waterfront” area — roughly the size of 33 downtown blocks — stretches along the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake, from South First Street on the west to Blunn Creek just east of Joe’s Crab Shack.

The overarching goal is to ensure the area transforms into lively, attractive and walkable environment with open spaces, better public access along and to the shoreline and other community benefits.

For much of the area surrounding the Joe’s site, economic forces already exist, and zoning is already in place, that could bring “well over $1 billion worth of redevelopment” to the area, said Alan Holt, a city planner.

“A lot of density is coming to this area already, like it or not,” Holt said, with much of the demand for residential development. And as that density comes, the city wants to have a plan that ensures that high-quality development emerges, along with public amenities like open spaces, connections to the waterfront, affordable housing and other community benefits, Holt said.

Richard Suttle Jr., an Austin attorney who represents developers and is familiar with the site, said the property “is in a great area and a developer can’t go wrong by either redeveloping it or working within the existing development.”