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Council chooses Trammell Crow for Green redevelopment

Thursday, June 19, 2008 by Mark Richardson

With almost no public debate, Council members voted Wednesday to select a consortium led by mega-developer Trammell Crow to develop the land where the Green Water Treatment Plant and the Austin Energy Control Center now sit. The vote authorizes city staff to begin negotiations with Trammell Crow for the sale of the property, along with a master development contract.


Trammell Crow, along with partners Constructive Ventures and USAA Real Estate, was chosen over four other development teams after all five proposals were ranked by city staff and mulled over by Council members.  Rodney Gonzales acting director of the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office discussed the rating system and outlined why Trammell Crow was the staff’s recommendation.


In addition to Trammell Crow, the Council heard presentations on May 22 from by Catellus Development, Forest City, Simmons Vedder Partners and Stratus Properties.


City officials were tight-lipped about the sale price for the six acres of land.  It has been appraised at $55.5 million, and Gonzales noted that Trammell Crow’s offer had exceeded that. City officials hope to see a return of about $71 million on the project over a 10-year period. Officials say information on the sale price will not be released until negotiations are complete and a deal has been signed. That process could take more than a year.


All five teams proposed to build hotels, condominiums, apartments, office space, commercial spaces and parking in their plans. Most had offered public spaces designed to make the area a gathering place. The city’s new Central Library was also a mandatory part of the package.  


Gonzales cited Trammell Crow’s proposal for affordable housing as one of its strongest points. Of the five proposals, Trammell Crow offered the largest number affordable housing units, with 320 rental units at below market price.


Of the 320 units, 80 would be reserved for households making 80 percent of the area’s median family income, and 240 units would be for families making 120 percent of the median income. Trammell Crow also pledged to donate $2.7 million to the city’s affordable housing fund.


Gonzales also said Trammell Crow’s plans for public spaces were a factor in its favor. Its proposal included five public gathering places that would hold some 2,700 people, featuring a 10,000-square-foot plaza on Second Street at Shoal Creek.


In its proposal, Trammel Crow plans to build 265 apartments, 500 condos, 235 senior assisted living units, 588,000 square feet of office space, 160,000 square feet of retail and a 375-room hotel.


Outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley was asked whether there should be any concern about the fact that the economy is in a downturn at the time that the city is beginning negotiations on redevelopment of Green.


She said between two years went by between the time that Catellus was chosen as the developer of the Mueller site and the time the contract was actually negotiated. “So by then hopefully the recession will have turned itself around.” Dunkerley said she anticipated that it would take at least 24 months to reach agreement “and during that negotiation period, that’s when we’ll develop the timeline and things like that.”


Construction is not expected to begin on the project until sometime in 2010. In the interim, the city will decommission the Water Treatment Plant and Electric Control Center.

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