Consolidation of UT System’s Administrative Buildings Means Further Changes Ahead

January 16, 2018 by Dave Fidlin

Nearly four years has passed since the University of Texas System’s Board of Regents made a pivotal decision concerning Austin’s downtown administrative buildings.

The rest, as the old saying goes, is history.

When the UT System’s five antiquated buildings were consolidated into a single, 19-story, 330,000-square-foot skyscraper this fall, university officials touted a series of financial figures that are expected to yield long-term cost savings.

The change-up also is notable for the higher-education institution. The oldest of the five separate buildings stretched back 136 years.

Here’s how the new, consolidated UT System administrative building — located on 7th Street, between Lavaca and Colorado streets — breaks down, floor by floor:

  • Floor 1 — Leased retail and restaurant space
  • Floor 2 — Board of Regents’ meeting rooms, offices, support space
  • Floors 3 to 10 — Parking (a move the university is touting as not impacting already strained ground-level parking accommodations in the surrounding area)
  • Floors 11 to 16 — Work space for administrative employees
  • Floors 17 to 18 — Leased office space for UTIMCO and other private companies and organizations
  • Floor 19 — Commons area for employees of UT System and other tenants within the development

UT System recently unveiled a 2-minute video, encapsulating the full details of the new development.

Karen Adler, UT System’s director of media relations and communications, lays out how all of the changes come into play.

“The now-vacated UT System buildings have been sold or leased and will provide savings and estimated future income, totaling between $188 million and $213 million,” Adler said.

The cost of constructing the new facility, of course, whittles the figure down, though Adler said UT System is expected to reap positives, long-term.

“After covering estimated construction and transition costs of $143 million, the new building is expected to generate financial benefits of between $40 million and $60 million,” Adler said.

The old five-building set-up, Adler said, was antiquated and inefficient — both from a general operations standpoint for workflow processes and from the day-to-day cost of operating the buildings.

The single structure, by contrast, is “a highly-efficient new building” and is “an economical way to decrease annual maintenance and operating costs by millions of dollars,” Adler said.

With the transition completed this past fall, the process of converting prior administrative sites for new uses is underway and is set to further change Austin’s landscape.

Real estate developer Trammell Crow Co., for instance, has been tapped to redevelop a full city block of land – Block 71 – that has been under the UT System’s auspices.

The land fronts 6th Street, between Colorado and Lavaca streets, and had housed two of the UT System’s administrative buildings, in addition to Ashbel Smith Hall and Claudia Taylor Johnson Hall.

In addition to changing hands, the redevelopment will bring land back on the city and county’s tax rolls.

“As the property is leased for commercial use, it will generate an estimated $6 million per year in tax revenue for the city of Austin and other taxing entities in Travis County,” Adler said.

At this preliminary stage, a number of uses have been discussed for the redeveloped site, including a hotel or condominiums, office space, retail — or a combination of the different possibilities.

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Written by Dave Fidlin