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BATHROOM BATTLE

Austin tech industry gears up to fight bathroom bill: Austin’s tech industry is preparing to battle in the Texas Legislature during its upcoming special session over bills that would require transgender people to use certain bathrooms, saying such proposals would make it difficult to recruit and retain talent in Texas and would harm the state’s reputation.

Several tech groups are preparing letters to send to Texas’ top political leaders at the start of this week’s special session, urging the governor and legislative leaders to reject any of the so-called “bathroom bills.”

These bills typically require transgender Texans to use bathrooms in public buildings that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate. Some versions only apply to public schools.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem, and it really hurts the tech sector’s ability to recruit the best and brightest individuals to come to Austin,” said David Edmonson, executive director of the Austin Tech Alliance, a lobbying group that represents tech industry workers.

Edmonson said his group has gathered hundreds of signatures for an anti-bathroom-bill letter to be sent to Texas’ legislative leaders on Monday. The letter says the group opposes any effort to “push for discriminatory bathroom bills.”

“The effect of these bills and the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding them is to further marginalize folks who are no danger to their fellow Texans but are disproportionately targets of violence and harassment,” the letter says.

Though no bathroom bill has become law yet, some tech companies say they are already starting to see ramifications.

Barbary Brunner, CEO of the Austin Technology Council, said that Austin recruiters have told her that senior-level executives are “holding off on decisions about taking roles here” because they don’t want to live in a state with these types of regulations.

Passing rules regarding bathroom access by transgender people is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but House Speaker Joe Straus is opposed to it.

One reason business groups have become so engaged on this issue is because of what happened in North Carolina. When legislators in that state passed restrictions on how transgender people use bathrooms, North Carolina experienced a backlash from the business community, with some companies canceling expansion plans there. The state has since passed watered-down regulations.

For tech industry leaders in Texas, the concern is about how tough it will be to recruit people and companies to come to Texas if it’s perceived as anti-LGBT.

NEW TOWER

Apartment tower set for downtown Austin’s eastern edge: The sale of a 58-unit condo project overlooking Lady Bird Lake has been completed, paving the way for more high-rise residential development in the Rainey Street area on downtown Austin’s eastern edge.

More than 80 percent of the owners of the decades-old Villas on Town Lake condominiums — the statutory requirement for a sale to occur — agreed to sell their units at the 2.3-acre waterfront property, which is tucked at the foot of Red River Street adjacent to the hike-and-bike trail.

The sale closed June 30. The share of proceeds from the sale to the 54 owners was determined by individual unit appraisals. Owners must be out no later than the end of this year.

Dallas-based Genesis Real Estate Group is the new owner of the Villas property at 80 Red River St.

Two apartment towers are in store for the site, Gordon Ip, president of Genesis, told the American-Statesman.

“We’re excited to be in Austin,” Ip said. “This is a great property. I’ve been looking at sites in Austin a long, long time — at least three years — but there are very few sites” that weren’t already spoken for, or that had development restrictions to protect views of the Capitol, he said.

Preliminary plans for the first phase call for a tower of about 40 stories with about 400 apartments, Ip said. A second tower would be timed to market demand, Ip said.

Genesis will be required to get a site plan approved by the city of Austin before starting construction. Ip estimated it could be 2018 before the project breaks ground. The cost of the project has not been determined, and Genesis will have to obtain construction financing.

Founded in 1987, Genesis has developed high-profile towers in cities including Houston; San Francisco; Long Beach, Calif; and Dallas, where it is building the Katy, a 30-story, 463-unit high-rise in Victory Park.

Genesis bought the Villas property from the Sutton Co., based in Austin, for an undisclosed amount. Sutton had the property under contract last year for $50.8 million.



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