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County to begin shopping for partner in mixed-use development project

Thursday, December 17, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

One week after a dramatic delay, the Travis County Commissioners Court agreed unanimously to direct staff to start searching for private partners in an ambitious mixed-use development project in north central Austin. Last week, with Commissioner Brigid Shea absent from the meeting, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt postponed the decision, saying she wanted the full court on hand to support the measure. The proposal for the property at 5325 and 5335 Airport Blvd. – part of the county’s North Campus – is to build a mixed commercial and residential project that would feature an as-yet undetermined number of below-market-rate housing units. On Tuesday, Shea noted that during this year’s failed campaign for $287 million in bonds to build a new civil courthouse in downtown Austin, several constituents asked her why the Airport Boulevard property wasn’t the chosen site for that project. She asked county staff to elaborate on the planning decisions behind both proposals. After peppering her with a laundry list of explanations, Mark David Gilbert of the Planning and Budget Office said of the courthouse, “The simple answer … is it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t come close to fitting. And this project does.” The court voted unanimously to release a request for proposals from private developers interested in working on the project.

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