Naked City

UT Courting Mueller Site Developers

Not a single building has opened its doors on the former Mueller municipal airport site, yet consider the bounty of opportunity that is spread out before developer Catellus when it comes to the future of Austin's most ambitious master-planned community.

First came the announcement of the brand new Dell Children's Hospital, a major coup for Mueller, along with a new Ronald McDonald House across the street. Now the University of Texas has begun to court the Mueller neighborhoods, angling to put a 30-acre, privately funded, 1.5-million-square-foot health science complex next door to the hospital off 51st Street, creating coveted research and training facilities for allied health professionals.

That doesn't sound bad. In fact, it sounds a little like Catellus' Mission Bay project, which just happens to be anchored by a 43-acre campus for the University of California-San Francisco, the premier biomedical research facility for the UC system.

The UT-Health Sciences Center-Austin, a possible precursor to a medical school in Austin, would employ up to 1,800 people, with salaries of up to $150,000 per year for faculty members. At this early stage, UT estimates a net impact of $1.3 million for the city's coffers each year.

The worst criticism of the UT project neighbors could offer at a hearing with university officials last week, as voiced by Jim Walker, is that the new complex could cannibalize some of the proposed single-family housing in the large-scale development. Project Manager Greg Weaver assured Walker that the number of single-family units lost – about 100 homes – would fluctuate throughout the life of the Mueller project, but that Catellus would keep its eye on the goal of 4,600 single-family homes.

Walker praised UT officials' willingness to meet with neighbors to address traffic, expansion, and housing issues, even bringing in the project architects to discuss neighborhood preferences in the planning process. Now all UT has to do is come up with the private funding sources that would make the health science center a reality.

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Mueller municipal airport, Catellus, Dell Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, University of Texas, University of California-San Francisco, UT-Health Sciences Center-Austin, Jim Walker, Greg Weaver, single-family homes, Girard Kinney, master-planned community

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