All posts by Sarah Sparrowhawk

Salvation Army breaks ground on two buildings after smashing fundraising records

Turning real estate into real community benefits is the backbone of two projects that broke ground June 29, sponsored by the Salvation Army Austin Area Command.

One is the Rathgeber Center for Women and Children: A Salvation Army Shelter on Tannenhill Road near East Martin Luther King Boulevard and U.S. Highway 183. The other project is the Austin Citadel Corps Community Center and Area Command facility at 4700 Manor Road on the eastern edge of the Mueller master-planned community.

Costs will be covered by the Salvation Army’s first local capital campaign in 27 years, which was a stellar success.

“We raised a record-breaking $19.2 million,” said Jan Gunter, deputy development director for the local nonprofit. “We really applaud the Austin business community, individuals and foundations who stepped up and donated to this capital campaign.”

After quietly securing pledges for $10 million in 2015, the Salvation Army had hoped to garner $17 million by now. The organization far surpassed that goal. In addition to the shelter and community center, capital campaign funds are being used to renovate the Salvation Army’s 242-bed homeless shelter in downtown Austin, which should be finished in October. The Salvation Army will also build a 50-bed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in South Austin. The timeline on that has yet to be determined.

An endowment has been created, as well, to support the long term maintenance and operations of the facilities, Gunter said. Contributors of $500 or more to the endowment will receive be named in the Pathway of Hope at the new shelter.

The 52,800-square-foot shelter will be delivered in two phases. The first phase, projected to open in May 2018, will include 40 bedrooms. The second phase, which should wrap up in October 2018, will add 23 bedrooms. When completed, the facility will support a capacity of 213 people.

The project can’t open soon enough for Gunter.

“We have a waiting list of 500 on any given day,” she said.

The community center and command headquarters will serve several functions — community outreach, a base for administrative functions, a chapel for worship services, a gymnasium for various programs, including exercise, and meeting rooms.

Character building and spiritual development programs will be supported and enhanced in a tangible way.

The 17,000-square-foot building is expected to be finished in May 2018.

O’Connell Robertson is the architect for both the shelter and community center. E2 Construction Inc. is the general contractor for the shelter, and The Burt Group is handling construction for the community center.

Project near Capitol illuminates art of retrofitting old offices with rooftop terrace, tree-shaded courtyard

It’s been nearly a year since Dallas-based Prescott Group purchased the historic Texas State Teachers Association building just west of the State Capitol.

Despite being an arduous retrofit of a chunky concrete structure, Prescott Group and its team of builders, engineers and designers is making substantial headway in creating a modern, light-filled Class A building that will provide about 100,000 square feet of multi-tenant office space by the end of the year.

Brian Leslie and David Dierkes, managing director and senior director of Prescott Group, gave me a tour of the property recently, recapping details of how the unique deal came together.

The real estate investment company, which particularly relishes value-added renovation projects, had been shopping around Austin for some time. The company almost initiated its first foray into Austin with the Saint Elmo Market District — a mixed-use project with retrofit characteristics in South Austin.

But the developer decided to pursue another partnership — it was a cordial parting — and Prescott Group checked in with Walter Saad, a capital markets expert then with CBRE Group Inc. and now with HFF. Saad was marketing the Capitol-area property — portions of which date back to 1950 — on behalf of the Texas State Teachers Association, which decided to sell and move to North Austin.

Prescott Group jumped at the opportunity.

“It was all kind of appealing to us,” Leslie said.

Of course the due diligence process presented a legion of puzzles to be solved. Many investors and developers shun the hard stuff, such as working within the confines of an existing footprint, old materials and obsolete floorplans. Prescott Group revels in the restraints.

In the past the company renovated a 1923 Art Deco property in Dallas into The Stoneleigh boutique hotel. The possibilities for reviving tired office buildings — in Dallas, Fort Worth and Tulsa mostly — energizes the Prescott team.

In early March 2016 the sale was completed. No purchase price has ever been disclosed, though the Travis Central Appraisal District most recently valued the property, which sits on 1 acre, at $12.5 million. Dierkes said the renovation and expansion of the property is valued at $10 million.

Prescott Group retained Andersson-Wise Architects to handled the design, even though the two companies had never worked together before.

