Shop Talk: City Nailing Down Retail

Two years ago, the idea of developing a stretch of downtown's semi-seedy west end into a trendy strip of shops and restaurants seemed like just another big idea to entice a major employer -- Computer Sciences Corp. -- to the neighborhood. Now the city is in discussions with an East Coast urban retail developer that wants to add Austin to its portfolio of accomplishments.

Federal REIT, a real estate investment trust out of Bethesda, Md., that has worked on downtown retail projects from Portland to San Antonio, is talking with city officials about developing a retail strip that would span six blocks in the CSC/City Hall /AMLI residential area (Stuart Shaw of Bonner Carrington in Austin is also involved in the talks). Initially, retail options in the neighborhood centered on ground-floor shops in the CSC and AMLI buildings, but now the public-private players in the deal are leaning toward extending retail all the way from the new development area to Congress Avenue.

"We're in informal discussions right now and we don't know how it's going to end up," says Assistant City Manager Toby Futrell, who is overseeing the project in the west end (which some folks have dubbed Tobyville). "The important thing is that we're still at the table. But if by the end of January we don't have anything more certain, then we'll put out an RFQ [request for qualifications]."

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