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County hires help to weigh its courthouse options

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County is one big step closer to figuring out what it will do with a valuable, albeit slightly tainted, piece of downtown real estate. On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court approved a contract with Los Angeles-based commercial real estate firm CBRE Inc. to help put together a formal request for proposals on the site at 308 Guadalupe St. That’s the block that would have been home to a new civil courthouse had the voters not narrowly rejected last year’s $287 million bond. The contract with CBRE is an indication that the county interprets that outcome as a clear message that the private sector should have a larger say in the future of one of the most underdeveloped plots of land in Austin’s booming central business district. The county originally purchased the site in 2010 for $22 million. “There is no doubt that we will see a significant return on investment from that property, although it’s not what we intended,” said County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. In addition to preparing the RFP, CBRE is also commissioned under the contract to search for up to five other privately owned properties outside of downtown that can be analyzed as potential courthouse sites. The vote to approve the contract was 3-0-1, with Commissioner Margaret Gómez abstaining and Commissioner Ron Davis absent.

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