June 10, 2021
(Austin) – The Austin City Council Thursday unanimously approved as part of the consent agenda Central Health’s request to re-zone its 14.3-acre downtown property – former home of University Medical Center Brackenridge – at 15th Street between Red River Street and IH-35.
Central Health is redeveloping the property to generate new sources of revenue to pay for health care for people with low income. Central Health is the local health care district that provides care for about 1 in 9 Travis County residents.
“Rezoning the property is a critical and long-awaited milestone in the redevelopment of this valuable and important property,” Mike Geeslin, Central Health President and CEO said. “With a diverse mix of revenue sources, Central Health won’t rely solely on funding from property taxes to care for a growing number of Travis County residents with low income.”
The rezoning process began in 2019 when Central Health requested a zoning overlay, which combines the regulations of a Public (P) zoning district and Central Business District (CBD) zoning district. However last fall (2020), the City restarted the rezoning process and decided a Planned Unit Development (PUD) was the most appropriate tool to accomplish Central Health’s requests. Under the PUD, the property will have CBD site development regulations plus a maximum floor area ratio (FAR) of 25:1, allowing for a dense mixed-use development – ultimately generating more revenue for Central Health to pay for future health care.
The PUD was reviewed and approved not only by the Austin City Council by a 11-0 vote, but also by both the City of Austin’s Environmental Commission and Planning Commission.
As the zoning case worked its way through the City’s process, Central Health continued preparing the site for redevelopment including demolishing the former hospital tower. Central Health and the City are also working to realign and straighten Red River Street near 15th Street to improve mobility in and around the property and provide better connectivity to the new Waterloo Greenway next door, which includes a park and amphitheater.
“The community helped create the master plan, which provided a clear vision for this redevelopment,” Sherri Greenberg, Central Health Board Chair said. “We listened when residents who told us they wanted a vibrant hub for healthier living that is easily accessible on foot, bike, public transit or by car. The community wanted a development that included space for health care services, medical research and innovation, and creates a sense of community. We’re eager to move this project forward.”
Central Health’s first developer on the property is the 2033 Higher Education Development Foundation, created to support The University of Texas at Austin. A 17-story office building is under construction with a 99-year ground lease and is expected to open in 2022. The Foundation will pay approximately $430 million to Central Health over the life of the lease. The 2033 Higher Education Development Foundation paid Central Health $1,548,429 in FY 2020 for two tracts of land. Ascension Seton paid Central Health $9,390,624 in FY 2020 to lease an office building called the Clinical Education Center and a parking garage connected to Dell Seton Medical Center. Central Health will continue to evaluate development options on other parts of the property.
When the 2033 Higher Education Development Foundation’s new office building opens, it will be the flagship of Austin’s emerging Innovation District by Capital City Innovation, an initiative of Central Health, UT Austin and Ascension Seton, with support from the Downtown Austin Alliance and Opportunity Austin. Other projects in the area include the HealthSouth redevelopment project and Waterloo Greenway.
Meanwhile, Central Health will continue to evaluate development options on other parts of the property, which support the guiding principles of Central Health’s Brackenridge Campus Master Plan, adopted in 2016 – Mission, Stewardship, and Partnership. For more information on the project, visit https://www.centralhealth.net/about/finance/programs-projects/downtown-property/.