A new luxury development will uplift residential real estate to a new dimension at Lake Austin. Luxury housing the levels of which have not been seen before in Texas, or much of the southwest, has a new grab: a two-minute Funicular descent to The Marina and The Lake Clubhouse at The Four Seasons Private Residences will present a panoramic experience inside one of two air-conditioned, glass enclosed cabins, lifting residents down to water activities, or back up to their multi-million dollar homes. The Funicular takes elevated Hill Country living to an extreme convenience, granting access to shoreline so pristine it is not even accessible by car.
The Four Seasons Private Residences is also the luxury brand’s first stand-alone branded real estate to be constructed apart from a Four Seasons hotel. Developed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Austin Capital Partners and Houston-based Hines real estate investment firm, the community will offer Four Seasons’ indulgence with a rare combination of dramatic hilltop views, private boat slips on Lake Austin, privacy, security and tranquility. It’s yet more proof that Austin has landed as the nation’s newest, and many would say best, tech commerce capital of the world: Apple now employs more people in Austin than in Cupertino. Multi million dollar housing is aimed at Facebook, Oracle, tech titans and future social media execs — looking at you, Elon Musk, who moved Tesla and himself to Austin.
“Austin is a Blue city in a healthy Red state,” says Jonathan Coon, CEO of Austin Capital Partners, a development partner. “It’s unlike any other city in the US. We may disagree politically, but we still go to dinner with each other. It’s in the center of the country, and growing so fast the airport has doubled in size in the last two years.”
Lake Austin is the eastern fringe of the Texas Hill Country, long a leisure and vacation draw to Lone Star state residents. California transplants often call this area Texas’ version of Napa, and I have heard New Yorkers make comparisons to the Italian countryside (Boot Ranch). And yes, wineries are included in the appeal, especially along Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg. My personal favorite: William Chris Vineyards in Hye.
This innovative partnership with Four Seasons guarantees a higher —- if not the current highest — dimension of luxury living for the Lake Austin area. The residences will bear the Four Seasons branding seal, giving every owner access to the brand’s famous service and guest-centric app/central data base that memorizes guest preferences for service on demand or before. The residences are being constructed with “invisible service” corridors hidden below, where consumers never see nor interact with service providers, much like Disney— “invisible service” is a new buzz word in uber luxury development. The same concept is being used at the new Costa Palmas, another Four Seasons-branded resort planned for La Ribera, B.C.S., Mexico. The Four Seasons Private Residences Austin is sited a handy 20 minute drive from downtown Austin and its veteran Four Seasons Hotel.
But the 145 acre private enclave, surrounded by more than 2000 acres of expansive emerald green space, will be as far away from Austin urban bustle as possible. Ninety acres will be reserved against future development as nature preserve and parkland. The site is positioned on a secluded hill above a 90-degree natural bend in the lake, with endless backdrops and protected views, creating a heightened sense of privacy and beauty.
“This is our Forever House”
When a man falls in love with dirt, especially a man who thrives on solving difficult, intricate problems, odds are pretty high he will own it. Jonathan Coon, a producer of the film Napoleon Dynamite, first found the unique site in 2011: 145 acres of hilltop splendor on Lake Austin with a 2000 foot shoreline. He was be-smitten, and he had vision, but nobody knew who owned it. Coons is a master problem solver: in 2017, he found it was owned by Exxon Mobile.
Coon is a co-founder of 1-800-Contacts, which he started in his dorm at Brigham Young University in 1992, to solve a problem: “I was a poor college student and contact lenses were expensive,” he said. “They took a week to get, which didn’t make sense to me. They were already made.”
Coon started and sold 1-800 Contacts, for $900 million in 2012. (It was acquired by KKR in 2020 for $3.1 billion.) During 22-years as CEO, the company helped change federal law to give Americans the right to their contact lens prescriptions while improving the customer experience.
He went to his 1-800 Contacts retirement lunch on a Friday; on Saturday and Sunday he was interviewing for his next start-up, Wikibuy, a comparison-shopping tool that launched in beta at the end of 2014. The Austin-based company helps online shoppers compare prices not only at Amazon, but with hundreds of online retailers and eBay verified sellers. As Coon puts it —- “Waze applied to shopping,” comparing prices across sites, verifying and applying coupon codes, shipping and tax to give customers true pricing and calculate actual savings: a better mousetrap for Amazon shopping under $100 where comparison shopping gets too time-consuming for puny results.
Coon created Austin Capital Partners with Jason Subotky and Eduardo Margain, Austin friends with access to funds and vision, to develop his dream land. Margain is a tech entrepreneur, real estate investor, and a co-founder of the new Austin FC soccer team and $260 million stadium; Subotky, a former Goldman Sachs alum, is a partner and Portfolio Manager at Yacktman Asset Management, a $20 billion fund.
