Naked City

Off the Desk

What started as a loose but inspired mix of people kicking around ideas over margaritas at Trudy's is now an organized group with a serious name and an upcoming charrette that could lead to big changes at the old Seaholm Power Plant. The fledgling group of arts and new media folks calls itself Advance TEAM -- which stands for technology, entertainment, education, art, music, and multimedia. The TEAM has booked Sherry Wagner, a widely respected facility planner from San Antonio, for the day-long workshop Oct. 6. One of the group members leading the mission to combine some or all of the aforementioned fields under Seaholm's roof is Debi Edward, co-founder and executive director of the Children's Art Museum. "What we'd like to do is come up with a conceptual plan for Seaholm that respects its space but also celebrates some of the new things in Austin," says Edward, who leaves her museum post next month to pursue other community interests -- one of which happens to be the 50-year-old Seaholm and its reuse as a public facility. The charrette location is still undecided, but you can get more details from Edward at 472-2499 x206. Since this is a grassroots-generated event, participants may be asked to chip in to help cover expenses...

In other Seaholm developments, not all is well on the power play front. Ken Altes, the man whose unfailing persistence and peskiness helped turn the retired power plant into a point of civic pride, is off the Seaholm Reuse Planning Committee, a sub-group of the city Arts Commission. Details of Altes' departure aren't pretty, but the boiled-down version of his leave-taking had him and committee members at odds over the direction of the group. Altes, who acknowledges he's been accused of loving Seaholm a little too much, still has his Friends of Seaholm to fall back on...

For better or worse, Wednesday morning marked the beginning and the end of downtown Austin as we know it, as Post Properties, the darling of New Urban multi-family developments, broke ground on the city's first residential public-private partnership. Billed as the "jumpstart to a 24-hour downtown," West Avenue Lofts will open next fall at West and Third in the nouveau trendy Warehouse District, The $21 million project is expected to carry handsome benefits for both Post and the city, which owns the property. Post will fetch up to $2,000 per month in rent, while the city will collect $100,000 a year on the base lease. Post's history of public-private partnerships is borne out in downtowns across the country, including Dallas, Houston, and Denver. Kent Collins, Post's VP of development, credits public-private deals for his company's urban success stories. "It's much more difficult and complex to do developments downtown than it is to build on virgin land in the suburbs," he says. The public sector, he adds, can make downtown projects easier by way of infrastructure, lease agreements, or the creation of tax increment finance districts...

On another Post front, Collins says he would still "love" to be involved in the Triangle Square project on state land in North Central Austin, but neither Post, the state, nor lead Triangle developer Tom Terkel could agree on lease terms. Another residential developer, North American Properties, is now in the running. Collins says he knows nothing about NAP, which could not be reached Wednesday. See "Action Items" for more Triangle info.

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