Central Health has picked a developer to design the new complex that will arise from the former University Medical Center Brackenridge site, a project that is expected to be one of the largest mixed-use projects to come to downtown Austin.
The Travis County hospital district’s board voted Wednesday to start negotiations with Wexford Science & Technology LLC of Baltimore. According to the firm’s website, Wexford “works exclusively with universities, academic medical centers and major research institutions” on development projects.
The company has developed and operated many projects near academic medical centers and research institutions, including the uCity Square innovation district in West Philadelphia’s University City and the Innovation Quarter at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Selecting a preferred master developer is an important first step to move this project forward,” Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin said in a statement. “We look forward to starting this process and keeping the board and community apprised of our progress.”
The agency has not released details about the firm’s proposal for the site. The next step is for staffers to negotiate the financial and other terms of the project, which will then come back to the Central Health board for approval.
“We are certainly honored to be selected by Central Health to partner with them on this transformational project,” said Thomas Osha, Wexford’s senior vice president for innovation and economic development. “We think this is an incredible opportunity to also be a catalyst for the innovation district that’s long been envisioned in the city of Austin.”
Central Health owns the 14.3-acre site at 15th and Red River streets, which is awaiting its next chapter now that the old hospital has been replaced by Dell Seton Medical Center, which opened in May. The site encompasses six contiguous blocks.
Demolition of the former hospital tower is at least six months to a year away, Central Health said in a statement. The start of construction could be two to three years away, and officials have said the project would likely be completed in phases over the next 15 years or more.
Central Health has envisioned a high-density, mixed-use development for the site. Osha said Wexford foresees a “robust mixed-use environment that has at its foundation research, discovery, entrepreneurial activity and corporate engagement.”
As far as affordable housing, something that Central Health included in its request for proposals, Osha said, “We’ll certainly work to make sure” it’s part of the project.
The hospital district will continue to own the site and would collect lease payments from the developer, which it expects will offset its lost revenue from Seton Healthcare Family, which used to pay about $34 million a year to operate the Brackenridge hospital on a long-term lease.
After receiving submissions from numerous firms, Central Health invited four companies to provide detailed applications. Wexford Science & Technology and Brandywine Realty Trust proceeded with applications. Catellus Development Corp. and Howard Hughes Corp./Cambridge Holdings did not.
Central Health says its procurement committee unanimously selected Wexford for the project.