The Austin Chronicle

Downtown Puzzle: Dell Seton’s Innovation Station

Goodbye to Brackenridge, hello to ...?

By Mary Tuma, September 22, 2017, News

After more than four decades on 15th Street and Red River (and 133 years in the city overall), Brackenridge Hospital – the oldest public hospital in Texas – shuttered this May. Replacing the local institution is the sleek, 517,000-square-foot Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, which opened in May across the street. While not a core piece in Adler's Puzzle, construction on Brack's campus will inevitably impact – and be impacted by – the mayor's ambitious scheme rolling out just down the street.

So what's the old Brack site to become? Central Health, the county agency tasked with providing health care to low-income residents, technically owns the now-dormant 14.3-acre block. They're gearing up for a high-density mixed-use development comprised of medical, research, health care, office, and residential space as high as 40 stories, that could substantially transform the area. However, the precise mix is contingent upon the development team, their method, and "local and overall market conditions," said organizational spokesperson Ted Burton. Earlier this year, City Council Member Ora Houston stressed she'd like to see housing opportunities for low-wage workers while community members including Jill Ramirez, vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens' local chapter, expressed concern that possible upscale shops and residences at the new campus will drive up property values, displacing low-income residents Downtown. The project's master plan does include a goal of considering a "range of housing types" through partnerships with affordable housing providers, but it's too early in the game to know how it'll pan out exactly.

Development proposals were submitted in August and are currently being reviewed; CH plans to pick a winner within a few months. What we know so far is that the redevelopment plan proposes pedestrian-friendly streets and open spaces served by public transit. There's also a desire to feature a central plaza and public market with an overlook connecting the campus to Waterloo Park, said Burton. Anticipate a slow process; the timeline for redevelopment will span over the next 15-25 years, and be completed in phases – starting with Brack's demolition.

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