“This property is where we want to live,” says Coon, who will likely end up with a penthouse. “We have found our forever home right here.”
I started all my ventures, he says, by wanting to be a customer.
Contemporary Hilltop Living Plus Stewardship of the Land
“Responsible environmental stewardship to preserve and protect this iconic location has been central to our vision for this project from the conception,” said Coon. “Our plan—supported by our neighbors and approved by the city—includes safe and accessible public parking for the overlook and cliff. In addition to donating half of our lakefront property to the city, we will continue to invest in the responsible development of the project’s green space, creating the first new park on Lake Austin in decades.”
Coon and the Austin Capital Partners team made a conscious decision on the architectural design and interiors/exteriors: if someone said, “you shouldn’t do that because no one will end up paying for it,” they did it.
Example: expansive floor plates, every owner-occupied room featuring breathtaking views from every window. Perched atop the descending hillside, 179 boutique residences will capture expansive views from 280 to 380 feet above Lake Austin. Because of the hillside slope, the homes include spacious outdoor stone terraces and a floor-through experience that seamlessly blends the indoors into rocky Hill Country exteriors. Most homes have semi-private lobbies, with only one other residence on the same floor. Offerings range from a 1,900 square-foot pieds-à-terre, to four-bedroom residences with gardens and pools, and large penthouses with 3,000-square-foot terraces and 40-foot pools.
There are 42 different elevations, all boutique residences each with underground elevation, and two elevators serving every eight residents. Architects of record are Handel Architects and Page, with Austin-based Breckstudio Architecture and Pharis Design. Pricing starts at $4 million to $30m.
For the spectacular Four Seasons experience, there is ample underground parking for owners and guests, and the aforementioned “invisible service” with separate staff passages and elevators in the back of the house and below. Each home will include valet closets, two-sided with doors where packages can be dropped without disruption. One more innovative service addition: a 5000 square foot package sorting area, which Coon calls e-commerce in reverse, for staff to gather and sort resident’s package deliveries.
“The end result of all is a friction-less experience for the homeowner, 24/7.” says Coon.
Amenities Worthy of Living at a Four Seasons Because… You ARE
Not only will the Four Seasons Lake Austin residences boast the first Funicular in Texas, it will provide every amenity traditionally found at a Four Season resort, from spa and wellness to fine dining, athletic center, theater and marina, only available for owners.
The Garden Plaza will anchor the residences to a base camp of incredible amenities and experiences branded and managed by Four Seasons, starting with a private wellness, spa, beauty, and athletic experience at The Orangerie – a serene, indoor garden with an 82-foot indoor pool and ample room for movement, yoga, and meditation.
There is a 60,000 square foot Athletic Center with private training rooms, two golf simulators, two squash courts, a full-size indoor basketball court, (the only indoor clay tennis court in Texas, says Coon) an outdoor tennis court, and four dedicated indoor pickleball courts. There is also a children’s gym and play area.
The Spa will feature hot and cold plunge pools, private treatment rooms, with sauna and steam facilities in both locker rooms, plus a full beauty salon.
Overlooking that 90-degree bend in Lake Austin will be The Clubhouse, featuring a 300-foot infinity-edge pool with three lounging and swimming zones tailored for adults and families, adjacent to a game room and private cabanas.
Then there is the 96-seat Theater and Theater Lounge, a premier venue (with state of the art 60-foot screen) for viewing films, concerts, lectures, and sporting events, with rear wall designed to open to the Theater Lounge above—creating a mezzanine-like experience for resident gatherings and private events.
575 Tons of Steel to A Private Lake Oasis
The two-minute Funicular descent to The Marina and The Lake Clubhouse will present a panoramic experience as well as express transportation. Funiculars were once popular in the U.S., proliferating in mountainous regions. There is one in operation at The St. Regis Hotel in Deer Valley, Utah. Coon says the $25 million Funicular project has been contracted to Dopplemayr USA, a Salt Lake City-based manufacturer considered the Rolls Royce of aerial lifts. The firm is a conglomerate of many European ski lift makers across the globe. Funiculars are cable railways, with a cable attached to tram-like vehicles or cabins: as one car moves up a slope, the other moves down because they are attached is a cable railway and counterbalance each other. Used for hundreds of years, funicularsa are an extraordinary feat of ingenuity.
Placed at the magical 90-degree bend in the lake Coon first fell in love with, the Funicular will stop at the Lake Clubhouse, a 3,500-square-foot gathering space with 576-foot boat docks, all exclusive to residents. Private lounges will be built above the boat slips. While a few may be sold for private ownership, most will be reserved for the private Owners Boating Club, which will require ownership at The Four Seasons Residences.
“There are no cars or driving down to the slips, beach or club,” says Coon. “The Funicular will be the only way down, and up.”
Pre-sales have topped 50%, with two-thirds of buyers coming right from Austin, according to Coon.