Developers detail plans for first office building in 116-acre Northline project

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Sep 19th, 2023

116-acre mixed-use project northwest of Austin that has been billed as a downtown-like destination for a booming suburb is about to reach another milestone: its first office building.

The developers behind the Northline project and Baltimore-based St. John Properties Inc. are teaming up to build a four-story, 120,000-square-foot class A office building at 1157 Main St. in Leander. It will include roughly 15,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space. It’s scheduled to break ground early next year and deliver the first half of 2025.

“This seemed like a great opportunity where the groundwork was already laid for us, and we could come in as a partner here and go vertical and get the space activated,” said Brooke Harlander, regional partner for St. John’s Austin office.

Developers eventually aim to have 5 million square feet of office, retail, residential, hotel and civic space as well as a signature park. The site is between U.S. Highway 183 and the 183 toll road, south of San Gabriel Parkway and less than a mile from the northernmost stop of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Red Line train.

Northline representatives previously said the investment will likely top $1 billion at full buildout over the next decade or so, especially with rising construction costs. The announcement provides additional information after the Austin Business Journal reported on the initial details of the office project back in June.

“There’s going to be nothing like this sort of development in this corridor unless you go down to North Austin. It’s going to be a huge shot in the arm for our project,” said Alex Tynberg, principal at Northline Leander Development Co. and Tynberg LLC, the master developer of the project. “We’ve got an incredible partner that has tremendous breadth of expertise in this realm of development coming to the project and making a huge splash in the region.”

Randall Malik, Leander’s director of economic development, said the Northline project “greatly enhances Leander’s opportunity to bring primary employers to our community.”

“Given that many companies have a condensed timeline for relocation, the presence of move-in ready office spaces in Leander positions us to be a more attractive destination for new businesses,” Malik said.

The office project is somewhat unique for St. John, which is a full-service developer and handles everything from construction through leasing in-house. Like their other two public projects in the region, another one in Leander and the other in Georgetown, the half-century old company is known across the country for its class A flex developments that feature brick buildings and bay windows that are intended to look like single-story office space but are designed for uses such as light manufacturing and distribution.

Harlander noted they have three other projects like the Leander one in their portfolio around the country, and the goal of this one remains the same, which is to target small businesses, preferably ones in or around Leander that want the “urban feel of an office environment.” It is being constructed speculatively and tenants could include law firms, tech companies, business consultants or information technology companies, as well as a mix of sit-down restaurants and cafes.

“That’s typically been our bread and butter in any market that we go into,” she said.

The project team for the office building includes The Beck Group as the architect, Kimley-Horn as the civil engineer, KW Landscape Architects as the landscape architect, and engineering work by WGI and Dunaway.

Austin-based general contractor DeNucci Constructors LLC broke ground on Northline in March 2020 and has been working on the public infrastructure. The first two vertical pieces of the site are two residential projects — Slate Real Estate Partners is building 343 townhomes and apartments and Novak Brothers is building 69 townhomes. Tynberg said the first units have been sold or leased, and tenants are expected to move in the next few weeks. Developers are also gearing up to start work on some civic spaces, including a roundabout with public art.

Tynberg said the addition of the new building is going to be helpful in supporting the entirety of the area. In Northline, he said there is a lot in “the queue” that is getting close to being announced. That should include commercial projects, like additional retail, medical office, as well as senior housing, hotel and additional residential products.

While Tynberg said he can’t disclose any of those projects yet, it will make up for the loss of their anchor tenant, The Hub, an entertainment and food venue that earlier this year said it will not open in Northline. Both sides expressed optimism that they could make it work in the future, but Tynberg said in the near future, they’re happy with the opportunities that sprouted.

“We are replacing what was lost with a whole lot more that is going to collectively be a whole lot better,” he said. “We are very optimistic and bullish about what’s coming. We’re working on some very beneficial relationships with partners that will be delivering some really incredible product that I think everyone in Leander and the surrounding region will be excited about.”

That should add some major opportunities in Leander, which is about 30 miles northwest of Austin. The city has a population of 74,375, and it was the fourth-fastest growing city among cities with a population of at least 50,000 people in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That’s precipitated the need for more employment, dining and shopping options. The Home Depot Inc., Southside Market & Barbeque and High Five Entertainment earlier this year were approved for incentives in the city.

St. John – which boasts assets of $5 billion across 11 states – primarily targets suburban areas. Harlander has led the Austin office since it opened in 2022, and she has been scouring the region for real estate opportunities since.

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