county may buy down­town of­fice build­ing

more space needed even af­ter June pur­chase, of­fi­cials say

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Suzan­nah Gon­za­les

Travis County is con­sid­er­ing leas­ing or pur­chas­ing a pro­posed $38.5 mil­lion ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing and park­ing garage across from the county courthouse down­town.

Less than a month ago, the county com­pleted a pur­chase of 700 Lavaca St. — a 15-story down­town of­fice build­ing — and an ad­join­ing park­ing garage. The Com­mis­sion­ers Court and other of­fices will move into the build­ing.

Even af­ter that pur­chase, of­fi­cials say the county is short on of­fice space and park­ing down­town and that space needs will only grow. The county is cur­rently draft­ing its “Cen­tral Cam­pus” mas­ter plan, a broad ef­fort to study how the county should ex­pand down­town dur­ing the next 25 years to keep pace with the county’s pop­u­la­tion, now more than 1 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to re­cent U.S. Cen­sus

Con­tin­ued from B1 es­ti­mates.

Un­der the pro­posal, the county would have the op­tion to pur­chase the new build­ing at 408 W. 11th St. any time dur­ing a 30-year lease, Devel­op­ment 2000 Inc. Pres­i­dent Jerry Reed told com­mis­sion­ers at a re­cent meet­ing. If the county doesn’t buy the build­ing by the end of the lease, Reed told com­mis­sion­ers, the build­ing would be given to the county as a gift.

If the county de­cides to buy the build­ing, the county would is­sue bonds to pay for it, County Judge Sam Bis­coe said. It would take two to three years to de­sign and con­struct the build­ing and garage, so Bis­coe said county of­fi­cials wouldn’t have to de­cide im­me­di­ately how the county would pay for the project. The price of the project, as well as the size of the build­ing and garage, are ne­go­tiable, he said. So far, ex­clud­ing a lit­tle staff time, no county money has been spent on the pro­posal, he said.

Devel­op­ment 2000’s pro­posal to the county is de­tailed in doc­u­ments the Amer­i­can-States­man ob­tained through an open records request.

County of­fi­cials agreed the prop­erty would be too small for a much-needed new civil courthouse, but Bis­coe said the build­ing could house crim­i­nal law sec­tions of the county at­tor­ney’s and district at­tor­ney’s of­fices. The cur­rent lo­ca­tion of the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice in the Black­well-Thur­man Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Cen­ter was never in­tended to be per­ma­nent, Bis­coe said. The county plans to con­vert those of­fices to crim­i­nal courts, Bis­coe said. Based

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