Austin district approves sales of district headquarters, Baker

The Austin school board Monday night approved the high-profile sales of district headquarters, the Baker Center and the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club), among other surplus properties.

The school board in an 8-0-1 vote, with Trustee Julie Cowan abstaining, directed staff to execute the sale of the Carruth Center on West 6th Street, which has been home to district headquarters for more than 25 years. The district is selling the 128,000-square-foot headquarters for $36.5 million to Schlosser Development of Austin, and moved forward with the purchase of the Southfield Building, near the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard in South Austin, as the site for a new district headquarters for $28.4 million.

District officials said they hope the new location will offer better accessibility and parking, which have been problematic at its current headquarters. Staffers at several sites across Austin would be consolidated into the 9-story building.

Board President Kendall Pace said having employees in one location will be operationally more efficient.

The vote also included the sales of the following properties:

• the Millett Opera House, for $3 million to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Historic Millett Opera House.

• the Baker Center, a former school located in Hyde Park, for $10.6 million to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

• the 8-acre Tannehill Lane property for $1.96 million to the city of Austin

• the 1.2 acre Doris Drive land for $920,000

The agreements for Baker, Tannehill and Doris Drive properties require that 25 percent of the properties will be designated for affordable housing units, with priority given to district employees and families with children who attend district schools.

Prior to the vote, during public comments, commercial real estate agent Dani Tristan asked the board to delay vote and consider new a new request for proposal for district headquarters, saying the market is strong now. He presented an offer of $39 million. But bids were put in a year ago, and trustees said they would follow the process.

Trustees said they wanted proposals or bids that included educational purposes and created affordable housing for district employees and their families, and not all of the sales were to the highest bidders. The sale of Baker to Alamo prompted a Colina West Real Estate to sue the district, disputing the choice of a lower bidder for the property. That lawsuit is pending.

The district already has sold two other properties . Trustees this summer approved the bids by RSI Communities for $7.2 million for the 32 acre-Loyola Lane property, at Loyola Lane and Ed Bluestein Boulevard, and $4.6 million for the 12-acre Service Center site, located south of East 51st Street. RSI plans to develop single-family residences, also designating 25 percent as affordable housing with priority given to district employees and Austin district families.

Two other properties originally up for grabs are no longer for sale. The former Allan Elementary in East Austin and land adjacent to the district’s Central Warehouse property on Alpine Road in South Austin are off the table. District officials did not explain why to the bidders, but Allan could be used as future swing space. Several community members asked trustees Monday night to reissue a request for proposals for the Allan property, with specific language towards affordable housing with two-and-three bedroom family units at rates no higher than $900 per month.

District documents showed the 10 properties collectively were valued at about $95 million. The bids for all 10 properties could have yielded $90 million, if the highest purchase offer were had been accepted for each of them. For eight of the 10 properties sold, the district will get $64.8 million. The district expects to use some of the revenue from the sales of its surplus properties toward the purchase of the new headquarters.

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