Council Takes on HealthSouth, Statesman PUD, and More

Council Preview: Is HealthSouth ready to roll?

What will become of HealthSouth, the former medical rehabilitation hospital connected to the old Brackenridge Hospital campus, has been an open question since the city reclaimed control of the property at 1215 Red River in 2016. After cycling through some ideas for how to use it, which included turning it into a short-term shelter or selling it, in February 2021 Council voted to start negotiations with developers Aspen Heights Partners to build a mixed-use project that would include lots of affordable housing.

As recently as the July 28 Council meeting, when Aspen Heights presented its latest proposal, Council Member Kathie Tovo, who has pushed here as in other places for maximum community benefits from city-owned land, seemed ready to end negotiations with the developer and look to its traditional housing partners instead, to maximize the number of affordable units. Council punted a decision to today's (Sept. 29) meeting, and Tovo is calling the newest iteration of Aspen Heights' often-revised proposal "a marked improvement." In fact, she took to the Council message board Monday to say that voting yes to move forward with a master development agreement with Aspen Heights would equate to "a declaration: Downtown is for everyone."

Aspen Heights has proposed two towers with close to 921 units, with 232 (or 25%) being affordable. Those would all be in the south tower, along with a $200,000 mural and an affordable child care center to serve 75 kids; Tovo says workers Downtown desperately need such child care. The north tower will include 573 market-rate units, a music venue, commercial spaces, and a plaza. Tovo said there's still "room for improvement," such as a commitment to adhere to the city's living wage ($20 per hour) in the commercial spaces and child care facility.

In other items, Council will take another pass at moving Statesman PUD plans along. CM Chito Vela reiterated in a message board post this week that the motion he will offer for Council consideration is a substitute for what is posted on the agenda for second reading, and not an end point for negotiations for this enormous project at 305 S. Con­gress. Council will also take on an eminent domain case on Elroy Road to buy out land for the Kellam Road Water Pipeline Renewal Project, vote on accepting state grant funding for police, and look at allowing a fee-in-lieu of affordable housing for projects at 1100, 1108, and 1110 E. Fifth, among dozens of other items on the agenda.

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City Council, HealthSouth, Statesman PUD

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