Seaholm Intake redevelopment design receives initial approval

A redevelopment proposal from Stratus Properties received a recommendation for approval from Austin's Parks and Recreation Board on Oct. 27

A redevelopment proposal from Stratus Properties received a recommendation for approval from Austin's Parks and Recreation Board on Oct. 27

After a two-plus year public process to redesign the Seaholm Intake facility along Lady Bird Lake, a development team has been picked to carry out the project.

Stratus Properties, the Austin-based real estate company behind the W Austin Hotel and parts of the 2nd Street District, was selected by Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board on Oct. 27 to redevelop the Seaholm Intake facility. Austin City Council must grant final approval during its Nov. 19 meeting before negotiations to share the city-owned space can commence.

Originally built as a pump house for the Seaholm Power Plant and Green Water Treatment Plant, the Intake Facility was shut down in 1989, said Lyn Estabrook, Parks and Recreation Department project manager. A 2001 master plan for the area proposed converting the industrial space into something more publicly accessible, she said.

Seaholm Intake redevelopment The rendering shows proposed features in the redeveloped Seaholm Intake facility should the project receive council approval.[/caption]

“That’s really our goal, to have some sort of public use,” Estabrook said. “We sort of have a vision for the space.”

That vision was further refined in 2013 when a public design competition resulted in 76 conceptual ideas for repurposing the space, and the Top 10—and eventually top three—finalists were shared with the public for further input. From there, the city incorporated the preferred design elements into a request for master developers to realize the public’s vision.

The public in September was again asked to pick among four more concrete design proposals. That city survey yielded approximately 2,000 results, according to Estabrook, and two finalists emerged from that process. City Council will hear presentations from both finalists—Stratus Properties and Southwest Strategies Groupbefore making any final recommendation.

“Because it’s park land, [the facility] will always remain public property,” Estabrook said. “We won’t lease or sell the space. The agreement that comes out will be a license agreement with the master developer very akin to a concessions agreement.”

The city also receives a portion of the operating revenue generated at the site. In exchange, the development team benefits by inheriting invaluable space, Estabrook said.

“No other building can be built right on the water, so it’s a really unique building because it’s literally the only building that’s touching the water,” she said. “They will have a resource that no one else has, and that’s a very competitive advantage and a cherry on top of their portfolios.”

The proposed contract terms would require all redevelopment, maintenance and other ongoing costs to be paid by the master developer and not the city. The space would be controlled by the developer for at least 20 years with three options to renew, according to Estabrook. Such contract negotiations could take up to a year to be completed after any council approval, she said.

Construction approvals would then need to go back to city boards, commissions and the full council before any work commences, and the project would take approximately one year to complete, Estabrook said. That puts a revamped Seaholm Intake facility in line to be complete by 2018 or 2019, she said.

“That’ll be really good timing because the last building in the Seaholm District will be almost ready and done by then,” Estabrook said.

According to Estabrook, The Trail Foundation proposed giving private money to either finalist to enhance the Ann & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail along the lake near the facility and to add a new boardwalk in front of the Seaholm Intake. Exact project costs and financial benefit to the city are uncertain until a contract is finalized.

By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.