Leslie said the company was introduced to veteran architect Arthur Andersson by way of the Saint Elmo project and was duly impressed.

What evolved is an illuminated jewel box — a radical departure from the original bunker styling. Yet, the bones of the property are completely retained with floor-to-ceiling glass panes extending beyond the original frame — thus adding more square footage. Another bonus — the property originally was entitled for six floors, but only five were ever built.

The Burt Group, which has a history of handling confounding, large scale renovations, is the general contractor.

A new level is being added along with a rooftop terrace, which includes one of the most enviable views of the State Capitol. The panorama toward the Hill Country is pretty inspiring, too.

JLL has the assignment to find tenants.

Rachel Coulter of the brokerage team expects law firms, lobbyists and financial services companies will be eager to learn more — especially given that the property will have a fitness center, showers, bike storage, building conference room, structured parking and an outdoor courtyard shaded by an expansive live oak tree.

“Some 400,000-square-foot buildings don’t have the amenities that will be here,” Coulter said. “(Prescott Group) really pays attention to the details.”

Other companies involved in the project are Big Red Dog Engineering Consulting and Sixthriver Architects, which is handling interior design. Ryan Ridgeway with Stream Realty Partners is seeking an operator for the street level restaurant space.

Procore ramps up in Austin after finding success where tech, real estate meet

Procore Technologies Inc. — a Santa Barbara, California-based company that recently landed on Forbes’ 2016 billion-dollar startup list — is amplifying its Austin profile.

The cloud-based construction management software company recently moved into about 18,000 square feet on the 18th floor of Chase Tower at 221 W. Sixth St. after spending three years in co-working spaces, most recently at WeWork.

“Procore is becoming really valuable to large companies, but we can really provide a leg up for smaller contractors,” said Doug Madey, Procore’s director of communication.

Austin’s deep pool of tech talent prompted Procore to open an Austin operation in June 2013 with one person — Jeff Kemper — and now the local operation is up to 50 employees. The new space can accommodate 50 more, Madey said.

The rapidly growing company also recently secured $50 million in funding, lifting its total capital investment to about $179 million. San Francisco-based Iconiq Capital led the most recent fundraising effort. Procore expects to deploy its latest capital round to deliver more programs and expand internationally.

CEO Tooey Courtemanche founded the company in 2003 in Silicon Valley after learning the ins and outs of the software business.

His entry into the construction field began while building a new home for his family. He was stunned by the lack of coordination among the people he had hired. Just a decade ago, the construction business was decidedly low tech. Many companies simply didn’t know how to use technology effectively.

Courtemanche started with a web-based collaboration tool, and he acknowledged in comments on the company’s website that it was slow-go for years. Other software developers also tried to infiltrate the construction industry, but the 2008 economic upheaval put the nail in the coffin of many of those businesses.

Procore survived and thrived with patience and perseverance. The company touts itself on its site as “The #1 most widely used construction management software.”

Many of the giant construction companies still operate their own technology systems, but Madey said they are expensive to maintain.

Procore, he said, manages the entire process, ensuring that the smallest details are covered. Delivering the right materials at the exact time, for instance, can equate to thousands of dollars in cost efficiencies.

“Everybody is recognizing the benefit of cloud technology,” Madey said.

Cresa Partners represented Procore in its search for office space. Sixthriver Architects created the design, and The Burt Group handled construction.

Westview $11M Redevelopment of Office Building in Austin

The redevelopment of 316 W. 12th St. in Austin, which is slated to begin Oct. 10, will include an additional 26,000-square-foot floor to the building.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Prescott Group Inc., along with an institutional investor, has acquired an office building at 316 W. 12th St. in Austin and plans an $11 million redevelopment of the property. The building is located on one acre and is within walking distance of the State Capitol, The University of Texas, Dell Medical School and Austin’s Downtown Entertainment District. The Texas State Teachers Association, which had owned the property since its completion in 1952, was the seller.

The redevelopment, which is slated to begin Oct. 10, will include an additional 26,000-square-foot floor to the building. Other planned improvements feature a new restaurant, rooftop terrace, conference room, fitness facility, bike storage and landscaped courtyard. Following the redevelopment, which should be completed in late 2017, the building will be renamed Westview.

