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Midtown Buildings-MTA Doomsday Plans-New York Real Estate Dynasties and Town houses Come to Austin

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MTA Nears ‘Doomsday;’ Still No Albany Action

GlobeSt.com | April 30, 2009

By Cody Lyon

Sander

NEW YORK CITY-If Albany fails to reach a workable solution to close the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget gap over the next few days, the daily commutes for eight million New Yorkers will become more expensive, and the time it takes to get from point A to B, will increase markedly. In addition to decreased rail service, several bus routes will disappear on weekends and evenings while others disappear entirely. In fact, if a new funding mechanism does not see consensus at the state capital, the city that never sleeps may eventually see a complete shutdown of the transit system during late evening hours, under a “beyond doomsday” scenario MTA outlined on Wednesday after revealing that its deficit is even wider than originally forecast.

Fallout from what the MTA calls its “doomsday” plan has begun to spur outrage among city residents. On Tuesday afternoon, transit advocates came together with concerned citizens in Manhattan’s Union Square, raising their voices against the proposed cuts. One speaker, 76-year-old resident Carl Van Putten of Hunts Point, shouted “where I live, we’re not talking about inconvenience, we’re talking about survival.” Speakers at the event, largely organized on social networking site Facebook, sought to persuade attendees that New York City’s economic backbone is its transit system and without it, the entire city suffers unimaginable trauma.

“I think it’s a big myth that’s been around for around 50 years that New York is somehow not a mass transit town,” Wiley Norvell, communications director for the group Transportation Alternatives, told GlobeSt.com as trains rumbled underneath during another rush hour at the Union Square subway hub.

According to the MTA, a plethora of service cuts will be phased in over the next few weeks and months. The cuts began Thursday, as the traditional seasonal Long Island Rail Road service to Belmont Park was eliminated. But perhaps the true reality of the crisis will begin to settle in on May 31–when fare hikes of up to 29% are set to start on the subways and buses, with LIRR and Metro-North following suit the next day.

Then, June 28, train service cuts begin on a set of subway lines that reads like an elementary school chalkboard. The A, D, E F G N, Q and R lines will all see significant service reductions that day. Meanwhile, a list over two pages long details bus routes that will be either sharply reduced or eliminated entirely cutting off entire neighborhoods from the transit network.

“The people who will lose out the most on these cuts are people from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who when they lose their neighborhood bus lines lose their public transit altogether,” Norvell told GlobeSt.com.

Blame has largely centered on members of the state Senate who have made their opposition to bridge tolls widely known. Norvell makes no qualms about it, saying it was the Senate that was essentially blocking the proposed plan constructed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch’s commission. Speaking to what he called the shared pain contained in the Ravitch proposal, Norvell says the plan is the only way the state can raise $2 billion in a politically expedient way.

Introduced last December, the Ravitch plan would have instituted a payroll tax in the 12 counties served by the MTA, implemented a $5 toll on East River and Harlem River bridges and increased fares on the subways moderately. The plan called for a transfer ownership of the East and Harlem River bridges from the city to the MTA, a process that Ravitch described in 2008 as “very complicated.”

Despite complications associated with the transfers, Gov. David Paterson strongly supported the plan, as did regional leaders including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “The speaker was supportive and is strongly supportive of the underlying concept behind the Ravitch Plan which is that all of those who benefit from the public transit system should share in its cost,” a spokesman for Silver tells GlobeSt.com.

The spokesman stresses that the people who benefit from the MTA aren’t just its actual users, but also businesses and motorists who benefit indirectly, as with drivers who enjoy less congested roadways. “The speaker often talks about the last transit strike, when it took up to three hours to travel from Brooklyn into Manhattan,” he says.

MTA leadership, including executive director Elliot Sander, endorsed the plan, saying it was fair and offered both a lifeline for continued operation, but also a means to continue progressing capital improvements and opening windows to future infrastructural improvement and expansion. But opposition to the bridge tolls stood in the way leading Silver to introduce a compromise plan, reducing the bridge-crossing fee to $2 from $5.

However, some Ravitch plan opponents says it was not opposition to bridge tolls per se, but instead what they call yet another fiscally irresponsible mechanism for raising much needed revenue. “Senate Majority Leader Malcom Smith’s opposition to bridge tolls is not politically motivated,” a Smith spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. “If the MTA assumes ownership of the bridges to collect tolls, they actually assume ownership of four of the oldest suspension bridges in the country. Over the course or the next few years, it’s very likely, to almost certain, those bridges will incur significant costs for maintenance, upkeep and general deterioration. He adds that those costs would be passed on to straphangers.

