Austin developer offers $22.5 million for McKalla Place


Highlights

Whitfield/Chen would turn potential soccer site into ‘arts campus.’

Major League Soccer will be on the City Council’s Tuesday agenda.

On the same day soccer was placed on the Austin City Council agenda for next week, a developer made a proposal to the city Friday to purchase McKalla Place for $22.5 million. Precourt Sports Ventures recently proposed to the city to privately finance a $200 million Major League Soccer stadium, to be home for Columbus Crew SC, on that 24-acre site.

Commercial real estate developers Marcus Whitfield and John Chen of Austin submitted a bid to buy the city-owned North Austin tract and turn it into a mixed-use housing development with retail for local artisans that they say will complement the nearby Domain.

Whitfield and Chen’s bid says that if a lease arrangement is preferable to the city, they would enter into an 80-year lease at $2.2 million per year, escalating 1.5 percent each year for a total payment of $335.9 million to the city.

When asked about his group’s sudden interest in a property that’s sat largely vacant for 20-plus years, Chen said the potential deal with Precourt shined a light on the former chemical company site with a history of major environmental problems.

“We never knew the city was serious about doing something with McKalla until it was essentially offered up to PSV,” Chen said. “The soccer search has bounced around to other parts of the city over the previous six months. Before city-owned property is given away, it should be part of an open and transparent process where all can discuss the impact to the city.

“This site has significant strategic possibilities, and we intend to adjust our bid if need be. If it deemed more cleanup is needed there, that will be another discussion.”

Whitfield and Chen describe their vision of McKalla Place as an “arts campus that will including housing, grocery, studios, parks and retail for local artists and craftspersons.”

“We think this site has value to the city in terms of property taxes into the hundreds of millions over an 80-year lease, quite a difference from the $1 a year Precourt is offering,” Chen said. “In any case, let’s open it up to (a request for proposal), and the community can decide.”

Capella Capital Partners made a presentation this week at a Gracywoods neighborhood meeting for McKalla Place that was heavy on retail with a mixed-use housing element.

Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool said she intends to put a resolution calling for an RFP at McKalla Place on the agenda for the council’s June 28 meeting.

The City Council will discuss soccer at Tuesday’s work session. The agenda item addresses site analysis, proposal and use of the site as an MLS stadium. It is unclear whether soccer could be added to Thursday’s council meeting agenda, which is overflowing with 109 items.



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