AUSTIN-The city’s retail growth, which has made unprecedented strides in recent years, should keep going in 2002. But, as with most other areas of the local economy, the growth might not be as robust as in the past few years.

That’s the outlook from Scott Freid, executive vice president in charge of Dallas-based Weitzman Group’s Austin office. He tells that the combination of job growth, availability of capital and interest from major retailers indicates that the Austin market is solid.

Still, other portions of the economy do have an impact on what happens to retail as seen in Cencor Urban’s mixed-use Triangle project in Central Austin. Post Properties last week decided not to develop the project’s multifamily component. That could delay the planned June groundbreaking as Cencor Urban seeks another multifamily partner. “Although we thought the retail was going to be strongly in place, another aspect of the project got slowed,” Freid says.

The occupancy rate for Austin’s more than 16 million sf of retail space has been hovering around 95%. Areas that may get more retail development are those like Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane, where an H-E-B-anchored center just opened. Wal-Mart has the northwest corner of the intersection under contract and shopping center developer David Berndt Interests has the northeast corner under contract. “I’m not sure what Wal-Mart’s going to do, but if they’ve got it under contract there’s a good possibility of that coming on line,” Freid says. “Dave Berndt’s a bright, capable developer and there’s a good chance of getting that to a point where they can do something this year (2002) as well,” he says.

Another likely hotspot is around Lakeline Mall at US Highway 183 and FM 620, Freid says. Hunt Properties may look to do something around Home Depot and Kohl’s stores and Target may moving its Highway 183 store closer to the mall.

The only roadblock to major retail announcements in Georgetown are the city’s development policies, which, so far, have hamstrung several developments. “If something can come together with the approval process in the city of Georgetown, there’s a list of great retailers as long as your arm that would love go into Georgetown,” Freid says.Growth would come to Buda if a regional mall goes there, he says. That, however, is several years away because infrastructure has to be built out.

Round Rock, which has absorbed the quick development of the La Frontera Village in 2001, may slow down in 2002, Freid says. La Frontera has about one million sf of retail space in the broader mixed-use La Frontera development, which includes office buildings and multifamily housing.

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