Nonetheless, the severity of the crisis required the Senate to introduce its own plan, which did away with bridge tolls. The most recent Senate version being touted by Smith would include a tax on rental cars, fees on drivers’ licenses and a $1 per drop-off fee on taxi drivers–with the exception of livery cabs.

Smith’s spokesman says that contrary to critics, including state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the numbers in the Senate plan unequivocally add up. However, he adds that Sen. Smith is open to discussing improvements on the Senate legislation.

“We understand that we have to come together to clean up this mess we inherited, and the senator is confident that over the course of the next week, we’ll be able to do just that,” Smith’s spokesman tells GlobeSt.com, adding that “the MTA has displayed years of gross mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility.”

Silver’s office says there are a number of ideas on the table, and as of Thursday, conversations continue. “If there’s a plan in the Senate that has the 32 votes to pass, it’s something the speaker is going to look at,” says the spokesman for Silver.

The most vocal opponents to the bridge toll aspect proposed in the Ravitch plan have been state Senators Karl Krueger of Brooklyn’s district 27, Rueben Diaz of the Bronx’s district 32 and Pedro Espada from the Bronx’s district 33. On March 26, Espada insisted to GlobeSt.com that it was the need for increased financial transparency and accountability that the MTA needed to show the State Senate. Saying his district hadn’t seen real capital improvements in its subway lines, Espada said the MTA needed to present an actual capital plan to the legislature before the Senate would approve any revenue streams.

However, alluding to automobile commuters, Espada said the MTA rescue must not have a disproportionate impact on any single group of constituents in his district, as well as throughout the city and Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. As GlobeSt.com reported on April 21, of the 77,284 residents of Espada’s district who commute daily, 54,348 take public transit while only 22,936 drive an automobile.

Toll controversies aside, the MTA’s doomsday budget was in great part related to the effects of what has turned into a severe economic recession, more specifically the transit agency’s dependence on a volatile real estate market’s revenue and taxes. “Month to month revenue the MTA takes in from real estate taxes and other sources of revenue fluctuate quite a bit,” an MTA spokesman tells GlobeSt.com.

He adds “those taxes are sensitive to the health of the regional economy, the worldwide and global economy really.” The spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the MTA had forecast some reduction from real estate taxes, but the magnitude in the drop “has been beyond what we had forecast.”

According to data provided by the MTA, around 8.75% of the agency’s budget needs are met by real estate taxes. When broken down, a complex myriad of collection and distribution methods emerge. The tax formula is composed of two major components: the urban tax and the mortgage recording tax.

Urban taxes consist of two taxes applied to certain commercial real property transactions and commercial mortgage recordings within New York City. Tax receipts are available only for transit purposes in New York City with 90% of the receipts earmarked for New York City Transit general operations and 6% used for the partial reimbursement of NYCT “para-transit cost.” The remaining 4% earmarked as subsidy for the New York City private buses; the city is currently utilizing these funds to reimburse MTA Bus expenses.

MRTs consist of two separate taxes on mortgages collected in the 12-county region served by the MTA. The first, MRT-1, is imposed on the borrower for recorded mortgages of real property, subject to certain exclusions, at the rate of 0.3% of the debt secured, raised from 0.25% in June 2005. Money collected from the MRT-1 must be applied, first, to meet MTA headquarters operating expenses and, second, to make deposits into the NYCT Account–55% of the remaining amount–and the Commuter Railroad account–45% of the remaining amount.

MRT-2 is imposed on the institutional lender of certain mortgages secured by real estate structures containing one to six dwelling units in the MTA’s service area at a rate of 0.25%. MRT-2 gets applied first by the MTA, transferring an amount in excess of $5 million each year to Dutchess, Orange and Rockland Counties based on a formula found on page II-29 in the MTA’s Preliminary budget. In 2007, this transfer was $32.9 million, says MTA’s spokesman. Second, MRT-2 money is used to pay MTA operating and capital costs, including debt service and debt service reserve requirements if any exist.

