Seaholm Powers Ahead

Plan to transform historic power plant into mixed-use mecca should move one step closer to fruition at City Council Thurs­day

Seaholm Power Plant
Seaholm Power Plant

Seaholm – the historic power plant to be transformed by a private development team into a mixed-use mecca – should move one step closer to fruition at City Council this Thurs­day. A public hearing is posted, before council approves rezoning the site to Down­town mixed-use, central urban redevelop­ment overlay. DMU-CURE allows building heights of 120 feet with a 5-1 floor-to-area ratio and opens the door to additional height and density variances.

Due to Capitol View Corridor restrictions, just one major tower can rise on the site. And its revenues must offset the money pit of Seaholm itself. Retrofitting the 136,000-square-foot plant – for some still-blurry civic/public/profitable uses – will be "incredibly expensive" and a "money loser" for the developer, said Coun­cil Member Brewster McCracken this week. In executive session Thursday, council will consult privately on the legally binding Master Development Agreement being struck with Southwest Strategy Group. Outside legal counsel helping the city to craft the MDA: ex-Mayor Kirk Watson, now an attorney with Hughes & Luce. Wat­son played a similar role for Block 21.

Like Mueller, the Seaholm redevelopment represents a significant public investment – 7.8 acres of city-owned land and tax waivers for 30 years. The area will become a tax increment financing district, with all property taxes (but not bed tax) invested back into the project. A successful redo could catalyze a whole new tax-paying Seaholm District west of Downtown, on Lady Bird Lake – the subject of a 2000 master-plan vision developed by the ROMA Design Group.

Predictably, some criticize the current deal for being too developer-friendly. But insiders interviewed say the city has squeezed the deal so hard, it risks destroying it. "This deal is so much skinnier than the Mueller deal," said McCracken, referring to a slim profit margin for the developer. The public can scrutinize the details after the Seaholm Master Develop­ment Agreement gets a preliminary sign-off from council, anticipated in mid-January. McCracken said council has discussed providing a 60-day review period for Austinites to comment on whether the agreement adequately serves the public interest.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Seaholm
Developing Stories
Developing Stories
Don't Rush Seaholm East

Katherine Gregor, March 7, 2008

Seaholm East
Seaholm East
What future for Green?

Katherine Gregor, Jan. 25, 2008

More by Katherine Gregor
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Checking in on the Climate Protection Program's progress – or lack thereof

Aug. 6, 2010

Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Study predicts how climate change will affect Texas' future water needs

July 30, 2010

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Seaholm, Capitol View Corridors, Brewster McCracken, Southwest Strategy Group, Kirk Watson, Hughes & Luce

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle