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AUSTIN-From dresses to dirt to new downtown office space, that’s the progression of a building makeover that will add 22,500 sf of office and retail space to Austin’s CBD.

Colliers Oxford Commercial of Austin is heading up the $4.5-million effort that will transform the former Yaring’s women’s store into a three-story building with ground-floor retail and upstairs offices. “It’s a total renovation,” Stephen Sanders, the broker who’s heading up the project. “We’re not going in, shoring up members and we’re not gutting it and fixing. We’re actually tearing it down, all but the façade. We’re taking it down to dirt.”

The building, at 506 N. Congress, is the former home of Yaring’s, a store that sold women’s wear. Yaring’s was a chain of 10 stores operated by the Schmidt family of Austin. The stores closed in 1997, four years after the Schmidt’s sold the company.

The current property owner wants to take advantage of the building’s location just south of the intersection of Congress Avenue and Sixth Street, the heart of the city’s CBD. “It’s hard to beat Sixth and Congress,” says Colliers Oxford’s Kevin Kimbrough, the project’s leasing agent.

Owner Yarings Building Ltd. and Colliers want retail on the ground floor, but that’s not what they’ve heard from prospective tenants. “The single largest request we have for use of this building are restaurants,” Sanders says. “We’re not opposed to doing a restaurant, but the game plan going in was to do office space. It’s going to have to be the right restaurant.”

The project’s architect happens to be one of Austin foremost restaurant designers, the Dick Clark Architecture firm. The contractor is Constructors & Associates, the Dallas-based firm that was project manager for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The company has had an Austin office since 1985.

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