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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Friday, February 21, 2020 by Jo Clifton
City asks UT for proposals on Muny, Brackenridge tract
City Council sent a friendly message to the University of Texas on Thursday, asking UT to give the city proposals for how to deal with the historic Lions Municipal Golf Course and the Brackenridge Development Agreement as well as other items. Time is of the essence because both agreements expire on May 25.
In January, the city requested that UT extend the term of the agreements on a month-to-month basis and approve an amendment granting either party a five-month grace period prior to termination of the contract.
In response, Kirk Tames, executive director of real estate for the UT system, wrote back that “the timing is right” to discuss not only Muny and the Brackenridge tract but also appropriate zoning for various UT properties, among other things, in light of the city’s desire to densify and rezone parts of the city. The university wants to engage with the city with the goal of having “a strategic agreement encompassing several subjects,” he said.
In addition, Tames said the university wants to discuss traffic improvements around the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with the city and other agencies, future construction of new UT housing for 750 graduate students near campus and modification of the Brackenridge Development Agreement. That modification would include extending the agreement and “raising the cap on non-university purpose development on UT property, release of the restriction on non-university purpose development of the Biological Field Laboratory, and (tax increment financing) of infrastructure obligations including traffic improvements.”
Attorney Richard Suttle, who represents UT, told Council that while most of the conversation between the city and UT centered on the golf course, the two parties had much more to discuss and the university is anxious to get started.
“What the university would like to do is engage the city, which would mean the Council and management and the staff, and talk about these things. When the Board of Regents meets next week they will ask me what happened since the last time they extended the agreements and what’s going to happen. And I would like to be able to say that we had great conversations.”
He then listed various areas of past collaboration, such as UT’s new arena, fee waivers and rerouting Red River.
One new area of collaboration, Suttle said, could be rezoning some UT property that would allow for student housing and would free up housing “on the fringes” of the city for other people. In addition to talking about alleviating traffic around UT, Suttle said the city and the university could work together to develop a park-and-ride with Capital Metro near Circle C.
“There’s a wonderful opportunity here,” he said.
Mayor Steve Adler responded that he wants a group from the city to meet with a group from UT and work on various issues and report back to Council in April. He said Council Member Alison Alter had been working on that already. Looking at the items mentioned in the letter from UT, he said, “For me, every one of those is on the table.” Various other Council members expressed similar sentiments and no one on the dais indicated that any item was not on the table.
After the meeting, Suttle told the Austin Monitor that until Thursday, UT had gotten no direction from the city to work on a strategic partnership agreement that might include Muny. “And after today I think we got direction,” he said. Suttle said he will take the city’s message to the UT Board of Regents when it meets next week.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
University of Texas: The preeminent state university whose flagship is located in Austin.