After US Attorney Action; Seized Piaget Building Could Go to Auction
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650 Fifth Ave.
NEW YORK CITY-On Nov. 12, officials from the US Attorney’s Office for the
Southern District of New York took legal steps to seize nonprofit Alavi
Foundation’s 60% ownership stake in the 36-story 650 Fifth Ave.
commercial office tower, known as the Piaget Building. The government
says Alavi Foundation, through a partnership with Assa Corp. called 650
Fifth Avenue Co., served as a front or shell-company, funneling revenue
from the Midtown building through Bank Melli of Iran, and then on to Iranian government officials.
It was a year ago in December 2008 that the Treasury Department designated 650 Fifth co-owner
Assa Corp. as “a front company” that had been created and controlled by Iran’s Bank Melli. Treasury
said Assa Corp.’s parent organization was Assa Company Ltd., which called the Channel Islands home
to its headquarters. Treasury noted that in 2007, Bank Melli had been designated as proliferators by
the United States and the European Union for its role in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
A source familiar with the latest government move tells GlobeSt.com that it’s important to
remember, that at this stage, only a forfeiture complaint has been filed for the two ownership entities
in the building. The source says that not until the conclusion of forfeiture proceedings, in favor of the
government, will any real property be seized. That same source says there are other potential
outcomes to the government efforts, including dismissal, summary judgment or settlement.
But, if the government does prevail and assumes ownership at the site, a number of scenarios are
possible, including a property auction by US marshals.
For its part, Alavi Foundation attorney John Winter tells GlobeSt.com his client is “disappointed in the
government’s actions. The foundation had been cooperating with the government for the better part
of a year, responding to various questions that the government had put to the foundation.” He adds,
“The foundation intends to litigate [these] matters, and expects to prevail in the end,” says Winter.
As for the government’s sense of timing, Winter says “we are not going to speculate as to the
government’s intentions, motives or timing.” However, as to the case’s eventual outcome, he says he
suspects the litigation will be “protracted.”
For now, business at 650 Fifth can go as it has for the past three decades, according to an official
statement from a spokeswoman at the US Attorney’s office who says “tenants and occupants remain
free to use the properties as they did before” the filing. She says there are “no allegations of any
wrongdoing on the part of any of these tenants or occupants.”
But it’s hard to ignore the government’s civil complaint, which paints a portrait of glaring deceit and
intrigue more worthy of a James Bond movie than a real estate website. Spokesmen for the Treasury
or Justice Department would not speak directly to the case, nor did they recall similar actions toward
a large commercial property, instead they referred GlobeSt.com back to the US Attorney’s office,
which declined to offer more details than those contained in the complaint. Further, most real estate
players were not willing to discuss any potential repercussions associated with the case.
But, perhaps more puzzling is the apparent late date for the current action, since if what officials
charge is true, a large commercial office tower in Midtown has been serving for 30 years as a cash
cow to a nation the United States considers hostile to its interests.
On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran. Over the years, relations
between the two have been further strained, most recently as Iran has been named as proliferators
of nuclear weaponry.
The complaint spells out in fine detail that since the revolution, the Mostazafan Foundation of New
York, and later the Alavi Foundation, acted “at the direction of, and provided services to, entities
owned an controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
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owned an controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
It was the year following the Iranian revolution that the Islamic Republic of Iran established the
Bonyad Mostazafan, also known as Bonyad Mostasafan va Janbazan, That organization’s job was to
centralize and take possession of, and manage property expropriated by the revolutionary
government. According to the government complaint, the Bonyad Mostazafan sought to take control
of the former Shah’s property, including assets of the Pahlavi Foundation. According to the document,
the Bonyad Mostazafan reports directly to the Ayatollah.
Years earlier, in 1973, the Shah of Iran had established the Pahlavi Foundation, a not for profit
corporation under the laws of the State of New York to pursue charitable interests in the United
States. The complaint says that in the 1970s, Iran had loaned Pahlavi around $43 million to acquire
the rights to real estate and construct a commercial office building at 650 Fifth Avenue.
In 1989, the Iranian Government approved a partnership between the Mostazafan Foundation of New
York and Bank Melli to solve its IRS ‘tax problem.’ As part of a mutual agreement between the two,
the New York Foundation would agree to pay taxes, if the building was sold or transferred up to the
amount of $130 million. The complaint says “if the amount were more than $130 million, Bank Melli
Iran would pay the tax balance.”
The US Attorney alleges that Mostafazan foundation was eventually named Alavi Foundation and that
Alavi concealed Bank Melli’s control of Assa Corporation from its own counsel and from the New York
State Attorney General.
In 1989, an assistant Attorney General for New York State wrote to an attorney law firm acting as
outside counsel for the Alavi Foundation to confirm a conversation about the Alavi Foundation’s
proposed transfer of real property to the partnership.
Fast forward to 2008, when after a court-ordered search, federal agents found notes where Iranian
UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazee discussed commercial aspects of 650 Fifth with Alavi president
Farshi Jahedi. The two also talked about charitable activities associated with the Alavi Foundation.
The court papers say Khazee stated, “among other things, that it was necessary to increase the profit
from the building” at 650 Fifth.


