Council Member Leslie Pool pushes for open bidding on McKalla Place

Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool, whose District 7 includes property that could house a Major League Soccer stadium, aims to open up city-owned 24-acre McKalla Place to a bidding process.

Precourt Sports Ventures made a proposal last Friday to the city for use of the North Austin site in exchange for a privately financed $200 million stadium that a relocated Columbus Crew SC would use. Pool is an opponent of PSV’s plan, and the bidding process would open up the tract to projects other than the stadium.

The council member is planning to propose to council members on June 28 that they issue a request for proposals for McKalla.

“Let’s get everybody on the same playing field,” Pool said. “We saw two interesting presentations by developers at a Gracywoods meeting the other night that were mixed use with housing.

“Right now there is a lot of maneuvering behind the scenes to get the Precourt proposal to the front of the line. The RFP setting has a pretty robust anti-lobbying ordinance. It gives everybody the opportunity to put their best foot forward and avoids any appearance of cronyism. The RFP should level the playing field. And may the best man win.”

RELATED: McKalla Place MLS site plan: 3 access points, canopy, walking trail

Precourt Sports Ventures, trying to move to Austin for the start of the 2019 season, wants an agreement with the city before the council takes its six-week summer break. Yet June 14 and June 28 are the only two meetings before Aug. 9, and soccer isn’t yet on the agenda for next week.

“We appreciate and respect all of the process,” PSV President Dave Greeley said. “If the city seriously wants to consider an RFP process, they should. We would just tell them that we want MLS to Austin in March of 2019, and the reality is that there is time sensitivity attached to this.

“We want some sort of understanding, some sort of mutual commitment, by the July council break. I don’t know what form that’s going to take. Could it be a definitive agreement? That might be a long shot, but maybe it’s a memorandum of understanding. Maybe it’s a resolution.”

Mayor Steve Adler told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that, if the right deal comes together, the best use of McKalla Place is for Major League Soccer.

RELATED: Debate gets heated in community meeting to discuss MLS stadium site

Capella Capital Partners presented a plan at Tuesday night’s Gracywoods neighborhood meeting that included retailers, restaurants, office spaces and multifamily apartments. The group indicated the developer would pay to move the Capital Metro station from Kramer to McKalla, with a $13 million price tag, according to the city.

A private development group represented by Husch Blackwell LLP made a presentation that featured small local retailers and included apartment housing.

“They were both credible,” Pool said. “Capella had the higher-scale building, and the other one was a little more granola country with artisans and creative space.”

Capella Managing Partner Neil Francois told the audience his group tried to make a deal to develop McKalla Place several years ago and said the property’s appraised value was $29.5 million. The city report on McKalla, which deemed the site suitable for a soccer stadium, among other things, put the current value at $9.6 million.

“That discrepancy is troubling,” Pool said. “We need to get to the bottom of it.”

Pool said the current Precourt proposal doesn’t cut it.

“He’s looking for a massive giveaway,” she said. “They want taxpayers to foot the bill for all kinds of things. They want to privatize public land. PSV would control it entirely: concessions, merchandise, vendors, no property taxes, a $1-a-year lease. That’s amusing. … Actually, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

Pool also said she has concerns about the PSV transportation estimate, particularly a lack of parking, and indicated that the nearby Domain doesn’t have enough parking as it is.

Some council members or their aides told the Statesman they haven’t had time to digest the 189-page PSV proposal.

“Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to review it,” said Ora Houston, who represents District 1. “People in my district will probably attend games wherever they are played. I am a soccer fan, so I will perhaps attend a game or two at some point.”

Staff writer Chris Bils contributed to this report.

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