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Morrison, Galindo spar on Green redevelopment decision

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Campaign season has re-opened, but now there is just one City Council seat up for election. Laura Morrison and Cid Galindo will face off for the Place 4 seat on June 14, with early voting scheduled to start on June 2.

 

Morrison fired the first volley in the runoff Tuesday, criticizing the city for moving too quickly on awarding a contract for redevelopment of the Green Water Treatment Plant site. According to a press release from the campaign, “Even though the redevelopment won’t start for years, the final decision is being rushed through the Council in the next few weeks with no significant public process.”

 

Galindo disagreed with that assessment, saying, “This project is one of our best opportunities to create an affordable neighborhood in downtown and we’ve been looking forward to that opportunity for that for a long, long time. Laura has put herself in the way of it and delay is not the way we’re going to get things fixed in this city.”

 

On Thursday, the Council will hear presentations from five development groups vying for the right to develop – in Morrison’s words — “the last six acres of prime, public land around Lady Bird Lake.” Rich Bailey, chief of staff for Mayor Will Wynn, said the Mayor is hoping the Council can make a decision on June 18, the final meeting for Council Members Betty Dunkerley and Jennifer Kim. He said that would avoid repeating the dilemma faced by Council Members Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez at their first Council meeting after being elected in 2006. The Council voted to move forward with the Bull Creek site for Water Treatment Plant 4 at that meeting—an action they later rescinded.

 

Dunkerley said scale models of all five plans would be stationed in the atrium of City Hall so the public can see on comment on them after Thursday’s presentations. The Council, not city staff, will choose amongst the development teams, a departure from the norm, although the staff has worked on analyzing each proposal. No public hearing has been set but the public is allowed to comment on agenda items.

 

Galindo told In Fact Daily, “I know there’s going to be a three to four-week time when the public will be allowed to provide input on the different submittals. Then the City Council is going to take that input and make a choice of one of them. Then there’ll be a long period of further refining and negotiating to arrive at the final product—and I think maybe what isn’t clearly understood is that the real process of incorporating community values into the project doesn’t really happen until the partner is selected. That’s when we get into the real nitty-gritty of what we’re going to have there.”

 

Dunkerley said, “This is exactly like we did with Stratus,” which won the bid to redevelop Block 21, across the street from City Hall. “This is the way procurements happen.” Stratus, which has partnered with AMLI Residential LP and Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund III, LP (Magic Johnson and his partners) to bid on the Green redevelopment, won the Block 21 bid three years ago but only recently broke ground on the site.

 

Although her initial TV spot appeared to focus on the Council “giving away millions in deals to certain developers,” and on opposition to high-rise towers on the lake, Morrison said in her press release, “The issue isn’t about high rises downtown. It’s about what kind of city we want to build. It’s about what the taxpayers are giving up and getting for selling the last six prime acres of city land. With budget deficits expected, we have to be completely transparent about the costs and benefits of these kinds of public investments. Development of public land should require a higher level of public involvement. This is a basic principle of planning, and was an important part of the Mueller Redevelopment’s success.”

 

When the Mueller airport land became available for redevelopment, the city appointed a task force, hired a master planner and went through a two-year public input process. Catellus Development Group won that bid.

 

Green presentations begin at 1pm Thursday, with SIVE Urban II, Inc. (Simmons Vedder Partners) making the first presentation. Following that group are TC Austin Development, Inc. (USAA Real Estate, Trammell Crow Co., Constructive Ventures, Inc.), Catellus Development Group, Forest City Residential Group, and Stratus. Each group has 30 minutes, with 30 minutes to answer Council Members questions.

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