The Austin American-Statesman ran a front page story today teasing a bio-tech innovation district downtown around the new Dell Medical School. (That the story ran one day after The Mohawk issued an April Fools press release lamenting the demise of cool Red River is pretty funny.)
Mohawk shenanigans aside, the Statesman story didn’t really say much new, but it did put ink to paper on a handful of rumors that have been floating around and I had heard, which I’d like to capture for you here.
1) There is universal consensus is that the teaching hospital will be built by Seton’s Brackenridge Hospital. No one with a six-figure salary will confirm it unequivocally, but the key suspect location for the hospital is the parking lot on the south side of the Erwin Center. This site is known as the “Elephant Lot” and is so named for the elephants who call it home when the circus comes to town.
2) The medical school is being proposed to exist atop the site where the tennis courts are now, which is UT land. The medical school will be housed in two buildings: an administrative and classroom space and a research area. Recently, UT hired Boston planning and design firm Sasaki Associates Inc. – which is currently developing an update to the UT-Austin campus master plan – to also develop a medical district master plan.
3) Some people are talking about tearing down the Erwin Center eventually to make room for more medical stuff. Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen. Where UT would house indoor sports and where older people would go to replay their high school rock years is undetermined. This would perhaps be laid out when UT unveils its updated master plan. At a recent regent’s meeting, President Bill Powers said it was almost ready. (That was before all the drama unfolded and his job appeared in peril, so unveiling the master plan is probably on the back burner for now.)
4) Brackenridge, the current hospital, would not be demolished. Instead the majority of the facility will be re-purposed into things like meetings spaces. A simulated treatment center, used to train nursing students from colleges all over the area, would remain in use at Brackenridge.
5) Something I had not heard before is talk of “straightening out Red River Street, whose current path includes an westward bulge where it intersects with East 15th,” as noted by the Statesman. How this would be paid for is not mentioned and I presume it would be a heavy Public Works project that would have to come out of another city bond measure to fund the job. We’re talking major engineering, not the kind of construction we see for Great Streets downtown.
6) The Statesman also quoted the Mayor as saying that the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital and the Travis County medical examiner’s office, both of which occupy city-owned land under leases, could be re-purposed.
7) Two things not mentioned in the Statesman story: The medical arts master plan impact on the Waller Creek taxing district, or the impact of Urban Rail on this plan (if it ever goes to a vote and is passed).
8) It must also be said: A medical arts district downtown will continue to drive housing demand in the core for a variety of reasons. For that reason alone, I am for it.