Travis Club gearing up to start construction on huge waterfront site

Austin Luxury Group|July 28, 2023
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Travis Club gearing up to start construction on huge waterfront site

First phase coming to fruition after more than a decade of planning; 1,000-plus acres to be transformed


Construction is finally nearing for a 1,058-acre master-planned community west of Austin with an 18-hole golf course.  Plans call for the neighborhood, the Travis Club, to rise on an undeveloped bend of Lake Travis between Thurman Bend Estates and the Briarcliff community.  The resort-style community is being developed by Menlo Park, California-based real estate developer Haas & Haynie Corp. and Austin-based real estate investment firm Castle Hill Partners Inc.

The final plat of the first phase was approved July 18 by Travis County commissioners, which clears the way for the first 53 single-family homes and 68 "villa" units to be built on nearly 340 acres. That will be major milestone for a sometimes contentious project that's been in the works for more than a decade.

"Haas & Haynie and Castle Hill have a long, shared history of developing high quality communities that enhance and complement the local environment and surroundings," Leisha Ehlert, senior vice president of Castle Hill Partners and CEO of Travis Club, said in a July 25 email. "With the Travis Club Phase 1 Final Plat now approved by the county, we are looking forward to bringing this exciting and low impact development to life in continued and close collaboration with leading local environmental, community and other stakeholder groups."

When completed, Travis Club could have a total of 497 homes — 274 single-family lots and 223 villa units. Pricing details are expected this fall, when the initial properties hit the market.

Ehlert said infrastructure construction for the first phase is expected to begin in the fourth quarter, with a completion date set for mid-year 2025, and work on the golf course is set to begin during the first quarter of 2024 with an opening planned for fall 2025.

The project remains subject to more permitting. But the Travis County vote means site preparation work can begin soon, said land use attorney David Armbrust of Armbrust & Brown PLLC, who's representing the developers.

"This is a very significant step," Armbrust said July 24.

The golf course will be designed by the recognized course architect Beau Welling and will include an additional practice facility. Travis Club will also include an on-site marina as well as amenity and support structures, centered around the property's more than 10,000 feet of shoreline.

The site is owned by HH-CH-B Blue Lake, LLC, which owns eight tracts totaling more than 1,500 acres that are currently valued at about $51 million, according to Travis Central Appraisal District. However, market values are often higher than appraised values.

Opponents of the development have voiced concerns about its potential impact on the environment, an increase in traffic, safety concerns because of the site's single entrance and its nature as a luxury community.

During the July 18 Travis County meeting, Christian Del Castillo, a real estate attorney with Husch Blackwell LLP representing neighbors Kent and Kamilla Radford, stressed that there will only be one active access point to the property on Thurman Bend Road, despite there potential for four.

"There will be two potential bottlenecks resulting from the single entrance causing some dangerous left-hand turns," Del Caiso said. "There is not a lot of room for error. The easy straightforward solution is to add another entrance that is not on Thurman Bend Road. We ask for a comprehensive solution to address traffic in the area."

2023 Travis Club Phase 1 Master Plan

With a density rate of 2.09 acres per building, developers said 65% of the site will remain green space or undeveloped land, with the golf course and other green spaces taking up about 400 acres and an additional 288 acres dedicated as conservation land to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The site is of ecological value as it is recognized as a nesting ground for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, the only bird species with a breeding range endemic to Texas. A moratorium period bans vegetation clearing on the rare bird's nesting grounds between March 1 and Aug. 31.

The project will include self-contained wastewater treatment and non-septic water and wastewater from Vista Municipal Utility District.

"Protecting the local environment and infrastructure is paramount for us with any project," Ehlert said.

Other communities with golf courses developed by Haas & Haynie include the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Island of Hawaii and Aspen Ridge at Lake Grant in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Castle Hill's portfolio includes the Crossings at Lakeline mixed-use development in Austin and The Triangle, a mixed-use development between North Lamar Boulevard and Guadalupe Street near the North Loop neighborhood.


2023 Club Travis Rendering 02
With a density rate of 2.09 acres per building, developers promise that 65% of Travis Club will be open green space.


Commissioners approve plan with hesitation

Despite unanimously approving the plat, Travis County commissioners voiced some reluctance during last week's meeting, reflecting on concerns made by neighbors.

"The unfortunate or fortunate thing is — however you want to look at it — the county does not have zoning powers," Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez said. "When a project is meetings all laws, we are required to approve them. Basically, if we don’t approve them, we get sued. To tell you the truth, I don’t like to use public money for lawsuits. Our staff has looked at those issues. It is a very difficult situation to be in, but that is where we are."

The July 18 vote came roughly a year after the commissioners voted in July 2022 to approve overall plans for the project, including variances regarding water management, utility use and site plans, contingent on the project passing a traffic impact study, which it ultimately did.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Brigid Shea has remained a critic of the project and voted in opposition to the redevelopment during the vote in 2022.

“We are handcuffed,” Shea said during the July 18 meeting, sharing that regulations passed by the Texas Legislature continue to limit local governments from regulating new developments. “The legislature has actively limited the ability of counties to provide better protections. One of the few things we can do is require more than one way in or out. We hear your concerns we are just legally limited in what we can do.”

More than 10 years in the making

Haas & Haynie purchased the site from the Covert family, known for their car dealerships, in 2007, intending to develop the land through a partnership with Lehman Brothers.

The project was first presented in July 2007 under the name Vizcaya and approved by the county in 2008. However, it failed to move forward and Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in the fallout from the 2007-08 financial crisis, after which the property returned to Duke Covert and his family.

In 2020, following Covert's death, the family again began the process of selling the property to Haas & Haynie, which picked the plans back up largely unchanged, Armbrust said.

Travis County records show the latest sale of the property took place on June 21, 2022, when the site was transferred to Blue Lake.

"This is really the same plat that was approved in 2007," Armbrust said.



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