Dayton firm taking a big stake in South Austin

In Austin, we are used to a small share of local landowners controlling a lot of the urban real estate, and increasingly, equity firms based on the coast making buys.

Now a mid-western player, Dayton, Ohio’s Connor Group, is making an aggressive play.

“We love the SoCo submarket,” the Connor Group’s managing partner Larry Connor said in a news release. “When we decided to come to Austin, we had a few specific places where we wanted to be. And the South Congress area was right at the top of that list.”

Above: The Crescent Apartments on Riverside

The Connor Group (which owns and operates more than $1.4 billion in assets) just closed on a $33.5 million purchase of the Crescent, a 169-unit apartment building, next door to Dominican Joe on Riverside and Congress.

In 2008, the five-story Crescent was developed by Riverside Resources, which is now developing The Whitley.

Last August, the Dayton company announced it had purchased the 253-unit apartment and retail building Cityview at SoCo, formerly known as “Camden South Congress,” and before that the “Alexan on Congress Avenue.” (At one point in time in the 1990s, the Austin Business Journal picked the property as "Best Multifamily Project" at its Annual Commercial Real Estate Awards ceremony, according to the civil engineer).

Above: Cityview at Soco

Outside of 78704, the Connor Group also bought the 290-unit River Oaks apartments on Brodie Lane for $34.6 million this past December.

“We love Austin,” Connor told the Dayton Business Journal. “In fact, we loved it for a long time before we even bought our first property there. We wanted to take our time and make sure we had a plan in place to grow in the market.”

No doubt this is a smart play in the short-term, given the incredible demand for urban living in Austin, but also in the long term.

It’s easy to forget, but folks are already thinking about how to remake the South Shore of Riverside, known as the South Shore Central waterfront district. It encompasses a total of 88 acres from South First Street to just east of a 19-acre tract at South Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road that's owned by the American-Statesman. According to the Austin Business Journal, the South Shore could see $500 million in new development in the next two decades.

Consider this: Cox Media, which owns the Statesman, also owns the Dayton Daily News, and has very strong ties to Dayton. It is not totally inconceivable that Larry Connor, presumably one of Dayton’s mega-rich and powerful, has some upper crust connections to Cox. For example, Doug Franklin – the president of Cox Media– was the publisher of the Dayton Daily News up until 2008.

Could the Connor Group be the mystery bidder on the Statesman property? Admittedly, it’s far-fetched, but not inconceivable... buyers are circling.

South Shore potential