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Back In The Game
by Cody Lyon

An article from the March/April 2009 edition of Real Estate New York

As the city’s commercial real estate market continues to soften, and tremendous leverage comes home to roost, many of New York’s old-line real estate families appear better positioned to weather the current economic tsunami. Family firms interviewed by Real Estate New York say that the years of experience in management, ownership, construction and development provide them with more secure positions as the city’s business and real estate community faces one of its toughest tests in a hundred years.

The names are synonymous with many of New York’s office towers, apartment buildings and even the entire sections of the city where families helped carve the face of the city’s five boroughs.  As Stanley Freundlich, managing partner at Berdon LLP CPAs and Advisors, says “they were extremely visionary in scoping out the New York City skyline.”

Freundlich, who joined the accounting firm in 1962, has served as an advisor to a number of real estate dynasties. Since 1917, Berdon has negotiated deals for countless developers, owners, operators and other investors in residential, commercial and mixed-use properties.

Nostalgia aside, Freundlich tells RENY that the past 10 years weren’t dominated by families but instead REITS and offshore funds.  He calls today’s market dangerous.  He says generational firms “weren’t doing the complicated syndicated deals but instead used their own money when acquiring properties, except for conservative mortgage financing.”

Over the past few years, deals were being hatched and funded by all manner of sources from pension plans to offshore money according to Freundlich.  New interests began to steamroll across entire swaths of the city, snatching up property along the way.  Hedge funds and investment bankers joined the game and as long as the money was made readily available, the buyers would pay increasingly exorbitant prices under the assumption that property value would double over the next 10 years.

“There were prices that made no sense,” Freundlich says, adding the assumptions buyers made were too aggressive. “In the past couple of years, the cap rate went as low as 3% to 4%,” meaning that if you used a 3% cap, “you were buying property at 33 times the cash flow.”

As Freundlich notes, the numbers weren’t there and the assumptions were unrealistic.  Individuals and groups rushed into highly leveraged deals that promised high returns, and they were often advised by third parties motivated by potential commissions and bonuses.

On the other hand, he says family firms trended toward more conservative assumptions, holding that inflation increases modestly, no more than 3% each year.

Increasingly, it appears the more cautious hands-on approach has paid off.  Unlike other entities, families have long-term vested interests in their companies and assets. “Our business model is that we manage the properties we own,” says J.J. Bistricer, executive vice president at Clipper Realty.  “All our rentals are managed in-house, by us.”

J.J is a third-generation Bistricer, following his grandfather who in 1952 founded the company, now led by parthers David Bistricer and Sam Levinson.  Currently, Clipper has a portfolio of around 6,000 residential and mixed-use projects throughout the metropolitan area.

Bistricer says banks don’t care that “you can’t justify your purchase price.  They’re saying what we underwrote you is the price, and now you have to pay up.”

For the most part, he says, Clipper avioded temptation that left some city portfolios worth less that the amount the last buyer paid for it.  “Real estate is very much in my family’s blood,” says Bistricer, who as a child found himself hanging out in the family office on weekends where he’d listen in on phone calls and do odds and ends.  There, he gained perspective, learned technique and developed abilities, adapting quickly to the company structure and business culture.

Today, he says the company is in good standing and that it hasn’t engaged in over-leveraging or over-valuating property.  “The properties we purchased many years ago are on very sound footing, and in many cases, free and clear,” Bistricer notes.

As an example, he says if a project like a new condo development doesn’t go the way people predict, Clipper explores other avenues like alternative revenue generation. “If we generate revenue in a different way beyond sales, perhaps as rental while at the same time marketing as condo, that sort of deflects the cost of operating a building that’s not 100% occupied,” he says.  “It’s all about being smart, prudent and watching the nature of your costs, and if you’re in construction, or management, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks.”

