Time and again, studies say Millennials value experiences above things. If your business involves youthful employees, is it time to rethink the place for a corporate retreat?
Many a mountain, beach, or lake house has been marketed to business folk as a place for brainstorming, team-building, and entertaining clients. But the Millennial generation’s concept of a gathering spot is more likely to be a coffeehouse or music club in a buzzy urban area than a boring hotel, staid golf resort, or remote house. Taking a cue from co-op work spaces, an Austin-based group has opened a stylish “experiential” luxury hostel and event space that just might assist you to”go native,” and adopt the customs of of the newest generation for your next company summit or bash.
What happens when you don’t bulldoze a vibrant urban core for an urban office park? Austin. What happens 60 years later when you finally realize the huge mistake you made? Houston and Dallas. What happens when you want the very best pied-à-terre in Austin? You head to the Austonian at 200 Congress Avenue. And putting the “high” in highfalutin is unit 50T.
If we were to stare into Maleficent’s mirror and ask it to tell us “What home in Austin is the coolest of all?” it would make up some weird rhyme to tell us all about this absolutely rad structure in Westlake Hills. Designed by architect John Watson, a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, the “Grotto Dome” house might be the coolest house in all of Central Texas. And you can quote me on that.
It’s an escape in the city, a home tucked into a ravine with a narrow little creek that runs beneath it. Jump to see more photos of what could be either an amazing second home, a vacation home, or a primary residence that’s cool enough to feel like a vacation. We don’t care what you call it, really, as long as you invite us over to sip cocktails and play pool by the pool in the grotto.
Congratulations to Boot Ranch, one of the most beautiful vacation home communities in the nation, for having one of the nation’s best golf ranges as ranked by the Golf Range Association of America. So exciting!
Truly, Boot Ranch is becoming a top golf destination in Texas and the U.S., with immaculate PGA-level courses as well as an executive Par 3 course. Read on for more details!
The Golf Range Association of America has again honored Boot Ranch as one of the nation’s top 50 private ranges and the only award winner in Texas. Boot Ranch, Estancia Club, Hazeltine National, The Bridges of Rancho Santa Fe and Valhalla Golf Club are quickly becoming regulars within the Top 50. The award was announced in the January issue of Golf Range Magazine.
In addition to the 34-acre practice park, which includes a short game range and an executive Par 3 course, there’s the championship 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend Hal Sutton. The 18-hole golf course rises and falls along the natural ridges and valleys and makes full use of natural water features, one being the twin 40-foot waterfalls in front of the 10th green. The course measures 7,250 yards from the longest tee for a Par 71.
“As the primary location for young players’ entry into golf and for players wanting to improve their overall game, a greater value is being put on practice facilities across the nation. Boot Ranch is at the forefront in meeting this demand,” says Boot Ranch PGA Director of Golf Emil Hale. “A lot of qualities go in making a golf course great,” he added. “In the case of Boot Ranch, players generally praise the uniqueness of holes, conditioning, challenge, length and history.”
A limited number of Non-Resident Memberships are available for those who want to enjoy golf; access to the property’s Club House Village, spa and fitness facilities; and the new Ranch Club featuring four separate pools, outdoor pavilion for events and parties and soon-to-be-completed sports and tennis courts. A complete list of award winners can be found in Golf Range Magazine.
Ranches, cowboys, horses and cattle are Texas icons—just look at some of our professional sports teams. The Cowboys, Rangers, and Mavericks all harken back to the state’s historic roots. And remember famous “Southfork,” the site of many a double deal in the TV drama Dallas? It’s increasingly surrounded by development (and it’s a whole lot smaller than it seemed on TV).
There are still BIG ranches out there, such as the King Ranch, 6666 (the Four Sixes) and the YO Ranch (currently for sale for $81 million), but ranching and cattle are generally not the core business any more. More and more, ranches are purchased and owned for 3 reasons: (1) recreation, (2) energy development and (3) investment (which often means wait until it can be carved up and developed for higher prices).
While there is a powerful connection with the land, Texas has also historically led the nation in the amount of raw land converted to development property. This rampant expansion is continually changing our landscape. And let’s face it; much of what is developed and constructed does not have the most lasting value. Kind of seems like the same type of development gets repeated about every 5-10 miles no matter which direction you’re headed.
What does this all mean? Some areas have taken action to protect their heritage. In Austin, thousands of acres have been placed in conservation easements to protect open space, view sheds, wildlife, and water resources. The trend is also taking hold with some of our western neighbors. Recently, the Walls Street Journal reported that Scottsdale just purchased an additional 2,365 acres to add to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, bringing it to 30,000 acres and making it the largest municipality-owned urban park in the U.S. While, in North Texas, the “drill, baby, drill” slogan has been adapted to “build, baby, build.”
