Austin district properties fetch up to $90 million in bids

Dec 14, 2016
AISD is seeking bids for 10 properties, including the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club) on East 9th Street in downtown Austin.

The Austin school district on Wednesday afternoon unveiled the 40 bids and proposals for 10 of its properties, including the district’s headquarters just west of downtown.

Some of the proposals are intended to create affordable housing in Austin. The city of Austin, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas and several well-known developers and nonprofits sought the properties, which included vacant land as well as such buildings as the downtown Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club) and the Baker Center administration building in Hyde Park.

While the dollar amounts for the bids were released publicly, the details of the proposals weren’t disclosed.

“It’s a practice in this district that we don’t fully release proposals to the public until we have finished the evaluation and scoring process and make a recommendation to the trustees,” Jim Sessions, director of contracts and procurement services, told the group of 30 or so bidders or nearby residents who showed up at the district headquarters to watch the unsealing of the bids. The terms of the recommended offers are expected to be disclosed in March.

However, a few of those interested made public their proposals. Austin Habitat for Humanity submitted a proposal to develop up to 140 affordable home units on the district’s Service Center Land off 51st Street. Habitat for Humanity anticipates at least 20 percent of the community housing to be filled by district employees.

“We view our proposal as an opportunity for AISD, the city of Austin and Austin Habitat to work together to combat the affordable housing crisis that our city faces by allowing the land to be developed into permanently affordable homes for low-income individuals and families,” said Carly Yansak, Habitat communications manager.

Foundation Communities, an affordable housing nonprofit, seeks to build up to 200 apartments at the Allan Center, located in East Austin.

The Austin school district voted in March to seek bids for the properties. At the time, district documents showed the properties collectively were valued at about $95 million. If the district were to take the highest bids, they’d total about $90 million. That might not be the route the district takes, however, as the district was also soliciting other development options that could include public-private partnerships that would benefit the district or its students.

The school district sought bids previously in 2011 for its administration headquarters, as well as the Baker Center, but didn’t get offers attractive enough to district leaders.

The bids come amid the district’s efforts to create a 20-year facility master plan, which could call for building six new schools and closing up to 10 aging campuses in poor condition, in preparation for the next bond package, which could come as early as November. District leaders have said they must demonstrate efficiency with their surplus properties before asking voters to approve new projects.