The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

No One's Buying

By Amy Smith, August 16, 2002, News

The "Buy Stratus Land" campaign -- the 11th-hour brainchild of Council Member Daryl Slusher -- is getting off to a slow start. Slusher's effort to raise an estimated $20 million to buy what is known as Tract 110 -- a large swath of Stratus property along South MoPac -- has thus far netted $60, according to longtime environmental faithful Shudde Fath, a volunteer treasurer of the campaign. "We have $10 in cash and a $50 check. We aren't getting rich yet," she said, chuckling.

Slusher pitched his "Buy Stratus Land" proposal hours before the City Council's Aug. 1 vote to upzone Tract 110, among others, from rural residential to commercial space -- guaranteeing not only certainty for the landowner but the ability to fetch a higher price on the land. Stratus had slated 750,000 square feet of offices for the site, but the current lack of demand has forced the company to delay turning dirt for at least two or three years. For the time being, Stratus is willing to negotiate a sale at "fair market value."

Fath, meanwhile, is thanking the real estate gods for Austin's glut of office space. "This will give us more time to raise money to buy all or part of the land," she said, "or we could buy conservation easements on the property -- they're about half the price." Admittedly, the two-week-old effort has so far failed to generate a fistful of dollars, but these things take time, Fath notes. "I think once the city has set up an official fund and we start publicizing this, we'll have more success." Until the city establishes an account for the campaign, checks should be made to the Save Barton Creek Association (Fath is its treasurer, too) and mailed to P.O. Box 5923, Austin, 78763. Be sure to write "Buy Stratus Land" on the check, lest your contribution slip into the wrong coffer.

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