Falling through cracks is frowned upon by a number of generational firms.  Take the family firm whose founder was instrumental in developing New York’s fashion district.

Founded in 1909, when Samuel Kaufman moved his clothing business out of New York’s Lower East Side, the Kaufman Organization by the 1920s had become instrumental in the development of properties that became the Garment District of the West 30s in Manhattan.  Currently, Kaufman’s portfolio includes 40 properties with over five million square feet.

“We’ve taken a fairly conservative approach,” said Steve Kaufman, president of the 100-year-old firm.  He says that over the past 10 years, his family didn’t make permanent long-term acquisitions but did do some short-term buying and selling.  That, he says, is not our normal way of doing business,” but the company saw some opportunities and got involved.

For now, Kaufman says people are still searching for the bottom.  He says that those who can are looking for space but keep on shopping, ultimately unwilling to commit, because in the end, they want to pay less.

He says his company can do business with many of those bargin hunters because “we didn’t buy anything at the peak of the market that we’re now forced to rent at unattainable prices. We can rent for lower prices than other people, if we want to.”  In fact, he says, his company is willing to reach out to quality tenants.

“We’re prepared to be aggressive in our pricing,” Kaufman says adding that the company has never abandoned a real estate fundamentals philosophy.  “As owner of the company, I will do whatever is necessary to close deals, rent space and maintain our competitive edge in theis very difficult climate.”

Another family successfully managing the storm is headquartered north of the city in White Plains.  Founded in 1891 by Irish immigrant Daniel Houlihan, real estate and investment firm Houlihan Parnes counts fourth-generation James Houlihan Jr. among its principals.

Daughter Kelly Houlihan recently stepped aboard a few months ago.  She had studied education at New York University, thinking she would become a teacher, but, after a few summers interning in her family’s office, she now works in leasing.  Like her great-grandfather during the Great Depression, she’s learning that survival often demads aggressive approaches to business.

During the Depression, Daniel Houlihan actually increased the size of the family business by managing properties for the government agency that was a forerunner of the Federal Housing Administration.  Today, Kelly Houlihan says, “You can’t just sit around and wait for a broker or tenant to call you looking for space. You have to make phone calls, canvas,” and yes, “flyer.”

James Houlihan Jr. tells RENY that despite being a long-established generational business,  “You don’t get a free pass, there’s no exemption from the recession.”  To help weather this storm, Houlihan Parnes has taken on advisory work for lenders, hospitals, healthcare facilities and colleges. “We may not have looked at that work during the up economy, because we were too busy buying and selling.”

Houlihan worries this cycle is more severe than the past dives into negative territory that have since followed the Great Depression.  He calls those events singular, saying they don’t compare to this meltdown.

“You had an oversupply of money that pushed prices and leverages far too high,” says Houlihan.  “Now, we’re paying the piper for that.”

Comparing the current cascade to a freight train charging down the tracks, he says his company is doing what it can to manage, tightening belts and cutting overhead.  He says companies like his are analyzing every property and in some cases, making hard choices, like selling at a loss.  “That’s part of life,” he sighs.

But Houlihan stresses that the impact goes beyond the owner/developer.  He says that when you have a vibrant economy, construction jobs account for up to 25% of active employment.  Now, as those companies are squeezed, and credit facilities dry up, there are cases where survival comes into question.

One contractor withstanding the heavy weather is John Gallin & Son, a commercial interior construction management and contracting firm founded in 1886 and now in its fourth generation of family management.  Mark Varian, who joined the company in 1977, is the sixth member of the Gallin family to take the leadership helm, and says a Gallin is on every job the firm takes.

“There has not necessarily been a flight to quality, which we do bring, but a flight to reliability, a sense that the people they are hiring are actually going to be there the next day,” he says.

Varian says experience helps a business stay afloat, but he cautions that new projects have to be generated at least once every quarter. “If we didn’t write up a job within a three month period, we’d be out of business,” he says.

The company opted not to expand during boom periods. “Instead, we maintained what we have,” says Varian.  “We have experienced people who can adjust to heightened levels of activity.  While that can be a strain at times, to hire a whole group of people and then let them go when there’s a slowdown is not the way we do things.”

Speaking of vested family interests, Varian says, “If every one of us was here to make a quick buck and leave, well, that’d be a more boom-and-bust mentality.”