However, at Cross Pines Ranch in East Texas (near Mineola and about 30 minutes from Tyler), over 1,800 acres have been permanently protected from future development by a conservation easement. This is beautiful and pristine property that had been planned for a 400-lot, high-end second home sporting community, complete with, among other things, a Tom Fazio golf course, riding stables, and skeet and sporting clays courses. While that would have made a stunning and high-quality development, the owners ultimately determined that they wanted to preserve the land in as close to its natural state as possible, while allowing a very limited amount of development.
The result is a conservation-oriented sporting ranch, owned by no more than 40 families. Each owner has a 5-acre building site upon which to build a home and ownership in the remaining 1,800 acres of the ranch, which includes a clubhouse, equestrian barn, skeet and trap range, miles of hiking and biking trails and over 200 acres of lakes, professionally managed for largemouth bass and complete with boats at the ready. The fishing is spectacular. In fact, the world famous fly fisherman Lefty Kreh visited Cross Pines this fall and was so impressed that he’s discussed returning to use Cross Pines for his next video.
There is also a full-time ranch manager that takes care of the ranch (and its owners!) as well as a full-time equestrian manager, who will have horses saddled and ready for owners and who is always ready to lead a trail ride. The concept is really “plug and play,” where owners can show up and just enjoy their favorite activities, without all the hassle involved if they had to take care of it all. Since the ranch is about the size of Highland Park with virtually no fences, there’s plenty of room to spread out and play.
On the conservation side, in addition to the conservation easement that reduced the number of sites from 400 to 40, the owners implemented restrictions on building size, materials, tree removal and landscaping to preserve view corridors and encourage resource conservation. They are currently working on the re-introduction of native grasses as well as a significant ongoing reforestation program. These efforts earned Cross Pines Ranch a spot as one of the 4 finalists in this year’s Green Project of the Year-Non LEED category at the Green Gala & Awards put on by the North Texas United States Green Building Council. While the victor was the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (where the event was held), Cross Pines was certainly in good company.
Is Cross Pines a model for future development? Due to its unique nature, it’s probably only suited for certain exceptional recreational properties. However, the real emphasis should be on integrating a focus on conservation, preservation and the environment into all of our developments. As discussed above, Dallas is not known for its environmental ethos. Maybe we should start changing that. Why? If you read my Aspen report, I coined a term “selfish sustainability.”
Think about it. We’re a magnet for jobs for many reasons, but we must continue to make choices to position ourselves and our area strategically for the long term. Resource use, resource conservation, land conservation, etc., is important to many people, particularly the “creative classes” that increasingly drive our economies. It’s all about making the right next choice. As I said before, if it makes economic sense today, helps protect and enhance businesses (or an area) long-term and helps protect the environment, that sure seems like a win-win-win. Cross Pines is a model for that kind of thinking.
Full Disclosure: I have been involved in the conceptualization and creation of Cross Pines Ranch from its beginning. We’ve always said that it’s all about the land, and we’re continually delighted when families see and enjoy this incredible landscape that has been protected in perpetuity.
Dallas Addison is a Dallas-based lawyer who has helped many clients throughout the country buy, sell, develop and manage all types of real estate over the years, with a particular focus on recreational and hospitality-based real estate, such as golf courses, resorts, ranches, second homes, etc. He is also a founding principal of Preservation Land Company. He is a regulator contributor to SecondShelters.com.
Golfing great Hal Sutton found himself in the Texas Hill Country about 12 years ago, with a stop in Fredericksburg. He might have thought he was in Tuscany, not Texas, because the terrain was so similar he wondered where the olive trees were. The idyllic German-esque community of about 11,000 in Gillespie County rests about 70 miles west of Austin and 52 miles north of San Antonio. Fredericksburg, famous for its summer peaches and German brews, caught Sutton’s heart and never really let go.
But it got his brain busy calculating, dreaming.
“This is beautiful,” the 14-time winner on the PGA tour told his wife, “This is the Aspen of Texas! We need to buy something here, build something here. Once the rest of the world discovers how beautiful this place is, it will just take off!”
I relate to that feeling totally. Whenever I drove my son to camp in Hunt, Texas, for years back in the 1990’s, I too fell in love with Fredericksburg and the gentle hills surrounding it. It is the perfect primary, second or vacation home location — drive-able from most major Texas urban areas, scenic, hilly, and loaded with activity. There is water: Lake LBJ and the Guadalupe and Pedernales Rivers, and there is land: mountain climbing at Enchanted Rock, horseback riding, endless hours of hiking.
