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Council eyes details of new maintenance facility included in Oracle land swap

Thursday, November 30, 2023 by Chad Swiatecki

City Council members are expected to bring some scrutiny today to the nearly completed land swap deal that will see tech giant Oracle America Inc. build a new central maintenance facility for the city in exchange for 9 acres of parkland. The finer points of the deal, which has taken years to assemble and manage, includes Oracle giving the city 50 acres of property in East Austin near the Colorado River and paying $1 million to help rehabilitate land at Fiesta Gardens.

At Tuesday’s work session, Council Member Alison Alter raised concerns about the details of the planned maintenance facility, which will include a 19,000-square-foot administrative building, 69,000 square feet of workshop space and an additional 3,000 square feet of flex space.

Including parking and other site features, the new facility is expected to cover just over 7 acres, compared to the 5-acre size of the current maintenance facility that is located on parkland Oracle wants to use to expand its headquarters.

On Tuesday, Alter said she hadn’t had a chance to look over a late-arriving outline of the facility. Deputy chief financial officer Kimberly Olivares said the outline and ordinance language covering the parkland transfer would show the city is being rigorous in holding Oracle to a high standard.

“We’re also requiring or have requirements for Oracle to follow all applicable regulations and policies for the facility. They have to follow a very specific process with us,” she said. “Throughout the entire process, there will be city staff that are very diligently monitoring the design and the actual construction of the replacement facility to make sure that it conforms to the specifications that will be agreed upon between us and Oracle.”

Part of the long timeline for the deal was because of the need to hold an election in 2021 that allowed residents to approve the transfer of parkland to an outside entity. That ballot measure was approved with more than 70 percent of the vote, which allowed the city to move forward with the land swap that also saw Oracle purchase the 50 acres located inside John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park that was previously owned by Driveway Austin Motorsports.

While that land is located near the Colorado River and is adjacent to other property owned by the city on the river, Alter took issue with the description of the land as “waterfront property.”

Assistant City Attorney Erika Lopez said the location of a pond and perpetual creek on the property meet the city’s criteria to describe the land as waterfront property.

“When I look at the map that was provided, it appears to me that this land that we’re being offered would add exactly zero linear feet of waterfront land because none of this land is waterfront, it is all separated from the water by land already owned by the city,” Alter said. “I continue to feel like this is misleading to the public who we promised that we were getting 40-plus acres of waterfront land that was adjacent to parkland, and this is waterfront because it’s on a pond.”

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