Austin Business Journal - Dec 15-21, 2006 issue
While Austin's total population doubles every 20 years, the city's Asian population is growing twice as fast, and Austin retailers are beginning to respond.
Chinatown Center, a 180,000-square-foot shopping center with a supermarket, restaurants and shops catering to the Asian demographic, opened in North Austin Sept. 30. And Hong Kong Supermarket Inc., currently located in North Austin, is building a new, larger center that will open in late 2007.
The Asian Center, which will include 26,000 square feet of retail space, a 24,000-square-foot grocery store and feature an Asian architectural theme, is also under way one block north of Chinatown Center at 11220 North Lamar Blvd.
Duc Mihn Lu, owner of the Asian Center and a Phillips 66 station on West Koenig Lane and a native of Vietnam, says that he bought the land for the project in the 1990s because he believed Austin's Asian community, especially in North Austin, was growing.
He says the grocery store will offer products that cannot be found in traditional American grocery stores, such as different types of soy sauce, 20 to 30 different types of rice and live seafood.
The Asian center is being built in two phases. The retail space will open this month, and the grocery store will open in May 2007.
Larry Nelson, president of Austin-based Larry Nelson Co., and the project's developer, says building a space that can support unique products, especially the tanks needed for live seafood, has been challenging.
"That fresh, live seafood has a distinctive odor. We have to be careful about ventilation so it's not pervasive, by providing exhaust and recirculating the air," Nelson says. "We had to provide water and drains that you wouldn't have in a conventional grocery store."
Cindy Lo, president and owner of Austin-based Red Velvet Events Inc., which helped plan Chinatown Center's grand opening and other events, says that before Chinatown Center opened, Austin's Asian population was underserved.
Lo says that those who wanted to shop for Asian goods before Chinatown opened had to travel to Houston and Dallas.