I haven’t seen this hit the mainstream news yet, but a large 1.6-acre lot, with prime frontage along Waller Creek corridor and a potentially buried I-35 is on the market. But, it’s future is uncertain.
The lot, at 408 North IH-35 between 4th and 5th Streets, is owned by the City of Austin. The city acquired it in 2010 as a staging area for Waller Creek Tunnel project.
According to city records, staff said they will bring a viable bidder forward to Mayor and Council by the end of the year. Current City procedure requires the approval by City Council of any sales of a fee-simple parcel after staff has successfully identified a willing and able purchaser. Under standard procedure, City Council is not involved in the development of bid criteria for proposers.
There is a rumor among downtown aficionados that the Austin Fire Department has been eyeing the parcel ever since the city bought it, as place to relocate the firehouse at Brush Square Park.
Despite being limited by a Capitol View Corridor in terms of how tall it could be, it could be tall enough for me to believe that a fire station would be a bone-headed, shortsighted use of the land!
Through tax increment financing (TIF), Austin has bonded out millions to pull a long corridor of downtown out of the Waller Creek floodplain, and won public approval to develop the Sabine Street Promenade – which runs adjacent to the lot for sale.
Further, the importance of a world-class project moving into this slot crystallizes when taken into context of the still-enduring vision by the community to cut and cap I-35. In June, TxDOT officially got behind the idea of depressing I-35 about 25 feet below the frontage road level throughout its downtown Austin stretch, from south of Cesar Chavez Street to north of 15th Street.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this site, and am at least excited that the RFP process required by the City should help make sure that whatever project lands here contributes to the Waller Creek evolution.