Central Health seeks partner in Brackenridge campus redevelopment

Central Health hopes to see new mixed-use develop with a medical research and service focus on the 14.3-acre Brackenridge campus in downtown Austin.

Central Health hopes to see new mixed-use develop with a medical research and service focus on the 14.3-acre Brackenridge campus in downtown Austin.

Central Health seeks developer to redevelop Brackenridge campusCentral Health issued a request for qualifications Thursday seeking feedback from developers interested in taking a lead role in revamping the public health agency’s downtown Brackenridge campus.

The 14.3-acre site on 15th Street near I-35 has been home to the University Medical Center Brackenridge since 1970. But next year the hospital will be torn down and replaced with the Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, currently under construction across 15th Street.

The request for qualifications, or RFQ, is a formal document that seeks general information from interested developers. Developers have until Oct. 21 to respond.

After an evaluation committee reviews the responses, Central Health will issue a request for proposals that will elicit more detailed ideas for the planned mixed-use district.

Patricia Young Brown—president and CEO of Travis County's health district, Central Health—said her staff hopes to narrow the field of interested developers by the end of this year. She said getting the RFQ out there is a pivotal moment for the Brackenridge campus’ future and a unique moment for Central Health.

“I think as a public entity we’ve got a different stewardship responsibility than a private developer or owner,” Young Brown said. "We have a public role, a stewardship role, and I think that’s the beauty of this because we can be the arbiter of what’s good for the community.”

A master plan for the project, approved in January, projects about 3.7 million square feet of new construction space with the potential for buildings between 35 and 40 stories tall. Central Health will still own the Brackenridge campus but will lease it to a master developer once one is selected.

Agency officials hope to attract new office, hotel, retail and residential buildings. But they also want to partner with a developer that will seek new medical-related development, such as health care research or service facilities.

The site is also near to the emerging University of Texas Medical District and the new University of Texas Dell Medical School. Redevelopment of the Brackenridge campus is also seen as a boost to efforts to develop a downtown Austin Innovation Zone, now spearheaded by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who pitched a new teaching hospital and medical school in 2011 as part of his 10 Goals in 10 Years initiative.

The property’s master plan shows development occurring over three phases beginning in 2017 and continuing until 2035.

“I think clearly we want to see [a master developer] who shares our vision,” Young Brown said. “This is a beautiful piece of property with so much potential to influence the health district.”

Young Brown added that Central Health will seek public input as the selection process moves forward.

What ends up being built won’t be known until the master developer is selected. But one component Central Health considers key to the new development is a central plaza and public market space, which would sit adjacent to an overlook offering views of nearby Waterloo Park, said Juan Garza, Central Health vice president of finance and development. The agency plans to partner with the master developer to create the public space.

“It’s a gathering area,” he said of the plaza. “It’s almost like a giveback to the community.”

Garza said the property is in a prime location for more dense development because it is not subject to the Capitol View Corridors or other similar downtown building restrictions. He anticipates a competitive search process for a developer.

The RFQ is available for download here. 

Updated to correct the potential height of buildings in the campus' master plan. 


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