Experts at Bisnow’s Austin Retail and Restaurant Summit last week were pretty ebullient about the market, but we’re still facing challenges, we learned. Catellus EVP Greg Weaver says you’d think it would be overbuilding, but we’re actually underbuilding because no one knows where or what to develop, and lenders aren’t active in retail development yet. (Some have just been really focused on multifamily and office and will trickle down to retail soon.) Above, some of the 230 attendees who joined us bright and early.
Retail Solutions founder David Simmonds has heard from national developers that Austin is the hardest development market in the country; some would rather compromise on rates to renew than deal with permitting and construction here. (Paperwork and red tape kills more people per year than sharks and lions combined.) That’s artificially limiting supply even though demand is here. Our region’s water shortage is also having an impact; some areas aren’t allowing new development because they can’t extend utilities.
Our moderator Bury SVP Nick Moulinet was particularly curious how food trucks will change the retail scene. David says they’re a welcome addition to the Capitol City’s tight occupancy. (Researchers don’t include them in our vacancy stats.) They can also be a great temporary income for buildings or areas in transition. And while there aren’t many non-food food trucks in the market yet, he predicts those could become popular. (They’re so similar to mall kiosks.) Snap Kitchen founder/CEO Martin Berson thinks food trucks will have a serious positive impact on the market. He says they can be a sort of minor league for young restaurateurs, and they tend to be really creative. (Also the clean up is easier.)