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Rendering courtesy of Lifang

A new housing community is springing up in the popular Austin suburb of Dripping Springs. Lookout, a multi-family rental development, is now under construction and is slated to open in late 2024.

Austin-based Wayfinder Real Estate recently broke ground on the 241-unit community, which is touted as one of the only multi-family projects underway in the greater Dripping Springs area.

A release also touts the project as a "more affordable alternative to single-family homeownership in Dripping Springs, where the population has more than doubled over the last decade and the median home price has soared to $905,000."

“Dripping Springs has long attracted young families due to its excellent schools and small-town charm in the middle of the Texas Hill Country,” says Wayfinder co-founder Mac McElwrath. “With home prices already out of reach for many households and interest rates rising, more people than ever are looking to rent but few apartments are available.”

Among Lookout's 241 rentable units will be one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, as well as townhomes, says the release.

The project is geared towards young families and young professionals, and boasts a seven-acre footprint and panoramic Hill Country views. It offers proximity to popular area restaurants like Pieous, Torchy's Tacos, and The Switch, as well as a new H-E-B grocery store that will open on the former site of the Nutty Brown Amphitheater.

The Lookout itself will take shape at 13059 Four Star Blvd., the former site of Trudy’s Four Star restaurant. Rental rates have not yet been released by the developer.

Austin, Texas - Your City Government/Facebook

New Red River development will double affordable housing units in downtown Austin

Affordable Living

As Austin continues to grow and real estate continues to get pricier, the city council is stepping in. On September 29, Austin City Council approved “full negotiations” to transform a piece of city-owned property on downtown's Red River Street, the former site of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. The project will make 232 units available for affordable housing, according to a news release.

The project is being negotiated between affordable and mixed-income business Capital A Housing, affordable housing nonprofit the NHP Foundation, and real estate developers Aspen Heights. The project at 1215 Red River St. and 606 E. 12th St. comprises multiple towers, and targets mixed-income residents, a tactic that aims to diversify the complex rather than creating a socio-economic bubble.

The approval allows negotiations for the Master Development Agreement (MDA), which will ultimately lead to a final approval back in the council. The lease under negotiation lasts 99 years, and should be finalized by spring of 2023 for a summer of 2027 delivery target.

Located near the newly revamped Waterloo Park and a Project Connect light rail line to come, this property has potential to be one of the most connected in the city. The neighborhood is easily walkable to most places downtown, and even some parts of East Austin. It is just up the street from some of the city’s busiest nightlife, a third of a mile from Mohawk, the northernmost of the densely situated Red River music venues.

“We are thrilled to join this project to help deliver an unprecedented level of affordable housing,” said CEO of Capital A Housing Fayez Kazi in the release. “[It] will double the number of income-restricted units in downtown Austin.” The city currently manages 233.

The residential towers contain a total of 921 units, with more than a quarter reserved for low-income Austin families. Of those 232 units, half have more than one bedroom — 90 with two bedrooms, and 23 with three bedrooms. These are all within the 27-floor south tower.

All of the previous hospital site will be redeveloped, and the project will take up almost the whole block. This includes amenities such as a 30,000-square-foot plaza, a food hall, a business incubator, and onsite childcare deemed “affordable.” In keeping with the neighborhood’s musical traditions, an onsite music venue will offer rent below the market rate.

Breaking with some of the uglier history in the area, this development attempts to balance out some of the errors of the '60s, when the city displaced 475 households for the Brackenridge Hospital, the Frank Erwin Center, parking, and the same park new residents will be able to enjoy outside their door. The release points out that while 218 families were displaced, this project gives back the same number of affordable housing units, plus an additional 14.

“It’s important to remember this history of this area,” said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. “The urgent need to reconcile those bad decisions is what drove me to push my colleagues to give our city staff more time to kick the tires on this proposal… .”

Mayor Steve Adler commented on the plans, noting the substantial increase of affordable housing. "We need more,” he said, “but this is an important step.”

More information about the project is available at austintexas.gov.

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H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.