Long-prized Lake Austin property hits market


After decades of its owner rebuffing would-be buyers, one of the most sought-after parcels of lakefront property in Travis County is now on the market.

The land – 145 acres perched on a bluff near the Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360 and Courtyard Drive – is one of the few large undeveloped tracts on Shepherd Mountain overlooking Lake Austin.

Billed as an unprecedented offering of pristine land in West Austin, the property has been coveted for years by many a developer. But the answer from the owner has been the same time after time for the past two decades: the land isn’t for sale.

Until now.

“It is a generational opportunity for an investor or developer to own one of Austin’s most prized land tracts. It’s an amazing piece of real estate,” said Jeff Pace, senior vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle, which is leading an international marketing and advertising campaign for the property.

The property is zoned for about 70 home sites and offers “highly coveted lakefront and cityscape views,” according to the marketing brochure obtained by the American-Statesman.

There’s no minimum asking price. Combined, the 145 acres are appraised at more than $9.2 million by the Travis Central Appraisal District, but real estate experts predict the property could sell for tens of millions of dollars.

“It’s coming on the market at a time when there’s very high demand for custom lots in West Austin,” said Eldon Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, a market research and consulting firm. “And add to it the unique view features of this tract, and it results in even stronger interest out there. We’re not making any more lots like this.”

Likely destined for luxury houses, interest in the land will be a barometer of demand for Austin’s high-end residential market, said David Armbrust, the Austin real estate attorney who has represented the tract’s owner since 1989. The land is owned by an entity known as Camelback Corp., according to the Travis Central Appraisal District. In June, paperwork filed with the Texas secretary of state’s office listed a new entity, 360 Camelback LLC, as the successor to Camelback Corp.

The owner purchased the property from a savings and loan that was managing the property for the federal Resolution Trust Corp. during the 1980s, Armbrust said. Armbrust said he serves as president of Camelback, but declined to reveal who controls the entity.

Jones Lang LaSalle plans electronic marketing and advertising in local and national newspapers and trade publications. In the past two days, Pace said he has received close to 100 inquiries on the property, which will be sold as a single tract.

“We are targeting buyers that include residential real estate developers, high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors, and all those groups are showing strong preliminary interest,” Pace said. “Austin is an attractive investment market for many investors, and the Shepherd Mountain land is the bull’s-eye on that target. We expect to receive offers from a diverse range of investors.”

Armbrust said many offers have come in over the years for the property, sometimes dozens in a single year, from brokers, developers and others who have wanted it for everything from homes and apartments to office or retail uses.

“The offers are staggering” Armbrust said. Throughout it all, Armbrust has cloaked the owner in confidentiality.

“I’ve had broker friends who’ve asked, on my dying bed, would I say who owns it,” Armbrust said.

In one instance, he said, a prospective buyer offered to contribute a substantial amount to charity, just to get in front of the owner for 30 minutes. No luck. In another case, money was no object for an interested party. That offer, too, was rejected, Armbrust said.

Now the owner is ready to sell. The offering comes amid a strong residential market in Central Texas, which is seeing high demand for housing due to the region’s job and population growth, but a short supply of lots. The site for sale is near “high-end residential neighborhoods” whose residents include “executive decision-makers and upper-level managers,” the marketing materials state.

Rude said he expects there to be keen interest from wealthy individuals and custom homebuilders in the lots. However, there are a number of ways development could play out, including a single buyer who could build an estate there and keep the rest of the land intact, or subdivide it and sell off the lots.

While a new owner could seek to change the use from residential to commercial through a zoning change, Armbrust thinks it would be “very difficult.”

“To redevelop it as something different would require it to comply with rules and ordinances that are dramatically different than they were 25 years ago,” Armbrust said. He said no environmental or other studies have been done on the land for potential development purposes.

“It’s just been held in its current state in suspended animation,” he said.

Most of the land is in the Lake Austin watershed, with a small part in the Coldwater Creek watershed.

“There are significant barriers to entry for development in West Austin, with land use restrictions in place along Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and RR 2222 to preserve the environment and Hill Country terrain,” the offering states. Much of the land in the area is permanently preserved through the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Wild Basin Preserve and the Bull Creek Watershed.

David Booth, who several years ago bought prime land along Lake Austin and Bull Creek, on the east side of the Pennybacker Bridge, said the 145-acre tract “is an amazing property.”

“It would be great if it could be developed into a handful of estates rather than into 70 home sites,” said Booth, co-founder and co-CEO of Austin-based Dimensional Fund Advisors. “As you know, it is exceedingly rare to find a property like that. I hope it receives tender loving care.”


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