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Catellus on shortlist to develop Colony Park

Friday, February 23, 2018 by Jo Clifton

The city has taken a big step toward selecting Catellus Development Corp. as the master developer for the Colony Park development in East Austin.

Catellus, the company chosen in late 2004 to be the master developer for the Mueller community, is the only developer on the city’s shortlist to develop the 208 acres on Decker Lane near Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park.

The Mueller development, which sits on the 700-acre site of the city’s previous airport, has been wildly successful from most perspectives, with lots of green space and parks, community pools, sidewalks everywhere, a farmers market, a children’s museum, a number of popular restaurants, and a growing list of businesses. Among the businesses coming to Mueller in the near future is the headquarters for the Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

The Colony Park development is expected to include more than 2,400 housing units, retail and office space, a transit center, and an “innovation district” in one of the last large areas of undeveloped land in Austin.

Stratus Properties Inc. also submitted a response to the city’s request for qualifications but asked to be removed from consideration, according to a memo from city Procurement Manager Danielle Lord.

According to Lord, the city plans to post a request for proposal by Monday, Feb. 26, but Catellus is the only firm that has the right to respond to that request. Then Catellus will respond with an offer.

Lord noted that the city will hold a series of public meetings to gather community input before staff makes a final recommendation to City Council. The target date is the Oct. 4 Council meeting, she said.

A spokesperson for Catellus declined to comment, and Lord explained that the company is not able to comment on its proposal because it is in the “no contact” and “no lobbying” period as set forth in city ordinances.

The Colony Park master plan was completed in 2014 under the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. Since then, responsibility for the project has been transferred to the city’s Economic Development Department. The master plan was written with assistance from a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In December 2004, City Council approved what it called “a once in a lifetime deal” with Catellus to develop the old airport site. Mayor Will Wynn was ecstatic, as were other members of Council.

At that time, Wynn said, “The amount of community involvement is virtually incalculable, it’s been 20 years on and off. It ultimately has delivered a product that I think is truly going to be a model internationally.”

He added, “I feel so lucky that the four-and-one-half years I served on Council were when this deal really came together and the documents were signed.”

At that same meeting, Council Member Daryl Slusher thanked the community, especially residents who lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the development. “Everybody involved in this ought to be really proud, because I think this is an important moment in the city’s history. We’re taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I mean once in the lifetime of the city, to have 700 acres right in the middle of town to redevelop. I think what the city government did here was listen to the people and the community and in particular the people around the airport, and that’s why it turned out so well. It took a long time for us to get to this point, but I believe we’ve done it right,” he said.

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