An odd couple of developers bets they can build Miami-level luxury condos in Austin

Almost all high-end homes in Austin are single-family

Turnbridge Equities’ Andrew Joblon (left) and Austin Capital Partners’ Jonathan Coon with renderings of the Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin (Photo-illustration by Kevin Rebong/The Real Deal)
Turnbridge Equities’ Andrew Joblon (left) and Austin Capital Partners’ Jonathan Coon with renderings of the Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin (Photo-illustration by Kevin Rebong/The Real Deal)

The Hawaiian Sugarloaf pineapple is a literal taste of the high life. Few will ever try its sweet white flesh, which retails for $39 a head, but in an unmarked black trailer where Austin gives way to the Texas Hill Country, Jonathan Coon serves it on paper plates.

Six years ago, Austin Capital Partners’ Coon set out on an unusual quest. With no experience in real estate development, he decided to build the most luxurious residential project in Austin. Since then, the Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin has added amenity after amenity, with costs mounting to an estimated $1 billion. There are golf simulators, indoor tennis, pickleball and padel courts, thermal baths and a hilltop Daniel Boulud restaurant that connects to a private waterside marina by glass cable car. In comparison, the pineapple budget looks like small potatoes.

Austin Capital Partners has sold around 50 of the branded development’s 179 homes, but due to difficulties finding construction financing, it still hasn’t built any.  

For now, would-be buyers try the fruit and watch a sizzle reel, then walk through virtual reality simulations of the project in a room Coon calls the holodeck.

Andrew Joblon is here to pull the Four Seasons out of cyberspace and into reality — to get it built.

Joblon’s firm, Turnbridge Equities, is known in Austin for its South Congress office and retail development, Music Lane, where he brought in Hermès and Soho House. Last month, it bought into the Four Seasons with a “substantial” investment, replacing Hines as lead developer. Joblon plans to start building this fall.

If they can build and deliver, Coon and Joblon stand to prove that Austin has matured from a secondary or tertiary city into one where the world’s wealthiest buyers will spend millions on a condo.

City on a hill

On a hot day in early June, Coon — slight, with a boyish face and self-effacing charm— climbed an observation tower at the highest point on his 145-acre development site.

In 1995, Coon founded 1-800 Contacts from his dorm room at Brigham Young University. In his time with the company, it sold twice: first in 2007 for $347 million, then in 2012 for $900 million. He and his wife spent $400,000 to make the cult comedy film “Napoleon Dynamite.” 

Joblon joined him in the tower, his button-down crisp, his hair styled long. They form an odd couple. Coon enjoys quiet movie-night dates with his wife, while Joblon counts movie stars among his friends (his wife is the Australian actress Claire Holt). 

This tower will one day be replaced by the Upper Clubhouse, the centerpiece of the property’s 100,000 square feet of amenities, its greatest draw and its greatest hurdle.   

At present, almost all luxury homes sold in Austin are single-family houses, not condos. The city’s wealthiest splurge on large properties near the creeks and nature preserves to the west. While the city’s downtown looks to have more cranes in the sky than clouds some days, the high-rise lifestyle remains rare. The developers want to show that each residence has almost everything one would get from a single-family home: 90 acres of nature preserve, waterfront access and a 20-minute drive to downtown. 

“The homes at Four Seasons Lake Austin may legally be condominiums, but they feel like single family homes,” said Eric Moreland, who is handling marketing. “The comp here isn’t downtown. These are homes on Lake Austin with the best views of the city and privacy that comes from being on a hilltop. And they are inside a private resort managed by Four Seasons.” 

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In the first week of June, 12 homes sold in Austin with a last asking price above $2 million, according to the Eklund Gomes Austin Luxury Report. Just one was a condo. (Sale prices are not public in Texas, so last ask is the closest available metric.) At the Four Seasons, the first listing on the market was a 2,860-square-foot home with three bedrooms and four bathrooms asking $6.8 million; at $2,380 per square foot, it would be among the city’s most expensive condos ever sold.

Austin’s first condo developments rose shortly after the Great Recession. The poster child, the Austonian, was the tallest residential tower in Texas at the time it was completed in 2010. Benchmark Development, backed by Spanish conglomerate Grupo Villar Mir, spent $275 million to build the 168-unit tower. The Austonian and a few other early-2010s condo developments mimicked the big city projects popular in places like New York. They were smaller than comparably priced single-family homes but benefited from limited competition, since few developers got off the ground after the recession. 

If the Austonian marked the beginning of Austin’s condo market, the Independent graduated to a new level. The $300 million tower, developed by CIM and Aspen Heights, overtook the Austonian as Austin’s tallest resi tower in 2019. Asking prices reached up to $8 million. 

The Four Seasons would raise the stakes again.

Yet it remains to be seen if the ultra-wealthy buyer wants a condo in Texas. Take Michael Dell: When he bought his New York residence, he paid a record $100.5 million for the penthouse at Extell’s One57 condo tower. In Austin, his family compound spans 33,000 square feet, with 16 bathrooms, an indoor lap pool and a full-size basketball court. 


For now, the development is just a gorgeous piece of land on a bluff overlooking Lake Austin. Until prospective buyers can tour finished units, they’ll have to settle for Coon’s Holodeck, one of the largest virtual reality simulators in the world, a project into which Coon has sunk characteristic focus and effort. 

The 5,300-square-foot black box sits inside a white tent, with green blinking lights in the ceiling and eight-foot-by-eight-foot patterns plastered on the walls. Coon spent $350,000 on its infrared cameras alone, and 54 of them dot the ceiling, connecting to visitors’ headsets.

After leaving the observation tower on the June tour, Coon launched the “Star Trek”-like simulation of the Four Seasons. Each participant wore a heavily modified Meta Quest virtual reality headset tuned to his or her pupils. Coon counted down from three, the room dimmed and suddenly a completed condo was there.

Using a pair of controllers that resembled ergonomic computer mice, Coon pointed a virtual green laser past a bathtub and through a window inspired by the square windows at 432 Park in Manhattan. The virtual Colorado River cut a 90-degree turn and ran under Pennybacker Bridge before flowing along Austin Country Club and dissolving into a postcard skyline.

Luxury developers often have to play both the Renaissance artist and his patron — just as they sweat the tiniest details, they are also painfully aware of the costs they carry. Coon, in his brief time as a developer, has not spared the expenses. 

“Now that we’re the developer, I’m seeing this tour with a new lens,” said Joblon, grinning.

“A cost lens?” Coon asked, seemingly prepared to accept that he now had a Medici to answer to. 

“A cost lens,” Joblon allowed. “But also a make-better lens.”

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