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DALLAS-A group of Central Texas landowners is seeking a development partner for 145 acres after Simon Property Group backed down on renewing the land option. The group’s tract is one of three land assemblies in the region that lost options in recent days.

The Indianapolis-based Simon’s execs weren’t available for an interview before publication time about dropping nearly two million sf of retail plans for Bastrop and Buda, small but growing cities about 40 miles apart and 30 and 15 miles, respectively, from Austin. Tom Rohde with NAI Rohde, Ottmers & Siegel in San Antonio tells GlobeSt.com that the Simon team was negotiating to renew the two-year-old contract for 145 acres at the intersection of Texas 71 and Texas 304 to develop Pecan Crossing in Bastrop.

“We thought they were going to renew,” Rohde says of a group led by the Brundage family who had re-priced its land to suit today’s market which, most likely, was the scenario with the other owners. Both areas have become hotspots for developers of all sizes and types, with plans brewing for at least three million sf of predominately retail space. Large tracts in Bastrop are fetching $4 per sf to $5 per sf now that the development wheels are churning and the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines & Spa resort is under way.

According to Rohde, the Brundage family’s land abuts 110 of roughly 350 acres, owned by a group led by Robert Leffingwell, which had its deal fall out as well. The third option spanned 200 acres at the intersection of Loop 4 and Interstate 35 in Buda, where Cabela’s just opened its doors. Simon’s Les Morris last Friday addressed two of the three dropped options with Austin American-Statesman, saying the deals cratered because landowners weren’t willing to wait to sell their land. In some cases in Texas, Simon has tied up land at least five years before taking down the sites.

Rohde, though, says it was the increased price as well as Simon’s delayed development plan that scuttled the land deal for the proposed Pecan Crossing, which was penciled for a 2007 delivery. “We kind of lost patience,” Rohde says.

Rohde says the Brundage-backed group has hit the streets in search of a development partner for a one-million-sf, build-out plan for hospitality, multifamily and office product with one mile of frontage along Texas 71. Meanwhile, Leffingwell said in the published account that his group is looking to build up to 650,000 sf of retail and hotel space. Leffingwell couldn’t be reached for GlobeSt.com comment.

Simon controls market share in the region. Just recently, a subsidiary broke ground on the Round Rock Premium Outlets, north of Austin, and Simon itself is wrapping up work on 750,000-sf Wolf Ranch in Georgetown, also along Interstate 35 and north of the state capital.

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