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Business Week in Review: uShip deal; new Mueller homes; more eateries


TECHNOLOGY

Austin-based uShip has outgrown its two downtown offices and is moving to a new headquarters on East Riverside Drive as it launches an aggressive hiring plan.

The company, which runs an online shipping marketplace, will move to a three-story, 45,000-square-foot campus at 205 E. Riverside Drive.

UShip, which currently has 210 employees, will consolidate workers from its current headquarters in a renovated former general store at Third and Brazos streets, and from additional office space at Third Street and Congress Avenue.

The company will also push forward with plans to double its workforce over the next three years, CEO Matt Chasen said.

“We’re excited to get back into one larger space,” Chasen said. “It’s quite undesirable to be in two different locations. We’re such a team-oriented company, so it’s important for culture to share space. We have a chef that makes lunch for us all. It’s just much better if we’re all together.”

Founded in 2003, uShip runs an online shipping marketplace that matches customers who need to move large, unusually big items with thousands of transport companies that can take the load.

REAL ESTATE

More housing is on its way to the Mueller development in Northeast Austin, with the latest batch to include 375 homes, almost half of which will be priced within reach of middle-income families, the developer says.

Construction has started for the new section of houses, which will be built in two phases along the east side of Berkman Drive between Zach Scott and Philomena streets, said officials with Catellus Development Corp., which continues to transform the 700-acre former airport site into a large mixed-use project.

The first homes are expected to be ready late this year.

About 135 homes will be reserved for families who earn 80 percent or less of Austin’s median family income, and another 38 homes will be earmarked for families who earn 120 percent or less of Austin’s median family income.

The Austin area’s median family income is $77,800 for a family of four. Eighty percent of the median income works out to an annual income of $43,600 for an individual; $49,800 for a two-person household; and $62,250 for a family of four.

At the higher level, 120 percent of median works out to $65,350 for an individual; $74,700 for a two-person household; and $93,360 for a family of four.

In general, prices for the homes reserved for families earning 80 percent or less of the median family income are expected to range between $170,000 and $200,000. Prices for the homes earmarked for buyers who earn up to 120 percent of the median family income are expected to range between $200,000 and $300,000.

RESTAURANTS

Occupancy at Austin-area shopping centers hasn’t been this high in years, and, in many cases, it’s restaurants that are driving that growth.

A new report from commercial real estate firm CBRE shows restaurants accounted for 15 percent of all retail spending during the first quarter of 2016 — more than any other sector. Grocery stores were next, coming in at 14 percent.

CBRE expects the trend to continue, thanks not only to a strong economy, but also due to changing lifestyles.

Restaurateurs, local and national, have been busy adding locations in Central Texas in recent years, looking to meet growing demand. That will continue into the foreseeable future, according to CBRE senior vice president Eric DeJernett, with Austin continuing to be one of the nation’s hot spots.

“We get a lot of attention here because the demographics look so good,” he said. “We get a lot of good publicity around the world, so there’s definitely a sort of prestige to having Austin in your portfolio. Brands want to have a presence here.”

DeJernett points to New York-based Shake Shack as one example. The chain decided to come to Austin before heading to other Texas cities, such as Dallas and Houston.

“They said, ‘If we’re coming to Texas, we have to start in Austin first’,” DeJernett said. “We’re definitely a darling, a city that’s on everyone’s radar.”

Other chains that have either entered the area recently or are in the process of coming here include Yard House and Cyclone Anaya’s at Domain Northside, Peli Peli in the Second Street District and Pollo Tropical and MAD Greens, which are both adding multiple locations.


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