- Melissa B. Taboada American-Statesman Staff
The Austin school district could begin moving its administrators into a new headquarters as soon as next summer.
The school board Monday night approved the $28.4 million purchase of the Southfield Building, near the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard in South Austin, as the site for the headquarters.
District officials said they hope the new location will offer better accessibility and parking, which have been problematic at the current headquarters on West 6th Street. Staffers at several sites across Austin would also be moved into the 9-story Southfield Building.
Board President Kendall Pace said having employees in one location will be more efficient.
The school board voted 8-0, with Trustee Julie Cowan abstaining, to direct staff to execute the sale of the Carruth Administration Center downtown, which has been home to the district’s main office for more than 25 years. The district is selling the 128,000-square-foot building for $36.5 million to Schlosser Development of Austin. The district expects to use some of the revenue from the sale, and the sales of other surplus properties, toward the purchase of the Southfield Building.
“We have achieved something fairly historic here,” said Trustee Ann Teich. “We sold this building. I don’t know if you understand the weight of that, but when we bought it, it was very controversial and when we put it up for sale (in 2011) and then take it off, that became controversial too. And we have sold it because to renovate this building would be more expensive. This is not a decision that is done lightly.”
Trustees also approved the sale of several other high-profile properties, including the Baker Center and the 1878 Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club). The district will sell 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, will be sold for $10.6 million to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
Other sales include an 8-acre property in East Austin for $1.96 million and 1.2 acres in Central Austin for $920,000, both to the city of Austin.
The agreements for the Baker Center property and those purchased by the city require that 25 percent of any residential development 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 consider a new proposal for the West Sixth Street property and presented an offer of $39 million. But bids were put in a year ago, and trustees said they would follow through with that process.
The district already has sold two other properties . Trustees this summer approved the bids by RSI Communities for $7.2 million for 32 acres in Northeast Austin, and $4.6 million for 12 acres near East 51st Street. RSI plans to develop single-family residences, also designating 25 percent as affordable housing with priority given to district families.
Two other properties were pulled from the sale list: land adjacent to the district’s Central Warehouse property on Alpine Road in South Austin and the former Allan Elementary in East Austin. Several community members asked trustees Monday night to reissue a request for proposals for the Allan property, requesting affordable housing to be built there.
District documents show 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 the eight properties sold, the district will get $64.8 million.