Naked City

City Seeks Seaholm Suitor

Naked City
Photo By John Anderson

Filled with excitement over a "project that melds historic significance with great cultural and economic opportunities" – in the words of Mayor Will Wynn – City Hall this week aimed to knock over a few more Downtown dominoes, putting out the long-awaited "request for qualifications" for partners to help Austin redevelop Seaholm Power Plant. "We now stand ready to collaborate with an innovative development team," Wynn writes in the RFQ document, "that shares our vision for a mixed-use project that will unite much of what is Austin in a single location and allow Seaholm to continue its history of great service to our city's vibrancy."

Over the last decade, the city has spent much time, energy, and money contemplating what can be done with Seaholm, which was built in the 1950s, decommissioned in 1989, and officially slated for "adaptive reuse" in 1996. Since then, the city has undertaken an extensive environmental cleanup of the plant and in 2000 adopted an elaborate Seaholm District Master Plan, itself informed by the work of a 1998 task force on Seaholm reuse. All of this effort has crystallized around the "vision" of which the mayor writes – the 110,000-square-foot plant itself would become a cultural facility of some sort, and the surrounding acreage (both city-owned and otherwise) would become home to now-familiar sorts of Downtown development.

In recent months, the city's vision has gotten a bit more specific, calling for Seaholm to also serve as a designated transit center (the plant sits at the junction of two of Capital Metro's newly proposed rail lines) and – somewhat awkwardly – focusing on specific cultural users that might like high-profile downtown homes, including the Austin Children's Museum, the nascent Texas Music Hall of Fame, and KLRU-TV and Austin City Limits. The same three users have also been given special status by the city as it simultaneously seeks development proposals for Block 21, across from the new City Hall; the Seaholm RFQ timeline was sped up, and Block 21's slowed down, so that the city could make decisions on both projects as part of a unified approach to redeveloping the Warehouse District. Teams have been asked to respond to both the Seaholm and Block 21 solicitations by the end of the summer.

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