Incentives approved for entertainment, dining options in fast-growing suburb north of Austin

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Williamson County

Published on

Jan 10th, 2023

More dining and entertainment options are on tap for one of Austin’s fastest-growing suburbs.

On Dec. 15, the Leander City Council had approved a pair of Chapter 380 incentives agreements under the code names “Project Sky Lane” and “Project Hippo Q.” It’s now been revealed that the companies are Southside Market & Barbeque and High Five Entertainment.

As part of the agreements, both companies are required to finish construction within the next two years, providing additional options for residents of Leander, which is about 25 miles northwest of downtown Austin.

“As Leander is now over 85,000 in population, our residents are eager to see these types of full-service restaurant and entertainment products come to town,” said Rick Beverlin, Leander’s city manager, in a statement to the ABJ. “The quality of services provided by High Five Entertainment and Southside Market & Barbeque will likely draw customers from adjacent communities, which will help improve Leander’s long-term sales tax capture. We expect these projects will serve as catalysts for even more commercial development in our area as well.”

Interim city economic development director Ashley Lunde said the companies are the first to take part in the city’s restaurant incentive program. Other cities around the suburbs, namely Kyle, have used the tool to draw more dining options to the city.

“The City of Leander’s new restaurant incentive program, which targets dining concepts that are unique to our region, has helped generate renewed interest for restaurant and entertainment projects in the city,” Lunde said in a statement. “High Five Entertainment and Southside Market & Barbeque are the first companies to participate in our program, and we believe their success will help pave the way for continued commercial and retail growth in Leander.”

It comes at a critical time for the city, which has seen its population boom. Leander has seen its population jump from 26,521 residents in 2010 to 67,124 in 2021, and that total is expected to climb in 2022 estimates, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Leander ZIP Code was recognized last year as one of the hottest for housing in the country.

That has precipitated the need for amenities in the city – many of which are on the way. The crown jewel is the 116-acre Northline development, which is framed as a new downtown-like destination at the end of the Capital Metro red line. Other notable projects include a manufacturing facility for knife maker Cangshan Cutlery Company and the Crystal Lagoons project.

Here is a look at the agreements with Southside and High Five:

Southside Market & Barbecue

The longtime Elgin-based barbecue restaurant was approved for incentives to open a location in Crystal Village, the 65-acre mixed-use development at the corner of 183A Toll and East Crystal Falls Parkway that is being developed by Alaska-based Koniag Real Estate.

The agreement with SSM BBQ LEA LLC, which was posted on the Texas Comptroller’s Office on Jan. 3, states that the company has to build a minimum 5,000-square-foot store, obtain a certificate occupancy by Dec. 31, 2023, achieve $3 million in taxable sales annually in the 12 months after getting the certificate of occupancy, and employ at least 20 full-time employees.

If the company hits those benchmarks, the city will provide a 10-year 35% sales tax rebate, or a maximum grant total that will not exceed $154,000, according to the documents.

Representatives from Southside Market did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it represents the restaurants’ continued growth throughout the Austin metro. The company also has locations in Elgin, Austin, Bastrop and Hutto. They have also been approved to expand their headquarters in the Elgin Business Park.

Community Impact reported this past summer that construction was underway on the Crystal Village development, which is also set to include space for retail, office, medical and additional restaurant space. Other confirmed tenants include QuikTrip, Culver’s and Sprouts Farmers Market.

High Five Entertainment

Lakeway-based High Five Entertainment was also approved to open in Leander, although the exact location of where the project is going to go has not yet been disclosed.

High Five locations are known for offering bowling, video games, laser tag and other entertainment. There are two locations now in the Austin area.

Leander’s agreement with High Five Entertainment LLC, which was posted on the Texas Comptroller’s Office on Dec. 21, stipulates that the company has to start construction by Sept. 30, 2023, obtain a certificate of occupancy by Sept. 30, 2024, and commence operations within 60 days after that. The company is also prohibited from installing any residential uses on the site.

It also requires High Five to make meeting space available to the Leander Convention and Visitors Bureau three times a year at agreed upon dates free of charge, according to the agreement.

In return, the city will provide a 75% sales tax rebate beginning the first quarter after starting operations (anticipated to be in 2025) and ending upon the 40th calendar quarter from then, or when the maximum grant total equals $411,000, according to the documents.

Representatives from High Five Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company offers bowling, virtual reality, laser tag, arcade games, axe throwing, pool, karaoke and food and drinks at its two existing locations in Lakeway and Austin.

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