Fairmont financier Manchester abandons plan to purchase Palm School site

The Palm School served a predominately Latino student population downtown for decades as an elementary school.

The Palm School served a predominately Latino student population downtown for decades as an elementary school.

Douglas Manchester, president of the Manchester Texas Financial Group and financier behind the Fairmont Austin Hotel, wrote in a July 16 letter to Travis County commissioners that he will not be moving forward with an unsolicited offer to buy the land surrounding the Palm School building in downtown Austin.

"I want you to know, directly and personally from me, that I wanted nothing more than to work collaboratively with each of you to help offer a meaningful solution to ensure the Palm School's long-term viability, while simultaneously helping taxpayers realize the maximum financial benefit from the site's surrounding land," Manchester wrote.

The Palm School building was established in 1892 and served for many decades as an elementary school for mostly Latino children. Most recently, it served as the office for Travis County's health and human services department, which is relocating to a new space in 2021.

It neighbors the Fairmont Austin site.

The school is owned by Travis County, while the adjacent Palm Park belongs to the city of Austin.

Travis County commissioners approved a series of restrictive covenants in April, limiting what could be done to the property in the future, regardless of the owner, and requiring that the majority of the property's space be dedicated to cultural heritage or community uses.

On July 13, a news release issued by attorney and state Rep. Sheryl Cole, who was representing Manchester at the time, stated that the financier planned to offer an intent to purchase the Palm School site.

In his letter to commissioners, Manchester wrote the letter was a "preliminary" version that was "shared with the local media without my authorization" and misled recipients "by making it seem like our conversations were much further along than they were."
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


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