Uchi founder, high-profile architect bring creative offices to East Austin

Daryl Kunik has an uncanny sense of Austin cool. He’s the co-founder of the Uchi and Uchiko restaurants of national fame and has a passion for boutique real estate development.

As the founder and principal of Central Austin Management Group, Kunik and his partners are building Springdale General, a creative office development near Springdale Road and Airport Boulevard.

“This (site) allows us to create a sense of place,” Kunik said during a recent tour on a soggy overcast morning.

The 10-acre site east of Airport Boulevard is on the quiet side of the major Austin thoroughfare but just a short drive from downtown.

Steel frames are up on a few of the buildings, but construction paused for the day as crews waited for puddles to evaporate and mud to dry.

We drove across the site in an extended-cab truck to see how the project lays out, paying special attention to the heritage pecan trees that will create a special ambiance for the Center for Social Innovation.

BuildASign founder and entrepreneur Dan Graham is a partner in Springdale General through venture capital firm Notley Ventures, which will develop 60,000 square feet of the 165,000-square-foot project. The Center for Social Innovation will cater to nonprofit tenants, while the rest of the development will attract a mix of creative companies and individuals.

“Rents are chasing (creative) people out of town,” Kunik said. “We’re trying to find a way to make things affordable and sustainable. We’re a perfect solution to this problem.”

Kunik purchased the property at 1023 Springdale Road about two years ago. He experienced solid success in the creative office sector when his company developed Canopy in 2013, also on Springdale Road closer to the city center. It’s full.

He saw the new location — a former brownfield of industrial tanks — as an opportunity to deliver something innovative in an area budding with redevelopment activity but still with lower land costs than much of the rest of the city.

In all there will be 15 buildings interconnected by walkways and placemaking elements. A loading dock will serve tenants who will benefit from that amenity. It’s not an industrial park in the sense of heavy truck traffic, but the loading dock will serve those that need it on a modest scale.

Cafe Medici, the Austin-based coffee purveyor, will open a store and operate its first roastery there.

“We’re looking for makers — a mixed group of businesses that are part of the creative class,” Kunik said.

That could mean traditional visual artists or it could be furniture makers. It could also be coders and budding entrepreneurs in a variety of disciplines.

Lease rates start at $17.50 per square foot, considerably less than the asking rates for new product across the city, and far lower than average rents for class B properties. Based on CBRE’s first-quarter office report, the average asking rate for class B offices in the Central Business District is $31.75 per square foot. The average asking rate for class B offices in the east submarket where Springdale General is located is $20.90 per square foot.

As in the past, Kunik is drawing from the design talents of Austin architect Michael Hsu, who also is an investor in Springdale General. Navcon Group of Round Rock is the general contractor.

Central Austin Management Group handles its own leasing. Tenant brokers thus far are Holliday Hinckley and Bob Wynn with Cushman & Wakefield, who represented the Center for Social Innovation, and Eric DeJernett with CBRE Group Inc., who represented Cafe Medici. The first space is expected to deliver later this summer or in early fall.

Source: Austin Business Journal
Jan Buchholz, Senior Staff Writer

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