UT regents OK plan to lease Central Health land for medical school


A contractor will be hired to rebuild UT’s Marine Science Institute, which could cost up to $40 million.

Regents allocated several million dollars for student safety, mental health and sexual assault initiatives.

The governing board of the University of Texas System has signed off on a plan to lease property owned by Travis County’s health care district for UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School.

The unanimous approval at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Regents was expected.

Under the plan, a nonprofit called the 2033 Fund would lease two parcels from the district, known as Central Health, and sublease those parcels to the university for the medical school and other health-related enterprises.

“We are fully mission-aligned with Central Health on delivering health care to the community,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves told the American-Statesman, adding that the arrangement also furthers “opportunities that Dell Medical School has for bringing in private-sector partners that’ll be very beneficial to our mission to transform health care.”

Central Health owns six parcels south of 15th Street and east of Red River Street. UT would lease Blocks 167 and 164. Block 167 includes a hospital tower and an adjacent office building, part of the now-closed University Medical Center Brackenridge.

“Our immediate plans for Block 167 are to reuse about 36,000 square feet of office space in the building that’s in front of the tower,” Fenves said. “At this point in time we don’t have any plans for the tower, but we’re in this for the long term and we’ll be looking at a longer-term plan.”

Block 164 is occupied by a medical office building that is expected to be vacated soon.

“There are some partnerships that are under discussion that want to be co-located with Dell Medial School,” Fenves said, without elaborating.

In other matters:

• The regents authorized UT-Austin to hire a contractor for rebuilding the Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The work is estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million, including replacement of equipment, said Darrell Bazzell, the university’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.

• Student safety, mental health, alcohol-related education and related initiatives at the system’s 14 academic and health campuses were continued and expanded for three years with $6 million in proceeds from endowment assets. Separately, $1.4 million was allocated to continue sexual assault research across the campuses.

• The regents voted unanimously to continue Chancellor Bill McRaven’s employment at his current annual rate of $1.2 million through May, when he will step down. McRaven has cited health concerns as well as a desire to teach and write. Russell Reynolds Associates has been hired to help a search committee identify and recruit candidates and develop a search timeline and interview schedule.

• Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said a task force he leads is working aggressively to position 300 system-owned acres in Houston to be sold for the maximum possible price. The system spent more than $200 million to acquire the land for a campus of sorts but canceled that plan amid intense criticism. Hildebrand said the system would seek a company to assist in selling off the property.

• Regent Kevin Eltife said a task force he leads is working at a “slow, methodical pace” to develop recommendations for reorganizing the system administration. “We’re not in a hurry,” he said. “We want to get it right.”

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