JW Marriott developer sues city of Austin over lost incentives: Accusing city leaders of “bait and switch” tactics, the developer of a 1,000-room downtown hotel is suing over millions of dollars in incentives the city of Austin later revoked after the two sides clashed over wages for workers on the project.
White Lodging Services Corp., the company building the sprawling JW Marriott Austin at Congress Avenue and East Second Street, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Austin, seeking to block the city from revoking $3.8 million in promised fee waivers and also to recover attorneys’ fees and court costs, among other damages.
City spokesman Kyle Carvell offered a written statement on behalf of the city: “We are aware of the allegations within the lawsuit and are prepared to defend the City Council’s 2011 Ordinance related to prevailing wage requirements and White Lodging.” A spokesman for White Lodging, the city’s largest hotel operator, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Work on the luxury hotel, set to open on March 1, 2015, was already well underway when Austin City Council members effectively terminated a 2-year-old economic development agreement in August. That decision came after months of back-and-forth between the city and White Lodging executives over the promised wages being paid to workers helping to build the $300 million, 34-story JW Marriott.
A late addition to the economic development agreement had asked White Lodging to pay crews “the city’s prevailing wage” – something company representatives said they’d be willing to do. The prevailing wage varied depending on the work being done – from $7.57 for laborers to $25.62 for carpenters to $56.69 for elevator mechanics, according to documents filed with the lawsuit.
But later, White Lodging CEO Deno Yiankes contacted city leaders, saying the company had determined the prevailing wage requirement could potentially cost the developer more than it would save with the promised fee waivers.
After groups representing some workers building the hotel – particularly electricians who were being paid less than the prevailing wage – mounted protests, the deal unraveled.
Austin-area home sales surge 30 percent: The Central Texas housing market logged another strong month in August, as existing home sales climbed 30 percent and the median sale price rose more than 6 percent, the latest figures show.
The Austin Board of Realtors said 3,082 sales closed last month — the highest sales volume to date for the month of August and more than double the number 1490 of homes that were sold in August 2010. The August sales were just short of the region’s all-time record for sales in a single month, which was set in July when 3,135 homes were sold.
The median sales price was up 6.4 percent, with half the homes selling for more than $224,000 and half for less. On average, homes spent 43 days on the market, 19 fewer than in August 2012.
Inventory continued to shrink, with 6,075 homes on the market, 16 percent fewer than in August 2012. About 2,400 homes were in the pipeline to close, up 9 percent over August 2012 and likely signaling another solid sales month for September.
“The market continues to go strong all over Texas, especially in Austin,” said Jim Gaines with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “We are going to see our normal fall-winter slowdown, but year-over-year will probably still be positive. The limited inventory of properties available for sale appears to be the major slowing factor. Population and jobs continue to expand, so demand continues fairly strong.”