Naked City

Bradley's Buda Dream

Gary Bradley's efforts to turn a swath of ranch property into the land of milk and honey are starting to show signs of fruition. Plans are underway for a massive, mixed-use development that would straddle the Travis/Hays County line near Buda. The proposed development, spanning more than 2,400 acres, would be the next big thing for a group of investors who have played a dominant role in building Austin, including homebuilder Clark Wilson and bankers-turned-real-estate-captains Doug Kadison and Charles Nicholas. Bradley has done business with all three.

The property in question is known as the Texas A&M Heep Ranch and is located southeast of Austin and east of I-35. Applications for creating four municipal-utility districts have been filed with the cities of Austin and Buda. The M.U.D.s would allow developers to issue bonds to finance the construction, which in turn would be repaid by the development's future occupants. Though Bradley's name is not officially linked to the development, the Circle C Ranch creator is leading contract negotiations with Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, America's largest mall developer and the owner of Barton Creek Square and Lakeline Mall, which would provide a key retail-center component to the Hays Co. portion of the development. "We are still working on the project, and we're continuing to work with [Bradley] and the city of Buda on the possibility of developing there," Tom Schneider, a senior vice president at Simon, said this week. He said Simon wants to buy property on the northeast corner of I-35 and Loop 4.

Schneider says Simon is in negotiations with Bradley and Brad Beutel, a cousin of Bradley who runs several businesses owned by Lazarus Exempt Trust. The trust is a focal point of Bradley's ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. Though such trusts are usually exempt from bankruptcy, attorneys on the opposing end allege Bradley is hiding assets there to avoid paying the $73 million he owes the federal government for unpaid loans taken out to build Circle C Ranch. Schneider said he couldn't remember the name of the company that owns the land Bradley is negotiating to sell, but he believed it was a land trust of some sort and he said the name "Lazarus" rang a bell.

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