Andersson•Wise Architects is designing the project. The Burt Group is the general contractor, Sixthriver Architects is the interior designer, Big Red Dog is the civil and MEP engineer, AEC is the structural engineer, and Co’Design is the landscape architect. The project lender is Texas Capital Bank, while HFF arranged the financing. Rachel Coulter and Kevin Kimbrough of the Austin office of JLL will lead the leasing efforts. Prescott Group is an asset management, investment and operating company based in Dallas.

JTM Development to Break Ground on Walsh Tarlton Overlook in Austin


Located just north of Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and west of the Barton Creek Square Mall, the three-story building is located at 2530 Walsh Tarlton Lane.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Austin-based JTM Development will break ground next week on Walsh Tarlton Overlook, a 55,000-square-foot office building in southwest Austin. Located just north of Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and west of the Barton Creek Square Mall, the three-story building is located at 2530 Walsh Tarlton Lane. Sixthriver Architects designed the project, which will feature limestone, marble and walnut finishes throughout the building, as well as in the elevator lobbies and elevators. The structure includes a five-floor parking garage beneath the building. Walsh Tarlton Overlook is scheduled to open in 2017. The Burt Group is the general contractor on the project. TBG Group designed the landscaping. JTM Development is partnering on the project with Cypress Real Estate Advisors, which has owned the 16-acre site since 2007. Cypress received approval from the city of Austin to rezone the property for mixed-use development in 2011.

The versatility of The Burt Group

Two recent projects demonstrate the versatility of The Burt Group in building out interiors or from the ground up for the restaurant, hospital and healthcare industries.

Since its founding in 2002, The Burt Group calculates that it has built more than 22 million square feet in central Texas in more than 1,000 commercial projects. These include construction of projects from the ground up of healthcare facilities and remodeling of corporate interiors along with projects in retail, restaurants, hospitality, corporate, manufacturing, industrial and technology.

Among the company’s recent projects is the design/build construction of a surgery center in New Braunfels, Texas. Named New Braunfels Spine and Pain, the one-story steel structure with concrete foundation features a stone façade and includes a pain clinic and two operating rooms. The operating rooms required all the critical elements of a hospital including medical gases, a back-up generator and nurse call.

Such a medical facility has to meet the standards of the Texas Department of Health and pass inspections by the city and medical inspectors. Approximately 16 subcontractors are participating in the project that The Burt Group works with regularly in the central Texas area. The architect was HS&P and the surgery center was designed with building information modeling software.

New Braunfels Spine and Pain was located on vacant land on a medical campus. “The doctor came and said he likes what we do and wants to build a clinic,” Vice President of Client Services Troy Chapman recalls. “I assembled the team and had regular meetings until the design was tweaked, we finalized the design and we started construction.”

Construction of New Braunfels Spine and Pain began in October 2015. “Getting out of the ground was the biggest challenge,” Chapman remembers. “During the site work we experienced 47 rain days.”

High 5

Another interesting project by The Burt Group was construction of a High 5 Entertainment Center in Lakeway, Texas. The 45,000-square-foot, two-story steel building has a mezzanine that covers approximately 15,000 square feet with 12 boutique bowling lanes upstairs and 16 downstairs. The entertainment center also includes a two-story laser tag arena, a full kitchen and bar both upstairs and downstairs, an open video game area and men’s and women’s rest rooms.

The laser tag area is lit with black lights and features obstructions such as towers and ramps to keep the game interesting. The Burt Group was responsible for installation of the infrastructure in the laser tag arena such as electrical and fire sprinklers, but a company that specialized in laser tag built the game’s interior.

The entertainment center is located in a 150,000-square-foot retail center. Construction of it began in July 2015 and was completed in December 2015. The exterior is tilt wall concrete along with masonry. The Burt Group bid on the project as general contractor and had 60 subcontractors work on the project.

The lot for the High 5 Entertainment Center was vacant but the building’s concrete foundation required piers. A difficulty this project faced was being plagued by rain. “Our crucial time was in October,” remembers Ben Estes, who works in business development. “We were going vertical, and it was extremely difficult. We were drilling piers and then it rained for 10 days. Then we’d do some grade beams and it would rain for 10 days.”

