Developments Breaking Ground in Leander

Business Park 2243

The multiple warehouse buildings that were once home to Aquatic Industries is becoming a popular hub for commercial development in Leander.

The campus stood empty after Aquatic Industries relocated in June 2009 until Mike Elmore, owner of the development group MPE Realty and president of Austin Capital Concrete, came up with an idea.

“I saw the business and thought, ‘I wonder if I can take the warehouses and break this thing down into smaller businesses,’” he said.

Elmore started renovating the seven buildings in October 2009 and planned to offer retail space in the front portion and office warehouses in the back part of the 80,000-sq.-ft. development.

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Instead, Business Park 2243 is becoming home to a diverse group, as retail, offices, a school and a theater company are committed to locating in the park. A skating rink is also a possibility for the back 10 acres, which is zoned heavy industry.

“This is becoming more than what I had envisioned, and I think it’s coming together great,” Elmore said. “There’s not a lot of office and warehouse space in Leander for smaller businesses and there’s a need for that.”

The overall value of the development is expected to be about $5 million to $6 million.

Crystal Falls

The idea for the Crystal Falls development was born 15 years ago when Hinckley, while horseback riding, discovered rolling hills in the middle of nowhere.

“I knew we had to have it,” said Hinckley, president of The Lookout Group Inc. “This 1,500 acres surrounding the Golf Club at Crystal Falls was the start of the complicated assemblage of ranches and small tracts that now comprise the Crystal Falls Master Plan.”

The Crystal Falls development began in 1997 with 1,500 acres and has grown to 5,000 acres spanning from Bagdad Road west to Nameless Road between RM 1431 and FM 2243.

The project is 10–15 percent complete with 1,300 homes built and about 3,500 acres left to develop, Hinckley said. The homes will range from the traditional 60-foot-wide lot to 5 acres—and everything in between.

“We have everything except starter homes below $200,000,” he said. “Our hope is to have a vertical move-up market within the community, so folks can move up or down within the community as their lives and incomes change.”

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The award-winning master planned community boasts five subdivisions, churches, three elementary schools and a Walgreens, but Hinckley’s plan includes more commercial in the future.

“We are holding out for commercial business partners who raise the bar, and we have resisted the temptation to sell to convenience stores and gas stations,” Hinckley said. “We have serious interests from a grocery chain, upscale retailers, restaurants and a host of medical and wellness providers.”

The Vision of Leander

The southeast corner of Crystal Falls Parkway and Toll 183A is just farmland and trees today, but it will soon house The Vision, a commercial mixed-use development.

Rick Castleberry, principal of Paladin Cres Commercial Real Estate, conceived the idea with partners Doug Devine and Tucker Lewis. Castleberry owns 69 acres along the intersection and has another 6 acres under contract with additional acreage in the works.

Depending on market conditions, Castleberry hopes to start building infrastructure by the end of the year for phase one, which will include pad sites for restaurants, banks, drug stores and other retail along Toll 183A and Crystal Falls Parkway.

Phase one is just the beginning of a larger, more diverse project.

“We’re trying to develop a live, work and play atmosphere with mixed-use commercial, retail, office and with some dense residential community,” Castleberry said. “There is a lot of potential for this corner and with good planning it can be developed well.”

Transit-oriented development

The City of Leander’s plan to have a 2,300-acre transit-oriented development between US 183 and Toll 183A is still in the works, despite tough economic times.

“The economy has really had an impact. Realistically, it will probably be 2012 before we see any vertical build,” said Pix Howell, Leander’s urban design officer. “We’re going to position ourselves for growth and we’re going to be ready for it when the economy turns.”

Some of the transportation aspects of the TOD are falling into place, with Capital Metro’s Red Line commuter rail opening in March and the beginning of the Toll 183A expansion in March.

The TOD will have an estimated population of 30,000 at build-out and feature single-family and multifamily residential units, commercial and retail.

“There has to be a mix of those elements in all parts of the plan,” Howell said.