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Taking on a Retail Transformation

by: Jan Buchholz/Austin Business Journal

Austin investors dig deep to update one of Round Rock’s first big-box stores

ROUND ROCK, Texas – Veteran Austin real estate investors Jimmy Nassour, Manny Farahani and Steve Portnoy have purchased the Garden Ridge big box retail property in Round Rock and plan to raze it for a more updated retail project serving multiple smaller anchor stores.

The 100,000-square-foot Garden Ridge store at the northwest corner of I-35 and State Highway 45 has been a high-profile behemoth of concrete and asphalt for years and the investors want to create a more finely landscaped site that will appeal to national, regional and local tenants.

They’ve hired The Retail Connection and brokers Lance Morris and Andrew Sudderth to market the proposed retail site, which covers about 119,380 square feet on 13 acres.

“We have multiple national retailers that do not have a presence in this particular market, as well as some existing retailers looking to relocate to a location with better visibility that better conforms to their new prototypes,” Morris said.

Nassour, a high –profile local attorney, owns multiple properties arcos the city including the massive Freescale Semiconductor Ltd. Campus in East Austin, which also is a partnership with Farahani.

Repurposing that massive office and industrial campus off Ed Bluestein Boulevard has been a tough challenge, but the investors believe that redeveloped retail in Round Rock will be a hot commodity in an area already teeming with high –profile retailers.

Garden Ridge, the home decor chain based in Plano, Texas, is in the middle of rebranding its stores to “At Home.” Morris said the company’s lease at 2800 S. I-35 in Round Rock matures in June 2015, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the retailer makes an early exit.

The Austin Business Journal previously reported that At Home leased 108,000 square feet at Cedar Park Town Center, a new center near U.S Highway 183A and Whitestone Boulevard.  It also appreas, based on the website for Stone Hill Town Center that At Home is potentially moving into that regional center in Pflugerville, as well.

Stephen Gele, principal of SLG Architect Inc., is designing the new retail center, which includes a large multitenant building and two retail pads, which also could accommodate multiple tenants and possibly drive-thru facilities.

A contractor has yet to be selected, though construction probably won’t begin until mid- 2015 with delivery later that year or early 2016.

Morris, former Austin President of The Weitzmwan Group, was one of the first high profile retail brokers to venture into new territory by starting a local office of The Retail Connection and was joined by former colleague Carla Neel in April 2012.  It was the first of numerous defections, most prominently in the retail estate sector.

During the past two years, Morris and Neel built the business into a multi-platform firm, which handles leasing, property management, acquisitions and development.

The Austin office now has 9 brokers handling 3.5 million square feet of project leasing and two million square feet of property management.

Go to AustinBusinessJournal.com and search “Lance Morris” to read an expanded Q&A with Morris and Neel.

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/print-edition/2014/08/29/austin-investors-dig-deep-to-update-one-of-round.html