Employee Involvement

Tommy Burt and his co-founder Shane Watts founded The Burt Group 16 years ago as a tenant improvement contractor. In November 2014, the company purchased Watts’ share. The Burt Group builds its green projects to the specifications of the Austin Energy Green Building program. It is known for providing exceptional value in its projects, which are delivered on-time due to its employees’ commitment.

This includes its executive team, which the company has built over the past 16 years. Not only does this group include Burt himself as president, but also:

* CFO Heather Merz

* Vice President of Operations Jerry Dollar

* Vice President of Preconstruction Edwina Lashbrook

* Vice President of Client Services Troy Chapman

* Vice President of Construction Joe O’Jibway

* Vice President of Construction Services Billy Lashbrook

The Burt Group says it has built a reputation on constructing Class A office space with maximum efficiency and minimum time, whether a facility is occupied or unoccupied. Its ground-up repute also includes wood frame, structural steel, and tilt-wall construction. The company also can build additions to existing facilities, standalone structures, and new plaza developments. The Burt Group says it can take a project from concept to turn-key.

In the restaurant and hospitality industry, The Burt Group says it can do everything from overseeing the application of decorative finishes to the installation of high-end equipment in basic to high-end environments. The Burt Group team is prepared to handle any size project, from renovations and expansions to brand updates for local, national and global brands.

For the healthcare industry, The Burt Group can remodel a small specialty clinic or build an entirely new hospital from the ground up without interrupting patient care and while maintaining patient, staff and visitor safety. The Burt Group’s construction team works with broader project teams in the pre-construction and planning phases to offer clients information about industry trends in design and technology, as well as guidance in cost, scheduling and project approach logistics to ensure efficient project delivery.

The Safe Company

The Burt Group maintains a high safety rate thanks to its strict, regimented program. The company employs an in-house safety director so employees receive specific training in safety. All of the company’s field employees are OSHA-certified and trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Additionally, employees are required to wear personal protection equipment at all times on the job site.

The company also has turned to outside firms to help keep it safe. It has contracted The ISNetworld to monitor and update its safety manuals and documents so that it stays compliant with OSHA and client requirements.

The firm also has retained Safe Construction Consulting LLC, based in Florence, Texas. The third-party safety-consulting firm performs onsite field inspections for The Burt Group, which complements the daily safety inspections conducted by its own personnel.

The Burt Group creates a job-specific safety plan for each project and holds weekly, onsite subcontractor meetings that are recorded.

Brokerages get new digs amid economic boom

Two Austin commercial real estate brokerages are on the move — literally.

JLL consolidated its two offices into one office on the eighth floor of 1703 W. Fifth St., while Colliers International just moved into new digs on the seventh floor of One Eleven Congress.

Marc Vanderslice, co-chairman and principal of Colliers, said everything just seemed to come together when they toured the 5,000 square foot space.

“What decided it for us are the improvements that the owners are doing at that building with Fareground — and we just have an especially great relationship with that leasing team,” Vanderslice said. “STG Design helped us see the vision and it felt like a natural space.”

Fareground is the indoor-outdoor food park that Parkway Properties (NYSE: PKY) is constructing as an added amenity to the office tower at 111 Congress Ave.

In addition to moving into new office space, Colliers made a major new-hire, luring long-time tenant representation broker David Bremer of Austin Office Space. Bremer was with AOS for 15 years and during the past several months realized he needed a change of scenery.

“I came up with an elaborate process to check out various opportunities,” Bremer said. “I needed to find the right culture that would also benefit my clients. I sat down with several shops and Colliers hands down was a good fit for me.”

Bremer began his new assignment May 16.

Vanderslice said Bremer’s decision is another affirmation of Colliers’ viability. Vanderslice, along with Doug Jones and Volney Campbell, left a comfortable situation with HPI Corporate Services to start a Colliers office in Austin in 2014. It was a big risk at the time, they said.

Two years later the leap of faith has paid off.

“The big thing that we’ve been able to do is attract top talent like Doug Rauls and David [Bremer]. That speaks not only to the Colliers brand but our culture. We’re building something different here,” Vanderslice said.

Colliers is built on a unique platform, he said. Though it’s a national brand, the company is owned by employees.

“We feel we have all the bells and whistles of a larger company but we can be very nimble, too,” he said.

