Proposals in to develop county-owned block in downtown Austin

Travis County has received proposals from eight development firms or teams that are interested in leasing or buying a prime county-owned block just south of Republic Square in downtown Austin.

The companies are: Cielo Property Group teaming with Gables Residential; Cousins Properties Inc.; Endeavor Real Estate Group Ltd; Hanover Co. teaming with Brandywine; Lincoln Property Co.; Riverside Resources; Southwest Strategies Group; and The Presidium Group.

The developers have been involved in a wide range of real estate development in Central Texas, including high-profile office, retail, residential and mixed-use projects. Four of the firms are Austin-based: Cielo, Endeavor, Riverside Resources and Southwest Strategies Group.

The proposals submitted range from purchasing the block outright to developing a large mixed-use building, to “everything in between,” said Cyd Grimes, the county’s purchasing agent.

Zoning would allow for nearly 2 million square feet of development on the block, which the county this year voted to sell or lease. The block is bounded by Third, Fourth, Guadalupe and San Antonio streets. The height for any buildings on the site would not be limited by rules that protect views of the state Capitol dome.

Grimes said no proposals or dollar amounts will be released to the public until after a contract is awarded, citing state purchasing laws for real estate matters.

A committee that includes county planning and budget officials will evaluate the proposals and y early to mid December will pare the list to four or five developers, Grimes said.

By mid February, the county expects to name the top-ranked firm with which it will negotiate a contract, a process that could take several months, Grimes said. It could be early summer before a contract is presented to the Travis County Commissioners Court for approval, she said.

The county is seeking to leverage the potential of the site, which voters in November 2015 rejected as a location for a new courthouse.

As county leaders explore all options for the block, the overriding goal is to “get the best value for the county and the best deal for the taxpayers in the long run,” Grimes said.

The county bought the block from the Austin Museum of Art in 2010 for $21.75 million. The Travis Central Appraisal District has it valued at $18.59 million for 2016.

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