Hal Sutton did more than just dream. He built the best exclusive family golf community in Texas, Boot Ranch. Armed with a $30 million investment from his partner, the Louisiana Municipal Police Employees Retirement System (Hal is from Shreveport), his own funds, and a network of good friends, he created the perfect ranch for city slickers looking for a getaway on the range laced with golf, gourmet food, and guns. He chose a beautiful spread of 2050 acres with the Palo Alto Creek winding through about five miles north of Fredericksburg, on the road to Llano. In case you don’t know, this is the hilly neck of Texas where most big time billionaires play rancher — Kelcy Warren, Tav Lupton, David Bamberger of Church’s Fried Chicken fame, to name a few.
Sutton’s dream team planned for 387 home sites of various sizes, shapes, and prices, all with a definite Texas Hill Country look and flavor.
And then he gave it something only Hal Sutton could: one of the best golf courses in Texas, a place he hoped would and believes will rival Augusta National. With its rugged hills dotted with cedars, curves and creatures, Boot Ranch offers golfers some of the most beautiful golfing terrain in the state. There are twin 40-foot waterfalls in front of the 10th green. The Dallas Morning News has ranked Boot Ranch no less than five times as one of the Top Ten Courses in Texas, and the course has been rated by Golf Digest as one of the Top 10 courses in the COUNTRY. The course measures 7,250 yards from the championship tees for a par of 71. Even veteran golfers find it a challenge each time they play. There is also a 34-acre practice park, which includes a short game range and an executive Par-3 course. The Director of golf is Emil Hale, hand-picked by Sutton himself.
Boot Ranch launched in 2004 with the vision to create a world-class vacation home destination deep in the heart of Texas, with a true Texas twist. There would be a Sutton supreme golf course, a clubhouse village with casual and fine dining, pools and spa, guest lodges, zero-lot line low maintenance units, and acres of undeveloped acreage in between each homestead. This was not to be a development where units were crammed on the land to maximize return. Every element of the development would be completed on the highest level of luxury, and extended family would be encouraged to play and stay by way of a vertical membership to multiple generations. Traditional ranching is losing its luster with subsequent generations, and Boot Ranch would offer homeowners a chance to enjoy the romance of the ranch life, without the headaches. Homeowners could build homes of their choice, with builders of their choice, as long as design styles adhered to the community’s design standards to keep the look “Hill Country”. They could enjoy a community of activity right on the ranch on a level that Bick Benedict would have approved: trap and skeet shooting, fishing, hiking and mountain bike trails, horseback riding, swim and of course golf, and still be five minutes from the charm and amenities of Fredericksburg.
Then came the Greatest Recession since the Great Depression.
Like most vacation and second home communities during the financial crisis, Boot Ranch found its once-eager buyers holding back. After 37 brisk sales, Sutton brought in Legacy Properties for a restructuring in 2007, pumping in tens of millions in infrastructure costs. The U.S economy dove even further, and, like many developments across the nation, Boot Ranch equity was under water. Its resulting foreclosure left the estate of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. – the major Boot Ranch noteholder – holding the keys.
Recognizing what a treasure they now owned deep in the heart of Texas, with a mandate to protect and maximize creditor assets, Lehman continued to fund, build out and finish the project. It was business as usual, riding out the storm, just as the Cowboys did on those craggy, rugged hills.
“Well, there’s one thing you got to say for cattle… boy, you put your brand on one of them, you’re gonna know where it’s at!”- Luz Benedict
Sutton had clearly branded a lifestyle at Boot Ranch, one that even a national financial crisis couldn’t touch. Part of Lehman’s luck was that Boot Ranch was located in the Lone Star State, a market that was barely touched by the recession. Texas residential real estate came back more quickly than other markets for several reasons: our values have never skyrocketed artificially as they have in some markets, and Texas puts the reins on home equity lines of credit, limiting them to 80% of home equity.
For two years, from 2008 to 2010, there was little sales movement at Boot Ranch. But when the economy turned north, the Texas real estate market turned into a Blue Norther. In 2011, Boot Ranch was at the top of lot sales for the State, selling between $10 and 20 million in inventory. And, Hal Sutton announced he was coming back to further brand the completion of his dream.
In 2012, Boot completed the plans for its award-winning, 55,000 square foot rock stone Clubhouse Village. Steering up the steep hill on the rocky circular drive, you truly think you are coming into a centuries old Italian village. The clubhouse was designed by Mike Marsh, who recently completed the stunning remodeling of the toney Dallas Country Club in Highland Park, to maximize the terrain and view. A rock archway frames the vista over miles of the ranch and a waterfall leading to the lagoon pool, ranch club pavilion, tennis and sport courts. The Village includes the golf pro shop, men and women’s locker rooms complete with steam rooms, the spa and wellness center, exercise center, and the dining room. Boot Ranch offers owners a choice of casual or fine dining under the direction of Executive Chef Aaron Staudenmaier, who worked with famed restaurateur Kent Rathbun in Dallas. There are ten luxurious lodge suites for guests with jetted tubs, separate shower and rooms the size of Manhattan — some just under 1000 square feet. These function as extra living quarters for members’ family and friends.
