AUSTIN-It’s taken decades, but Austin has finally caught the attention of Houston’s luxury multifamily developer, the Morgan Group Inc., which has two parcels under contract for high-end developments in the city’s northern submarket.

“We’re still nine months away from breaking ground,” Alan Patton, Morgan’s president, tells The plans remain so preliminary that architectural renderings have yet to be made. “We’re working very closely with the city to see what’s going to get approved,” he says.

Austin’s permitting process is tough, but Patton says so is Southern California, and the developer has five projects under its belt there. “It takes awhile to get from point A to point B,” says Patton. MGI’s first projects in Austin most likely will closely followed by developments in Dallas, another first for the company. “We’re nosing around,” says Patton, adding that MGI has found some sites that have piqued corporate interest.

MGI initially anticipates spending $150 million to $200 million for projects in Dallas and Austin. Patton says it will take “two to three years,” but the long-range plan is to do three deals a year in Austin and two per year in Dallas. “Once we’ve entered a city, we further define other sites,” he says.

Southern California and Denver are prime examples of MGI’s influence on an area. With two luxury complexes delivered in Southern California, the company is planning to break ground on three more in the next six months while two Denver starts are also planned for the same time period. Just this week, MGI broke ground on Marina Place in San Diego.

Meanwhile, MGI has completed three Denver projects and is working on a 518-unit project, The Estate at Park Meadows in Littleton, a Denver suburb. The company, founded in 1959, has developed seven properties in Houston, excluding a 229-unit, the Plaza in The Museum District. MGI also has completed projects in Tennessee, Kansas, Florida and Arizona.

MGI’s sudden interest in Austin and Dallas has been sparked by the prevailing strong economies fed by strong and consistent job markets. “Dallas always had its share of supply without us being there,” says Patton. “And Austin, until the past three years, has not performed well.” But, the times have changed and MGI has feelers out for land that meets its criteria of urban infill sites in both cities.Patton, a Houston native, says “it’s gratifying to be a Houston-based developer and anticipating us building in Austin and Dallas.”

MGI has mastered the “New Urbanism” concept, building high-end units in close proximity to retail, parks, sports arenas and entertainment districts. The complexes all feature signature clubhouses, replete with theater-style seating, surround sound and state-of-the-art fitness centers.

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