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Travis County sells service station

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Commissioners Court has approved the sale of a prime piece of real estate on the outskirts of downtown Austin in a deal that is tied to the $287 million Civil & Family Courts Complex bond election.

Last Tuesday, the commissioners voted to accept a $1.359 million bid for the county’s vehicle service station on the northwest corner of W. 10th Street and North Lamar Boulevard. The transaction is being highlighted as one of several steps the county is taking to minimize the bond amount requested for the proposed courthouse.

The county will sell the property — appraised at $1.04 million — to Journeyman Holding Company, whose president, Sam Kumar, told the Austin Monitor that he expects to build a small mixed-use project on the site. Kumar said the development will include ground-level parking, commercial use on the second floor and several residential units above that.

The service station is one of several downtown holdings — including the Executive Office Building on W. 13th Street and the Medical Examiner’s headquarters on Sabine Street — that the county is looking to divest itself of. The Commissioners Court voted last November to begin the process of putting the station on the market.

There are no definitive plans for how to fill the gap created by the loss of a central Austin vehicle filling and service station, but the commissioners have recently discussed several ideas, including teaming with the city of Austin to use its facilities.

In addition to fattening county coffers and reducing the debt load for the courthouse, the sale also unburdens the county of the liabilities it faced having a building stacked with toxic chemicals in an area prone to heavy flooding. In May, floodwaters from Shoal Creek inundated the building and toppled several tanks containing motor oil and transmission fluid. At least 200 gallons of both spilled out into the swollen creek that feeds into Lady Bird Lake.

JohnJon White of the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources office told the Monitor that the station also has two large fuel tanks buried underground. White said Journeyman will be responsible for their removal.

Kumar’s plans to redevelop the site coincide with another project immediately to its west. Last October, City Council granted a variance to the developer there to build a parking garage beneath a 14-unit condo project.

As for any headwinds of his own that he expects to face from city government, Kumar told the Monitor that he is optimistic. He said he doesn’t even anticipate a challenge from historical preservationists over his proposal to tear down the station, which was originally built in 1948.

Kumar said that right now he’s focusing on matters at hand, telling the Monitor, “We’re excited about the sale and we’re hoping to close with the county as soon as possible.”

This post has been corrected to reflect the accurate spelling of Jon White’s name. It is spelled Jon, not John.

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