Brackenridge campus property scheduled for redevelopment by end of 2019

Central Health and city officials spoke about the Brackenridge hospital at a May 15 press conference.

Central Health and city officials spoke about the Brackenridge hospital at a May 15 press conference.

Image description
Brackenridge Reimagined
Travis County health care district Central Health will demolish the former University Medical Center Brackenridge hospital this summer as part of a redevelopment project intended to generate revenue that will fund health care for low-income residents.

Central Health owns 14.3 acres of property, divided into six blocks, surrounding the nine-story hospital tower at Red River and 15th streets. In addition to the Brackenridge building, it plans to demolish all unused structures to provide developers with “a clean slate,” substantially increasing the land value, per the district.

Steven Lamp, Central Health vice president of real estate and facilities, said the property is on track for redevelopment by the end of the year, at a May 20 community meeting.

To facilitate this project, Central Health is in the process of negotiating an interlocal agreement with the city of Austin that would have the health care district foot the bill for the relocation of Red River from 13th Street to 15th.

Its board of managers voted May 29 to authorize President and CEO Mike Geeslin to negotiate and execute the terms of the interlocal agreement, which Geeslin said would be a boon to the project because it will expedite the city’s permitting and zoning processes.

The property is zoned for public use, but Central Health would like it rezoned as the Central Business District, allowing for higher-density development.

“Getting site plan approval for this development is very important for the process,” Geeslin said May 29.

A shifting approach

The Brackenridge campus was home to a public hospital that served patients regardless of their ability to pay for 133 years. It closed in 2017, when Ascension Seton moved its hospital operations from the Brackenridge building to the new Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas.

In 2004, the city of Austin transferred ownership of the Brackenridge campus to Central Health.

Four years ago, Central Health launched a community engagement process that led to a master plan for the property’s redevelopment.

The district’s initial plan was to turn the campus into a high-density development that would include commercial and residential uses with a focus on health care services and research.

The redevelopment was intended to recoup about $34 million in annual lease payments that Ascension Seton paid to operate the former hospital.

The plan shifted, however, following leadership changes at Central Health, including Geeslin’s appointment as CEO in 2017.

Since then, Central Health has leased two of the property’s tracts as a cost-saving measure while maintaining its ability to redevelop the others.

“It would have been at least 15 years until Central Health realized any net revenue if we’d stick with a master developer strategy,” Geeslin said in a May 15 news release.

The road ahead

While Central Health and the city of Austin have not yet finalized an interlocal agreement, documents show preliminary terms, including “development support” from the city, such that the city will agree to the overall site plan application for the Brackenridge redevelopment and accelerate timeline reviews for permit applications.

According to Central Health documents, the proposed deal includes a land exchange that would grant Central Health ownership of Red River from 14th Street to 15th Street.

Construction is expected to begin in August on a separate project to shift Red River east between 12th and 15th streets and west between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 32nd Street to make room for a new UT special events arena, per city documents.

The relocation of Red River is an essential component of maximizing the redevelopment, per Central Health officials. Preliminary plans show the new street will run adjacent to four lots throughout the property and will include transit options.

In exchange, Central Health will provide the city with an easement for the relocated stretch of Red River.
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.


Photo of a girl weariing a mask and backpack
Austin ISD: mask policy to remain after new CDC guidance

The district said it would continue to require masks at least through the end of the current school year.

I-35 delays
Early morning I-35 delays expected May 15 as TxDOT finishes demolition of US 183 ramp in North Austin

TxDOT will close mainlanes on I-35 in North Austin early in the morning of May 15 as it demolishes a ramp.

The city of Austin's Smart Mobility Office has partnered with Ford on self-driving vehicle initiatives. (Courtesy Ford Motor Company)
Austin's transportation department paving the way for rise in autonomous vehicle traffic

Several private companies are working on autonomous vehicle initiatives in Austin in addition to the city's own smart infrastructure planning.

Goodfolks plans to open in late July to early August. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
New restaurant coming to Georgetown; new Hutto community to have nearly 1K lots and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

COVID-19 precautions such as a masking requirement remain in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
'Signs of hope' on the horizon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after year-plus dip in air travel

Rising passenger counts, new airline operations and an increase in vaccinations could all support the airport's recovery in 2021.

A University of Texas office tower is under development at the downtown Central Health site formerly home to the Brackenridge hospital campus. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Health's 'cornerstone' downtown site moving forward on path to redevelopment

Much of the site's future scope is yet to be determined ahead of a May 20 rezoning hearing before City Council.

Photo of a man climbing on a rock wall
Four Austin institutions celebrate anniversaries

Crux Climbing Center and Austin Vet Hospital are among the businesses hitting milestones in May.

Capital Metro bus
Capital Metro announces increased transit services for Austin FC games this season

Capital Metro has increased the frequency of several bus routes for Austin FC game days at Q2 Stadium.

CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The property has been a redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization target for years. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin evaluating 6 plans to redevelop 19-acre St. John site into mixed-use district

The city has long been seeking to rejuvenate the St. John neighborhood property off I-35 with new housing, retail and recreational space.