Retail real estate now a rare commodity in robust Austin economy, report shows

Jan Buchholz for Austin Business Journal

Austin’s retail real estate market is the tightest it’s been since the end of 2004 with an overall occupancy rate of almost 96 percent, according to the 2014 year-end report by The Weitzman Group and its affiliated Cencor Realty Services.

Though 1.2 million square feet of new retail space was added, much of that included the opening of three Walmart Supercenters in outlying markets — Elgin, Manor and Cedar Park.

The numbers may improve in 2015 based on projects in the pipeline, but much of that activity will be in the form of large single-user stores. No major shopping centers are on tap, even though Austin’s population and overall building construction continues on a torrid pace.

Retailing and fast food fans will be happy to know that In-N-Out Burger is adding another new location on South Lamar Boulevard in addition to its site in Central Austin and another in Cedar Park.

Here’s a look at some other major retail projects scheduled to open in 2015:

• Lamar Union, the mixed-use project on South Lamar Boulevard, which already includes Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Highball. A variety of local and national restaurants and retailers should be settled at various times this year, including New York-based Shake Shack, which is set to close its initial public offering this week.

• At the Seaholm LLC multi-use project downtown, Trader Joe’s and True Food Kitchen should be finished shortly.

• Other projects in the works include the redevelopment of the former Round Rock Garden Ridge property near I-35 and Texas Highway 45; Lamar Central, an office project with 34,000-square-feet of ground level retail at North Lamar Boulevard and 38th Street; a Sam’s Club in Cedar Park; a new Walmart in Kyle; a new HEB Grocery Co. in Cedar Park and in Wimberley; and a 55,000-square-foot Hobby Lobby in Bastrop.

Meanwhile, boutique retail space near the central core is practically non-existent.

“To meet demand for small shop space, the market has seen a number of new construction strip centers in the 10,000-square-foot range. These typically open fully leased,” The Weitzman Report stated.

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