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Zilker Parcel Up For Grabs, But Commercial Development Unlikely

511 Barton Blvd.

Developer Perry Lorenz said a two-acre lot up for auction next month is a one-of-a-kind purchase, but he said putting a development deal together will be tough.

The potential sale of 511 Barton Blvd. on the edge of Zilker Park was reported Tuesday by the Austin American-Statesman. Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty Joe Longston said the property, with an initial listing price of $4.5M, could be anything from the private estate of a wealthy buyer to an office, apartment or condominium development.

Lorenz has ties, as either developer or landowner, to many of Austin’s bigger projects: The Independent, Rainey Street, Spring and the Fairmont Hotel, which will open on Nov. 15. Lorenz said the two-acre parcel tops his list of desirable locations in Austin.

“This is as good a location as you can imagine outside the central business district,” Lorenz said. “But it’s going to be very difficult to get entitlements and neighborhood support for any kind of dense project. I’d call it swimming upstream.”

Barton Place

Barton Place, completed in 2008, sits almost directly across Barton Springs from the two-acre tract. Lorenz spent months negotiating plans for the 270-unit condominium project with the Zilker Neighborhood Association.

In the end, Lorenz gave multiple concessions to the neighborhood: no obstruction to the park, preservation of the restaurant row along Barton Springs Road, a setback and height that was in line with other potential development in the area.

Getting that same type of density on the south side of Barton Springs would be difficult, as it is firmly in the residential seat of Zilker. And the asking price of the property comes down to $50/SF for just under 100K SF to develop under impervious cover rules.

“It’s going to take somebody who doesn’t mind trying to swim upstream,” said Lorenz, who admitted he would not try it himself. “If the neighborhood says ‘Hell, no, we’re going to run you out of town,’ I wouldn’t do it. Life is too short, and that applies in spades once you get south of Barton Springs Road and west of Lamar Boulevard.”

The Zilker Neighborhood Association is well known for driving a tough bargain with developers.

The best compromise, Lorenz said, would be just what Longston suggested: a tech mogul or movie star who wants a private location with some of the best views in the city.

“That may be the dream scenario for the neighborhood and the current owners, to find some wealthy person who is willing to pay $4.5M for a home site,” Lorenz said. “You find someone who loves a one-of-a-kind property with incredible views and it doesn’t have to be a fistfight over the property.”

The Concierge Auction for 511 Barton Blvd. is set for Oct. 26 at 5 p.m.