TX: Cap Metro Narrows Plaza Saltillo Development Contenders to Two

May 20-- Looking to transform Austin's old rail yard into a dense and lively "transit village," Capital Metro's board Monday narrowed to two the contenders for the right to develop the land.

Saltillo Collaborative -- which includes Constructive Ventures of Austin, Trammell Crow and six other partners -- and a team led by Austin-based Endeavor and Columbus Realty remain in the mix to develop a 10-acre tract roughly bounded by Interstate 35 and East Fifth, Onion and East Fourth streets.

What those two teams are offering financially for that opportunity, however, will remain known only to the eight-member board, Capital Metro staff and its consultants.

Board chairman Mike Martinez, also an Austin City Council member who last week had said releasing the proposed money offerings would occur once a field of four bidders was narrowed to two, said Monday he now agrees with Capital Metro's lawyers that the information should remain confidential.

"We won't be releasing any of the financial information," Martinez said, until a final team has been picked, which should occur in mid-June, and negotiations have been completed some time later. Even then, the offers from the three losing teams will not be released, Martinez said, unless the companies involved consent.

The American-Statesman last week filled a open-records request for the full bids from each of the four teams. Capital Metro, which legally has 10 business days to respond, has not yet answered that request.

Capital Metro acquired the site in 1995 as part of a $9.3 million purchase of Southern Pacific railroad's 162-mile freight track between Llano and Giddings. Capital Metro officials say the East Austin section is worth $40 a square foot, or more than $17 million.

The site currently has MetroRail's track running the length of its seven blocks on a line roughly halfway between East Fourth and East Fifth. Capital Metro expects late this year to complete a bidding process to move that track close to East Fourth, freeing up the bulk of the 10 acres for unobstructed development. That work should be done by summer 2015. The site will also require some environmental cleanup.

Saltillo Collaborative envisions a dense collection of buildings, most of them 50 to 70 feet high, covering the seven blocks. Most of the development would be apartments, with at least 25 percent of them in the "affordable category," with ground floor retail spaces. In a slide presentation from Saltillo Collaborative released by Capital Metro, that term affordable is defined as rents set for households with 30 to 60 percent of Austin's median family income.

The site also would have garage parking, parking on top of a couple of buildings, surface lots and street parking, a total of about 800 spaces. And Saltillo foresees having a 120-foot-high hotel and a "creative office" building near I-35.

Endeavor and its partners also portray a development of closely packed buildings, again with 25 percent affordable housing (half of it in a building reserved for seniors) and ground floor retail. That group says their development would have about 800 apartments, a 60,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store and about 50,000 square feet of retail.

The Endeavor group said it would also dedicate 1.7 acres to the city for park land.

Copyright 2014 - Austin American-Statesman

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