There is a presumption that buildings in downtown Austin financed with public money have a better shot of getting off the ground quicker than private ones.
That was the case among many hopefuls, perhaps, when Travis County purchased the former Austin Museum of Art block to build a skyscraper courthouse.
But Travis County Purchasing officer Cyd Grimes busted that myth in a recent article by InFactDaily, telling the subscriber political newsletter the project won’t break ground for three or four years.
“A lot of people have been pushing this (public-private partnership),” she said. “I’m not convinced that it’s going to be cheaper, better, or faster. I think if we went and borrowed the money and did either a Construction Manager at Risk, or a Design-Build, we would be quicker down the road.”
On top of that, as I reported in the Austin Business Journal in May, it sounded like the whole deal might be scrutinized or delayed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
The entire concept of a private-public partnership is being pushed primarily by County Judge Sam Biscoe, who managed a 3-2 vote from county commissioners in favor of it. A potential three or four year delay before any groundbreaking could open up a window for private use enthusiasts, who lost because the block is one of the few left undeveloped that have unlimited height potential, to squelch the deal.
Or the county could be content to keep the land off the tax rolls and make money using it as a surface parking lot, as they do today.