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Unanimous Council approves Green sale at 2am

Friday, May 25, 2012 by Kimberly Reeves

(Update: After more than two hours of discussion on the dais, all seven Council members voted in favor of the master development agreement with Trammell Crow.)


Just after midnight, Council was wrestling with what to do about issues related to selling the decommissioned Green Water Treatment Plant site on Lady Bird Lake to Dallas-based Trammell Crow.


Discussion of amendments to the proposal began after hours of listening to citizens who came to express support or opposition to the proposed master development agreement. The city-owned block, in play for more than four years, is valued as the most expensive piece of land downtown.


Early in the Council negotiations, Council Member Bill Spelman indicated he would be a “no” on the final vote until he had more information about alternatives to the deal cut by city officials in in the last year.


Trammell Crow officials estimated the cost of Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole’s first amendment – a “living wage” proposal – would cost the developer $20 million. Such a decision was expected to either kill the financing or put other community benefits in jeopardy. Similar claims were made about preserving heritage trees.


While a number of people from the contracting community urged the Council to sign the agreement, worth more than $42 million to the city, others came to talk about the need for worker safety, a living wage and protection of heritage trees.


Political advertizing consultant Dean Rindy, who sits on a city commission charged with helping protect views of the lake, urged Council to reject the deal in favor of developing the site “on a more human scale, low density level open to the public.” He envisioned more open space, possibly “a European style square or piazza, landscaped, open to the south side facing the lake, ringed by 2-3 story buildings with sidewalk cafes and shops at ground level.”


But that has not been in the cards for a long time. While that idea may poll well, as Rindy suggested, Council was only able to accept or reject a deal that has been in the works since 2008.

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