It doesn’t look like much right now, but by this time next year a long-empty South Austin warehouse will be transformed into a bustling marketplace populated with more than 20 local merchants.
With construction set to kick off next month, the development team behind St. Elmo Public Market has released an initial batch of tenants – a list that features several heavy hitters in Austin’s culinary scene.
Olamaie executive chef and owner Michael Fojtasek was among the first to sign a lease, claiming space for Mignette, a new dining concept.
“Working with the team behind Saint Elmo Public Market has been a lesson in professionalism and community,” Fojtasek said. “They have not only dined at Olamaie, but have also backed us by attending various charity events that we support.”
Salt & Time, a butcher shop on East Seventh Street, will open a second location at the public market, selling meats, as well as an assortment of groceries and dry goods.
And Dripping Springs-based Texas Hill Country Olive Co. has committed to the project, as well.
Several more businesses have signed letters of intent and are expected to be announced in the coming months, according to Maker Bros., a local firm that conceived the project and is working with Fenix Global Investments and the Carlin Co. to make it a reality.
The public market is just the first phase of a mixed-use project that will take shape over the next few years, adding 380 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space and a 156-room hotel to a 12.5-acre site at South Congress Avenue and St. Elmo Road that was once home to a school bus manufacturing plant.
The development was initially announced in 2015. At the time, Saxon Pub was expected to relocate from South Lamar Boulevard to the development, but that’s no longer the case.
“After more than four years of planning, it is gratifying to finally get the public market portion of this project under construction,” said Brandon Bolin, a Maker Bros. partner. “Our lead tenants are amazing and committed to a shared vision. We’re confident that when we open early next year the overall tenant mix at the market will be a true celebration of local Austin food and a great source of pride for this progressive food savvy community.”
St. Elmo Public Market was inspired by public markets across the U.S. and around the world, including Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco and Pike Place Market in Seattle. In addition to shops and restaurants, they also serve as community gathering places.
“My sincerest hope is that this market will become an integral part of the rich cultural fabric of Austin providing a neighborhood market for all of Austin and for the 24 million visitors every year to the city to enjoy,” Bolin said. “That’s been the vision from the beginning.”
Steve Carlin, founder and president of the Carlin Co., has helped shape many of the country’s premier marketplaces and is eager to put his stamp on St. Elmo Public Market. He envisions a 50 percent retail, 50 percent restaurant tenant mix when fully leased.
“There won’t be any national chains in here,” Carlin said. “What we’re creating is a local celebration of craft food.”
In addition to the tenants already announced, Carlin envisions a bakery, fish market and a purveyor of fresh produce on the retail side.
“You’ll be able to shop here,” he said. “You’ll be able to buy all your raw ingredients.”
On the restaurant side, everything is expected to be family oriented – nothing too formal.
The developers selected Austin’s Andersson-Wise Architects to design the public market. The goal, founder Arthur Andersson said, was to keep as much of the 70-year-old structure intact as possible.
“The design of the St. Elmo Public Market preserves one of Austin’s few original mid-century modern warehouse buildings to create an environment that will showcase local food and celebrate local craftsmen,” he said. “The beautiful steel structure and clerestory monitor windows of the original 1950 warehouse have been carefully renovated, providing dramatic natural light and vintage materiality to this new market space.”
A new concept from Olamaie executive chef and owner Michael Fojtasek, Mignette is described as “a neighborhood restaurant, bakery and takeaway counter” with “an approachable everyday menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
“I frequented the Ferry Building and Oxbow Market when living in the Bay Area,” Fojtasek said. “I know that the market is going to be special.”
On the web: mignetteaustin.com
Salt & Time
The East Austin butcher shop owned by Bryan Butler and Ben Runkle heads west, offering an expanded assortment of fresh and cured meats, plus groceries – such as produce, frozen foods and quick-to-prepare meals – and dry goods.
“As a South Austinite, I couldn’t be more excited about the potential of the St. Elmo Public Market,” Runkle said. “This project has the opportunity to be both a neighborhood hub and world-class culinary destination. We are honored to be part of such an amazing project, and excited to make Salt & Time a part of the South Austin community.”
On the web: saltandtime.com
Texas Hill Country Olive Co.
A family-owned artisanal olive orchard and retail operation, Texas Hill Country Olive Co. is run by John Gambini and his daughter Cara Gambini. Olives are grown on 17 acres of land in Dripping Springs, where the original storefront is located.
“Texas Hill Country Olive Company is honored to be a part of Austin’s first and only public market space,” Cara Gambini said. “We firmly believe in the vision of the St. Elmo Public Market. It’s going to bring people, products and chefs together in a way that hasn’t been done before here in Texas.”
On the web: texashillcountryoliveco.com