The Austin Chronicle

More Trouble on Second Street

By Richard Whittaker, November 30, 2007, News

Members of the first wave of retail tenants in the 2nd Street District were nicknamed pioneers. Now some are quitting frontier life, replaced by a second rush of stores. Hot on the heels of DJ culture store Gomi terminating its lease after a dispute about estimated utility bills (see "Second Street Snafu Clarification," Nov. 23), Sage Salon moved back to its original location on 42nd Street over the weekend. Property managers Urban Partners said Ducati motorbike dealership Moto Austin is negotiating an "exit strategy" from its lease, while management at Octane boutique confirmed the store will close and relocate to Dallas in the new year. Speaking confidentially, other tenants are concerned that there's no interest in keeping them in business and that the lack of parking in the area makes life as a retailer virtually impossible. One shop owner said, rather than matters improving, the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday were actually the worst weekend since opening.

Speaking for Urban Partners, leasing agent Frank Seely stressed that some firms are thriving. Milk + Honey day spa is expanding to take more than half of the premises formerly occupied by shoe store Lucky Soles. Incoming tenants include Málaga Tapas & Bar, which is relocating from Fourth Street, and several other leases are being negotiated with local, national, and start-up retailers and restaurants. Speaking for district landlords AMLI Austin Retail, development manager Craig Brockman said, "Every vacant space in the district is being negotiated right now," and he expects the area to be completely leased out by early next year.

There is already one big new tenant: Skiwear store St. Bernard Sports opened Nov. 16 and will hold a grand-opening party Nov. 29. However, the high-end activewear store is a major change from the stated intention of Urban Partners. Company President Robert Bagwell said the survival of retail in the district depends upon a critical mass of tenants and doorways and that Urban Partners wants a large number of local vendors and small chains, rather than a handful of large retailers. While the average district retail tenant only rents 1,200 to 2,200 square feet, St. Bernard takes up 8,550 square feet on the north side of AMLI on Second, a vertical mixed-use residential/retail development between Guadalupe and San Antonio – shown on the original plans as broken up for multiple tenants.

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