Austin cop shop eyed for top shops

City looks at redeveloping longtime police headquarters for mixed use

715 East Eighth Street in Austin (Wikimedia)
715 East Eighth Street in Austin (Wikimedia)

Austin’s downtown property market is so hot that even the police department may cash in.

The Texas capital city is mulling whether to decommission the modernist five-story police headquarters, built in 1982, at 715 East Eighth Street, the Austin Monitor reported. Demolition or creative reuse are on the table for the move, which would free up 2.5 acres of prime downtown real estate.

A recent design competition sponsored by the Urban Land Institute Austin produced two distinct ideas for what could be done with the site, the outlet reported. One, builder Gehan Homes, pitched a $200 million project with ground-floor retail and two floors of affordable housing that would involve $20 million in tax credits, a recording studio and a city-owned events venue. It would include 400 parking spaces and five floors of market-rate offices.

A team from investment company Hawkeye Partners has presented plans for a mixed-use project named Swante Palm, for an early Austin immigration leader. That plan includes 266 multifamily units, more than 100 of them affordable. It also proposed 75,000 square feet of retail, 20,000 square feet of offices, and an events facility on the top floor.

Hawkeye said a developer could buy the site from the city at $385 per square foot, using tax credit programs to secure $14 million in upfront financing. That plan includes the creation of a $2.5 million assistance program for minority-owned businesses to open in the new facility.

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Both teams emphasized the importance of bringing a diversity of communities to the site in their plans.

The headquarters was the site of a number of 2020 protests and is adjacent to I-35, a creek and several redeveloping downtown districts. Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and associated businesses and services are also nearby. Part of the property is in a flood plain, and it comes with a height restriction of 135 feet to preserve views for the Capitol.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to clarify that the Urban Land Institute competition resulted in two different design ideas.

[Austin Monitor] — Cindy Widner

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