Plan would demolish Arbor cinema, Manuel’s to build apartments, shops


The new development would have nearly 400 apartments, along with retail and restaurant space.

The project is proposed for 17.2 acres bounded by U.S. 183 , Great Hills Trail and Jollyville Road.

The Great Hills Market shopping center in Austin’s Arboretum area is slated to be redeveloped over time into a mixed-use project that would replace a popular arthouse theater and Manuel’s Mexican restaurant.

The project is proposed for 17.2 acres bounded by U.S. 183, Great Hills Trail and Jollyville Road, site of Great Hills Market. Manuel’s and the Regal 8 Arbor Cinema at Great Hills would be torn down to make way for the first phase of the new project, which would have nearly 400 apartments, plus retail and restaurant space.

“At this time there is not an imminent closing date for the theater or Manuel’s,” said Amanda Swor, director of entitlements and policy for the Drenner Group , the Austin-based real estate law firm that is handling a zoning request for the property owner, Dallas-based Great Hills Retail Inc.

Great Hills Retail Inc. is owned by the State of Florida’s Employee Pension Trust, Swor said.

The first phase of the project would encompass 6 acres. It would have a five-story building with 372 apartments, about 10,000 square feet of space for specialty retail and 16,000 square feet of restaurant space. The restaurant space would include a high-turnover restaurant, as well as a fast-food restaurant with a drive-through, according to city documents.

Swor said the project would transform an underused site as it is built in phases over the next 20 years.

The earliest ground could be broken would likely be 24 to 36 months from when the zoning case is approved, Swor said.

“We are in the early stages and working to get the property positioned to allow for residential uses and additional density on a property that is currently underutilized,” Swor said. “We will still need to obtain site development permits and building permits.”

Swor said the new project would start “as existing leases on the property terminate.” Existing leases range from five to 10 years, she said.

“The building would not go up until the Manuel’s lease expires or a mutual termination was reached,” she said.

Calls to the movie theater and Manuel’s were not immediately returned. Swor did not say when the theater’s lease expires.

The theater, which showcases independent films and alternative films, along with first-run productions, opened at its current site at 2003.

Rebecca Campbell, CEO of the Austin Film Society, said the Arbor cinema “has been synonymous with arthouse film in Austin for many years and any news of its closing would generate a shock wave through Austin’s theater-going community.”

“However, the AFS Cinema has added a fourth arthouse screen to Austin recently, and I guarantee that AFS, along with the Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crown Cinema, would quickly step up to fill the void.

The Austin City Council is due to consider the zoning change on Nov. 2, on a first reading and likely Dec. 7 for second and third readings, Swor said.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, an advisory board to the Council, has unanimously recommended approval of the zoning change.

Other tenants in the center include Pier 1, T.J. Maxx, La Madeleine French Bakery & Café, Poke-e-Jo’s Smokehouse, Lakeshore Learning Store and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. The center has 154,886 square feet of space in all.

In a letter to a city earlier this year, Swor wrote that the proposed rezoning “will allow for the addition of a residential use which is consistent with surrounding land uses.” A second phase will likely also contain a residential component,” Swor said.

“Final determination on the development will be driven by the market at the time of development,” she said.

Swor said there was no estimated cost for the project. The Travis Central Appraisal District valued the property at nearly $38.4 million this year.

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