For its part, family-run Townhouse Realty is looking to buy non-performing loans, while maintaining a buy-and-hold philosophy with its property assets.  Founded in the midst of the Depression in 1933 by William Maidman, Townhouse acquires, develops and manages residential commercial, retail and mixed-use properties.  Mitchell Maidman, the present-day preseident and CEO, is optimistic about overcoming the current slowness.

“Our family has owned real estate in New York City for nearly 60 years,” he says, noting that the city’s real estate has “always risen back up even higher than it had been in the past.  As long as owners maintain their properties in excellent condition, attracting and retaining tenants will not be a problem.”

Like others, Maidman tips his hat to the resources that a family-run firm offers.  He acknowledges that years of experience offer invaluable know-how, which in itself can prove invaluable during an economic crisis.  “This is where I believe families with deep experience and solid assets have the advantage.”

Right now, Townhouse is proceeding conservatively.  “We’ve shifted to a mode of patience that has long done well for our family and others like us,” he says.  “As early as 2004-2005, we stopped buying and developing high rises in Manhattan and started buying low-rise buildings and walkups in upper Manhattan and the other boroughs.”

Long Island’s 50-year-old Albanese Organization counts the Vanguard in Chelsea, The German Mission to the United Nations and Battery Park City’s new 35-story Visionaire among its portfolio.  Christopher V. Albanese, executive vice president of the Garden City, NY-based company, works closely with father Vincent, who founded the company, and his uncle Anthony.

“We seek to buy and develop only well located properties, and we don’t over-leverage them,” says Albanese.  “The buildings we own are fully occupied with only moderate leverage.”

The company’s philosophy says that if you finance a project with 70% or 80% leverage, that’s moderate risk.  Instead, Albanese says, people were financing at 80% to 85% during the first mortgage, then they’d take another mortgage and eventually might effectively have 90% to 95% financing.

Like members of other real estate families, Albanese points out the “numerous buildings where the mortgages are worth more than the actual buildings themselves.  Between 2006 and 2008, when the market euphoria caused prices to shoot through the roof, we were very conservative.  We didn’t get caught up in that.”

In common with other families, Albanese sees a return to emphasizing fundamentals.  However, he hints that the current downturn offers an even bigger opportunity for family firm innovation and efficiency, which includes fully embracing environmentally conscious development.

Touting green buildings like Visionaire, Albanese says that they offer better air quality and hight tenant comfort, and that they many be more efficient.  “What we’ve put into that building will help sales continue, and it will assure projects remain successful, even in these downturns.”  He notes that his family has always maintained that when rents are falling, better-built properties hold their value.

Catellus names Canada firm for shop house phase of Mueller

Austin Business Journal by Cody Lyon, Staff writer

Date: Monday, November 28, 2011, 10:37am CST

Cody Lyon
Staff writer – Austin Business Journal
Email

Catellus Development Corp. is introducing to Austin a new style of mixed-use development with its new “shop house” phase of the Mueller project.

Catellus, the master developer of the development, has named Homes by Avi — a Canada-based company — to build the 14 new shop houses, where a resident can live and work in the same building.

The phase puts a modern spin on an urban lifestyle once common in older towns and cities around the world where merchants often lived above the store or restaurant they owned or operated.

The Mueller Shop Houses will consist of two facing blocks of attached homes that will line a small urban park, according to plans. Each residence will have a ground floor of commercial space consisting of 500 square feet to 600 square feet each.

Commercial space will be available for a variety of opportunities such as retail, professional services and small restaurants or wine bars, Catellus said. The developer plans to build additional parking for customer use.

The Canadian firm is impressed by the neighborhood’s location, parks, shops and neighborly vibe, and is looking forward to bringing a new element to a truly mixed-use community,Darren Soltes, COO of Homes by Avi said in a release.

The company plans to begin construction on the shop house phase next summer.

Homes by Avi joins David Weekley Homes    , Standard Pacific Homes    andStreetman Homes    to build 221 single-family homes just east of Mueller’s planned town center. Upon completion, the new homes will bring total homes at Mueller to 1,600.

Mosaic at Mueller, a multifamily component of the development, plans to break ground in early 2012, the Austin Business Journal reported in October.

Nearly 40 percent of the homes built in the next phase of the Mueller development will be part of the Affordable Homes Program.

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Written by codylyonreporter

February 2, 2012 at 2:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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