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AISD to seek bids for 10 properties

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 by Courtney Griffin

The Austin Club and the Austin Independent School District’s centrally located administrative headquarters — as well as other district-owned properties — might soon see an ownership change. On Monday, the AISD board of trustees announced that 10 district properties that are vacant or largely used for non-instructional purposes might be sold, leased or repurposed depending on proposals submitted by developers.

“All this is doing is really putting in motion the potential to see what is out there, what sort or proposal we will receive,” said AISD board Vice President Paul Saldaña at Monday’s workshop meeting. “It’s not legally binding. We wouldn’t have to accept any of those things or proposals that come in (if we do not agree with them).”

The district is proposing issuing requests for proposals (or RFPs) from the business community for a variety of development ideas. Board President Kendall Pace said AISD is open to the idea of establishing public, private or nonprofit partnerships or affordable housing on the properties. Trustees would also consider proposals to expand academic opportunities or fill administrative needs, and, of course, proposals to sell, exchange or lease the properties, she said.

The bottom line is that AISD is looking for “creative and innovative ideas” to possibly provide a one-time or reoccurring boost in the district’s finances, Pace said.

While AISD does make up a large chunk of Austinites’ property tax bills, the district’s purse strings have long been tight due to declining student enrollment and the state’s recapture laws.

For revenue, Texas public school districts usually depend solely on local property taxes and state funding based on the average attendance of the student population. With a declining student population and siphoned tax revenue, AISD is facing yet another year in which the district’s bottom line is possibly in the red.

Saldaña originally mentioned reevaluating AISD’s real estate opportunities to the Austin Monitor last April, and AISD trustees spent a healthy part of 2015 trying to widen the district’s revenue stream. As such, board members’ opinions Monday were mostly supportive.

“I’m hopeful that the administration… will be mindful of any responses we get, and score them accordingly, to how they align with our strategic plan, with how we can maximize our resources through these proposals,” said At-Large Trustee Gina Hinojosa. “Also, that we are sensitive to the expectations of neighborhoods and communities.”

Hinojosa pointed out that one of the properties listed, the former Allan Elementary, is currently used for a prekindergarten program run by Avance, a nonprofit organization. She said she hopes the facility will build upon that program.

District 4 Trustee Julie Cowan asked the administration to stress potential property exchanges with developers in parts of town where AISD facilities are crowded and the district owns less land for future development.

Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley said that if the board votes to finalize the RFPs Monday, the administration will have a three- to four-month deadline for submittals. After that, the AISD board would need to vote on an individual property’s proposal before any changes or developments can move forward.

Altogether, the properties total about 104 acres scattered throughout Austin and Travis County, and they are worth a total of $95 million. Of those, AISD is currently seeking RFPs for the following:

  • Allan facility, 19.49 acres, 4900 Gonzales St.
  • The Austin Club, .21 acres, 110 E. 9th St.
  • Baker Center, 4.79, 3908 Avenue B
  • Carruth Administration Center, at 2.76, 1111 W. Sixth St.
  • AISD Central Warehouse, 8 out of 18.41 total acres, 3701 Woodbury Drive
  • Doris Drive land, 1.23 acres, northwest corner of Doris Drive and Hathaway Drive
  • Loyola Lane land, 32 acres, southwest corner of Loyola Lane and U.S. Highway 183
  • AISD Service Center, 14 out of 30.79 total acres, 5101 E. 51st St.
  • Tannehill Lane land, 8.92 acres, Tannehill Lane and Jackie Robinson Street
  • Travis Country land, 12.45 acres, Trail West Drive, between Fawn Run and Twisted Tree Drive

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