Meanwhile, JLL has also grown significantly in the past couple of years.

JLL focused initially on office tenant representation, but in September 2013 persuaded SRS Real Estate Partners executive Todd Wallace to bring his team over to start a JLL retail brokerage team. Not long after, Wallace was named to head the JLL office. Since then he’s brought over one of the most productive landlord rep teams — Rachel Coulter and Kevin Kimbrough previously of Cushman & Wakefield/Oxford Commercial — and investment sales broker Jeff Coddington, also formerly with Cushman & Wakefield/Oxford Commercial.

The company has gone from two service lines — office tenant representation and project development services overseeing tenant buildouts — to the full scope of brokerage services, which also includes multifamily investment sales, research and property management.

“JLL has made a huge commitment to Central Texas,” Wallace said.

For the past two years, JLL had maintained two offices in Rollingwood and North Austin. That division was erased in recent weeks with the move of all employees to 17,515 square feet at the former Capstar Plaza near West Fifth Street and MoPac Expressway. With the new lease, JLL has renamed the building “JLL Plaza.”

The office lease and remodeling was accomplished in an unusually short time frame — six weeks. JLL’s reputation for efficient buildout oversight was put to the test.

“Everyone worked around the clock. It was amazing to see how seamless the process was,” Wallace said.

JLL’s product development and facilities management teams worked with contractor The Burt Group to accomplish the feat.

“We could pull a lot of string with a lot of vendors, creating synergies to get things done,” said JLL Marketing Manager Landree Dillinger.

Expect more news at JLL, too.

“We’re still bringing more top talent on,” Wallace said.

Jan Buchholz covers commercial and residential real estate, construction and architecture and retail and restaurants for the Austin Business Journal.

Favor finds a favorite spot for new Austin HQ

Favor, the delivery app, recently moved into its new corporate headquarters at 1705 Guadalupe St.

The 12,000-square-foot space houses 120 employees, who came up with the design for the 1970s aesthetic. The Favor app is operated by Austin company NeighborFavor Inc.

“It was incredibly important for us to have our employees heavily involved in the planning and design of our new space,” said Jag Bath, CEO and president of NeighborFavor, in a statement.

The Burt Group handled the tenant improvement, which makes perfect sense. The company has an interesting history that I wrote about previously.

The lease for the space was handled by Brian Liverman and Zack Jamail of Peloton Commercial Real Estate, as representatives of the landlord, and Cortland Lowe of HPI Real Estate & Investments, as representative for NeighborFavor.

NeighborFavor previously was located in 4,000 square feet at 1611 W. Sixth St. The new digs allow for ample expansion. A company spokeswoman said signing the lease and completing the build-out were accomplished in record time — about three weeks.

Jan Buchholz covers commercial and residential real estate, construction and architecture and retail and restaurants for the Austin Business Journal.

Former UT athlete opens Lakeway entertainment venue

A former University of Texas football player has recently opened High 5, an entertainment venue in Lakeway. Scott Emley, who played for the Longhorns in the late 1990s, and his wife Jenny are backed by local investors — though no one is saying how much the project cost.

I’ve got an inside and outside look of the 47,000-square-foot facility at the new Oaks at Lakeway shopping center, which includes a signature HEB Grocery Co. store.

Recently, the Emleys hired Tom Funk, a former executive with bowling giant Brunswick, as High 5’s vice president of operations. The project includes 28 bowling lanes, a video game arcade, laser tag arena, full-service restaurant, a separate bar and lounge and five meeting rooms.

It was designed by Fitzgerald + Associates of Oklahoma City with strong industrial traits contrasted with with Hill Country ranch vibes. Austin-based The Burt Group was the general contractor.

The 175,000-square-foot Oaks at Lakeway, 1900 S. RR 620, continues to deliver retailers in the upscale Hill Country town. Stratus Properties (Nasdaq: STRS) of Austin is the developer.

The showcase HEB, which opened last October, includes an impressive display case of dry-aged steaks and a large wine department, as well as a full-service restaurant.

Jan Buchholz covers commercial and residential real estate, construction and architecture and retail and restaurants for the Austin Business Journal.

This article originally appeared in the Austin Business Journal.

The Burt Group is a leading Austin-based commercial general contracting firm.