By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin will bring 179 cliffside homes to Camelback, an area between Four Points and the Pennybacker Bridge. The 145-acre site is on a secluded hill above a 90-degree bend in Lake Austin.
“We are proud to align with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to introduce the brand’s first stand alone residential property in Texas,” said Jonathan Coon, CEO of Austin Capital Partners. “Coupled with legendary five-star service and amenities, the community will offer a rare combination of hilltop views, private boat slips on Lake Austin, privacy and security.”
Surrounded by 2,000 acres of greenspace, the private enclave is 20 minutes from downtown Austin. With protected panoramic views of the lake, Pennybacker Bridge, PGA golf course and downtown skyline.
Coon, who cofounded Austin Capital Partners, also cofounded of 1-800 Contacts from his dorm room at Brigham Young University in 1995. The company was sold for $900 million in 2012 shortly after he and his wife relocated to Austin. During his 22-years as CEO of 1-800 Contacts, the company helped change federal law to give Americans the right to their contact lens prescriptions. It was acquired by KKR in 2020 for $3.1 billion.
Coon, a 51-year-old Richardson native, is also a producer of the film “Napoleon Dynamite”.
His latest Four Seasons project has been a decade in the making. In 2011, Coon started inquiring about the land called Camelback because of the shape of the hill that looked like a camel’s back.
Texas Monthly reports that Coon envisioned building his dream home there, and he started calling a lawyer who was associated with the property but could never find out who the owner was. Coon told Texas Monthly, “I would call him and send him a letter every year — all cash, no contingency — no response.” Finally in 2017 the owner sold to Coon. The owner turned out to be Exxon, which had bought the land in 1992 as a potential headquarters site but never acted on it, according to reporting by Texas Monthly.
Stewardship of views, land
The grandfathered land entitlements from 1986 included 12 home lots along the cliff next to the Pennybacker Bridge. These shoreline lots could have built 12 separate boat docks, with 12 separate sets of stairs along the cliff, while the rest of the 145 acres was divided up into home lots with almost no contiguous green space and no parkland requirement.
But the new plan, approved by the city in 2018, includes 90 acres of preserve and parkland, turns the cliff into a public park instead of 12 homes along the edge of the cliff, and forever preserves more than 2,000 feet of shoreline from any development.
“Responsible environmental stewardship to preserve and protect this iconic location has been central to our vision for this project,” said Coon. “Our plan — supported by our neighbors and approved by the city — includes safe and accessible 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 green space — creating the first new park on Lake Austin in decades.”
Coon’s Lake Austin waterfront runs to the edge of the Pennybacker Bridge overlook where approximately 4,000 people per week hike up to it to take in the views on top of the bluffs.
Shepherd Mountain Neighborhood Association represents about 85 households, and many of its neighbors share a property boundary with Camelback.
“Given the egregious overdevelopment that would have been permissible under previous land entitlements, many of us see this project as a breath of fresh air,” said Marisa Lipscher, president of Shepherd Mountain NA.
“Jonathan Coon has always approached neighbors like an entrepreneur instead of a traditional developer,” Lipscher added. “During his early planning stages, he even met one-on-one with many of us in our own homes. He has worked hard to earn our support and we have a lot of confidence in his plans.”
Lake Austin Collective
The Lake Austin Collective, which represents neighbors along City Park Road who are near the site, has reviewed the Four Seasons project and “we are fully backing the development,” said Linda Bailey, president of Lake Austin Collective.
“In addition to the beautiful and environmentally sensitive 179 condos, our community will benefit by Mr. Coon building the 16-acre public Cliff Park with a mile-long tree-lined walking trail and will have more park parking than required,” Bailey said.
Annually Coon will pay for the maintenance of the Cliff Park he is deeding to the City of Austin.
“In addition, he will construct an extension to Bridgepoint Road that will connect it to City Park Road and Highway 360 – giving us a second access for traffic safety,” Bailey said.
Coon is also protecting bordering neighbor views by reducing his allowable building height. He is donating two boat slips, one to Austin Fire Department and the second to Austin Police Department to aid lake safety.
“Mr. Coon has cooperated with us for several years and always has respected neighborhood requests,” Bailey said. “We wish all developers approached their projects and neighbors like he has with this project.”
The Montevista Condominium Community HOA has similar praises for Coon.
Montevista is a neighborhood of 348 condo units located at the intersection of Courtyard Drive and Shepherd Mountain in close proximity to Hwy. 360 and RM 2222. Montevista has the largest number of homeowners of all neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the Camelback development.
“We strongly support the Camelback development plan announced by Jonathan Coon and his co-investors primarily because he has so consistently sought local neighborhood input during the planning process,” said Bill Moore, president of the Montevista HOA. “I can confidently say that Jonathan hasn’t just listened to our opinions, he has actually allowed us to fundamentally and appropriately influence his decisions on Camelback. In comparison to the plan Jonathan inherited when he purchased Camelback, his current plan is a remarkable example of what a developer can accomplish when he offers respect for the land and partnership to his neighbors.”
Moore added that by current Austin standards, Montevista is “affordable” with a median home price at under $265,000 vs the current Travis County median home price of $510,000. The community also represents a diverse demographic, he said.
“I can attest to the remarkable sensitivity that the Camelback developer has demonstrated toward our individual land planning and environmental concerns, including impact on traffic, open space and building sites,” Moore said. “Jonathan Coon was also the prime mover in helping to achieve a landmark transfer of 35 acres of developable, but unspoiled hill country sanctuary adjacent to Montevista, to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.”
Coon has worked hard on laying the groundwork for this project and now it is time to let his plans come to fruition. He has built a four-story metal-frame viewing platform to give visitors and prospective owners a glimpse of the views at the Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin. The platform is only there temporarily until enough people want to be part of his vision.