Then there are the lots. Boot Ranch has a variety of options from the sprawling, elegant estate home sites, which range in price from $300,000 to $2.5 million for as little as 2 acres up to a whopping 18 acres, including club membership.
There are the smaller Overlook Cabins, situated on approximately one-half acre sites with these price points starting at $239,000 to $449,000 including club membership, for dirt. Homes ranging from 1,800 to 4,000 square feet are going up as I write this, many pre-sold. Pricing for the lot and completed cabin ranges from $700,000 to $1.4 million.
Finally, Boot Ranch revived an old German trend from the original Fredericksburg settlers: the Sunday House. These were homes that were “shared” by settlers attending church services in town. The Sunday House gave them a place to rest, repast and refresh before the long ride back to the ranch, in a wagon or on horseback. Boot Ranch’s concept is a fractional ownership of each Sunday house with pricing at $300,000. Each Sunday House is about 3,800 square feet of detached space — a gathering house with family room, gourmet kitchen and laundry room, and four master bedroom suites, all detached but connected by walkways. It’s a similar concept to the way homes were built with detached rooms into the hills at Calistoga Ranch. The Sunday House concept has proven so popular and affordable, shares in the first four cabins are almost sold out and construction is underway on a fifth. Sunday House owners share their usage, averaging between 35-45 days each during a year. Buyers are streaming in primarily from Houston and Dallas, with others coming from San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Tyler, Midland, Odessa and elsewhere. A few are even from out-of -state.
In 2011, as the U.S. was waking up from the recession, the movie Seven Days in Utopia was filmed at Boot Ranch. Starring Robert Duvall, directed by Matt Russell, the movie is based on the book: Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, by David L. Cook, PhD. Cook is one of the country’s top sport psychology consultants and motivational speaker who has worked with more than 100 PGA Tour players. Among many coaching roles, Cook serves as sport psychology coach to the 1999 World Champion San Antonio Spurs. His story is about a young golfer who finds life’s purpose at the Links of Utopia.
In many ways, Hal Sutton found HIS life’s purpose at the Links at Boot Ranch, generating an attainable legacy for families to take a healing break from the insanity that 21st century life has become. It’s a place to kick back, put up your boots, re-connect with family and nature and maybe, just maybe, give you a chance to find your life’s purpose under the golden glaze of a Hill Country sunset.
Lance Armstrong changes his address like we change our underwear, right? Three Austin-area houses in the last three months, ranging from 7,500 to 12,000 square feet, means the disgraced cyclist is probably trying to irritate his former friends at the U.S. Postal Service.
Our Miami correspondent, Andrea Kavanagh, is back and house-hunting for us! Calling all billionaire art aficionados and free-spending, globe-trotting investors! Miami is all a buzz over Ocean Drive’s most infamous residence to hit the sizzling hot real estate market at a whopping $125 million. Casa Casuarina, also known as the Versace mansion, is an iconic oasis – a piece of art and a piece of history sitting in the middle of South Beach. Located at 1116 Ocean Drive, the mansion is also notorious as the former home of Italian designer Gianni Versace who was shot to death at the front gate in 1997. Grisly as that was, it remains one of the most popular tourist sites in Miami.
So what will this $125M “investment” buy you in South Florida?
Casa Casuarina is a 23,462 square-foot gated home with 10 opulent bedroom and 11 bathrooms. It is highlighted by a 54-foot long mosaic pool lined in 24-karat gold, numerous frescos and ornate statues, arched doorways and an open air courtyard. It features an extravagant mosaic garden, European-inspired architecture and a tropical poolside paradise. Originally built in 1930, the property was designed to pay homage to the oldest existing house in the western hemisphere, the “Alcazar de Colon” in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Versace purchased the home in 1992 and invested approximately $33M in expansions including the south wing and the pool and garden area, along with his artistic vision. The home’s current owner bought the property in 2000 and has preserved and maintained all of Versace’s design elements.
Listed by Coldwell Banker, interest in this property has been high, as buyers and investors are pouring money into the ultra-luxury market in South Florida. Within the first week on the market, the listing agents received 15 calls from serious potential buyers and investors. Casa Casuarina is available for purchase as either a single-family home or hotel. For those with the means, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own an unparalleled trophy property. For the rest of us, it is an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a sneak peek into this majestic master-piece, and dream.
Sigh. Somehow, they never show the kitchens in these palaces.