At the end of January, the master plan to redevelop the 14.3-acre Brackenridge Hospital campus in the northeast quadrant of downtown Austin got the go-ahead from Central Health board. The plan envisions up to four new skyscrapers, an open air market, housing, basically everything to run a small town.
There is a lot of fanfare about the master plan, with the grandfathers of downtown Austin development lining up to give quotes to the Statesman about the magnitude of the site. But if the lesson of major public-private redevelopment (see: Seaholm, Greenwater) is anything, it is that the story rarely goes the way you have in mind.
These medical developments are MAJOR redevelopment efforts in Austin. It is not just another tower. This medical district will feel like a self-contained small city. I think it is important to give a basic breakdown of what’s going down, so here’s what will be happening in the next 12-24 months at the site:
- The new a new medical school, research building and teaching hospital under construction at Red River and 15th Street is opening, thus Brackenridge will be shuttering.
- Central Health will seek proposals from developers to redevelop the property, probably tease the public with some of the proposed renderings from the suitors, and ultimately choose a company to negotiate a Master Development Agreement or some other arrangement. (Although I should caution: Such deals are precarious until the ink has dried on signatures and prone to unexpected delays. Expect the unexpected.)
- Wrecking balls will start to swing, and the buildings that make up the campus will be demolished.
The approved master plan stretches all the way out 2035 in multiple phases. So those sexy renderings of an open air market, and beautiful skyscrapers? Well, we might all be locked into a global war with AI robots by then, so I’m not even going to touch anything past Phase 1, which stretches from 2017 to 2025.
So if you live downtown, or are buying downtown, here is what to expect, according to the plan for Phase 1:
- The nine-story University Medical Center Brackenridge Hospital Tower stays operational through 2017, then it is demolished to make way for a public market/plaza.
- The single story building to its south is obsolete and is wiped from the Earth.
- The three-story office building and helipad are demolished to allow for the realignment of Red River Street through the Brackenridge Campus.
- The nine-story, 1,400 car space garage stays put because it is a revenue generator and will continue to be.
- In total, this demolition will allow two new development blocks to be created as soon as possible, as well as the first phase of new streets, public open spaces, and infrastructure that define them. Also envisioned during this phase is the construction of a building that would be attached to – or line – the west façade of the Main Garage.
Again, Phase 1 is what is manageable right now. What does Phase 2 and 3 have for us?
Phase 2 (2025-2030)
- The Original City Hospital Block: The Clinical Education Center (CEC)
- Block 166: The CEC Parking Garage
- Block 167: The North Wing of the Hospital Tower
Phase 3 (2030-2035)
- The “Main” Parking Garage at Block 168
Yes, even in 2035, parking garages might still command the center stage of real estate development. Sigh. Here is a link to the master plan (pdf).