The family that owns the Austin American-Statesman has chosen Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group as its partner on a future redevelopment of the prime waterfront property just south of downtown where the newspaper now operates.
In choosing Endeavor, the Cox family tapped an experienced developer with large, complex and high-profile retail, office, residential and mixed-use projects throughout Central Texas and beyond. Founded in 1999, Endeavor has acquired or developed more than 13 million square feet of commercial real estate locally, with signature projects including the Domain and Southpark Meadows.
Endeavor’s selection comes 13 months after an entity made up of members of the Atlanta-based Cox family bought the Statesman property from Cox Enterprises, the privately held company that owns the Statesman. That move, in December 2015, signaled that the family was positioning the site for future redevelopment, local real estate experts said at the time.
In February 2016, the Cox family members solicited potential development partners, and interviewed prospective firms as the year progressed. Developers have said whatever happens on the 18.9-acre Statesman site has potential to be a game changer for the south side of Lady Bird Lake.
“Over the course of 2016 the Cox family has been working through a comprehensive process to evaluate potential development partners with which to consider all scenarios for the future of the Statesman property, including redevelopment,” the Cox family said in a written statement Friday. “The owners sought a partner who would align with the Cox family values and shares a vision of the Statesman property which balances reasonable investment-backed expectations and a commitment to a thriving Austin community.”
Cox Enterprises executive vice president Alex Taylor, a member of the Cox family, said the family received applications from “a couple of dozen major developers from around the world.”
“Endeavor was one of the strongest from the get go and won the day because of localism, professionalism and their reputation,” Taylor said. “We liked the partners, we liked the fact that they live in Austin and they care about the city. They have a reputation for being honest and extremely capable.”
Endeavor is one of Central Texas’ highest-profile firms, having developed or acquired millions of square feet of space since its founding in 1999. Endeavor developed the original Domain mixed-use project in North Austin, and continues to add development there. The firm also developed the Bowie apartment tower downtown, Champion Office Park in Northwest Austin and Rollingwood Center on Bee Cave Road, among many other projects.
Bryce Miller, a founding principal with Endeavor, said both Cox and Endeavor realize any redevelopment project will be “a very long project.” Although neither party is putting a timetable to when any development might occur, Miller said: “I could easily envision this to be a 10-year-plus process,” he said.
Taylor said the Statesman property “is a unique location that sits right at the intersection of the past and the future.” Any redevelopment of the site, Taylor said, will enhance “this marvelous city that we love.”
City officials view the Statesman property as key parcel in their blueprint called the South Central Waterfront Initiative, a roadmap to guide the inevitable new development coming to Lady Bird Lake’s shores south of downtown.
The City Council approved the South Central Waterfront plan last year, which lays out a vision that includes public amenities such as parkland, trails, affordable housing and other benefits. In exchange, the city is prepared to let developers build bigger and taller buildings than are allowed now.
“This site is the linchpin for initiating the redevelopment of the South Central Waterfront District, and doing it well is the key to the redevelopment of the south shore of the lake,” said Charles Heimsath, president of Capitol Market Research, an Austin-based consulting firm.
Developers have said the Statesman site — which has an appraised value of $62 million, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District, and has long been coveted by developers — is one of the most prized tracts in the city.
The city’s plan envisions more than 60 percent of the Statesman site becoming “a great public realm that includes a new signature waterfront park, new trail connections, public plazas and tree-lined streets,” said city planner Alan Holt.
In exchange for the community benefits, the amount of density on the Statesman site might be increased threefold, to as much as 2.1 million square feet of space, “which could be realized with point towers that maintain views, light and open space,” Holt said.
The Statesman site has existing approvals for up to 660,000 square feet of buildings, Holt said last year.
Richard Suttle Jr. is the Austin attorney for the Cox family and the Statesman redevelopment project. Suttle said the city’s master plan for the south shore area will be taken as “part of a starting point, and it’ll be a long process of evaluating and planning.” He said a zoning case “is a ways off.”
Suttle said a first step with the Cox/Endeavor partnership will be “to do a full analysis of the tract, and that includes both site constraints and components of the South Central plan and community wishes and benefits.”
“We monitored and watched with interest the city’s approval of the South Central Waterfront plan and we look forward to working with them on implementing components of the plan,” Suttle said. “At this stage of the game, everything’s on the table,” he said, referring to green space, height and other aspects of a future project.
Miller said Cox and Endeavor “have not yet had an opportunity to sit down and say, ‘what’s next?’ ”
“They made this decision to help them start that process,” Miller said. “The various uses that could be on that site are going to be a function of what Endeavor and the Cox family sit down and agree on.”
Mayor Steve Adler said: “This is an important property, and I look forward to working with the Cox family and their new Austin-based developer to achieve the best deal for everyone.”
A look at some of Endeavor Real Estate Group’s Austin-area projects
IBC Bank Plaza, downtown Austin
Rollingwood Center, Rollingwood
Champion Office Park, Northwest Austin
Southpark Meadows, South Austin
6555 Burnet Road redevelopment, North Austin
Springtown Center redevelopment, San Marcos
1890 Ranch, Cedar Park
The Domain, North Austin
Domain Northside, North Austin
The Bowie, downtown Austin