Frequently Asked Questions
The 1910 deed from Colonel George W. Brackenridge conveyed 503 acres “for the benefit of The University of Texas.” Ninety-five acres were located on the west bank of the Colorado River and 408 acres were located on the east bank. Since that time, however, some acreage was conveyed for streets and for similar purposes. Additionally, in 1991 and 1992, acreage on the west side of the river was sold for development as a residential subdivision. Thus, there now remain approximately 345 acres in the Brackenridge Tract, all on the east side of the river.
The deed conveyed the property “in trust for the benefit of the University of Texas” with the stipulation that if the property was sold or conveyed before the death of the last of certain individuals named in the deed, title to the property would vest in Jackson County. The deed also stated Colonel Brackenridge’s “request merely on my part that it never be disposed of but be held permanently for such educational purposes.” In the 1960s, the Board of Regents purchased the contingent reversionary interest of Jackson County, vesting fee simple title absolute in the Board of Regents. Management and control of the Brackenridge Tract rests with the Board of Regents.
A portion of the tract is currently used by UT Austin for campus purposes and the remainder is leased for commercial and civic purposes. UT Austin owns and operates 515 student apartments on about 74 acres. The Brackenridge Field Laboratory, an academic and research facility of UT Austin, occupies approximately 82 acres. The UT Austin Rowing Center is located near one set of the student apartments. The parcels used for campus purposes all have river frontage and are south (west) of Lake Austin Boulevard. The remaining approximately 189 acres of the Brackenridge Tract are leased to the following commercial and civic entities:
The Brackenridge Tract Task Force, appointed by the Board of Regents in 2006 to review the uses of the tract, recommended that a master planning firm be engaged to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the entire tract in order to facilitate planning for future uses of the tract. The Task Force observed that the Board of Regents has a legal duty to use the tract in the best interest of UT Austin, in keeping with the philanthropic purpose stated in the deed from Colonel Brackenridge.
How has UT Austin benefited from the tract in the past and how will the current master planning effort benefit UT Austin?
UT Austin uses portions of the tract for University purposes: student housing a rowing center, and biological field lab. Other portions of the tract produce income that benefits UT Austin. Since 1989, the year that the Brackenridge Development Agreement was signed, through the end of Fiscal Year 2007, total income of $25,650,131 has been received from commercial leasing and sales activities on the Brackenridge Tract. A total of $12.5 million of the proceeds from sales and leases were matched by $25 million of gift funds to establish endowment funds for U. T. Austin.
At the time it selected a master planning firm, the Board of Regents also directed UT Austin and UT System staff to return to the Board in about a year with “a plan for the permanent dedication of potential revenue realized from the development of the Brackenridge Tract to the benefit of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students at UT Austin,” with examples of such uses to include “recruitment and retention of faculty and funding of academic programs and essential services for students.”
The master planning firm of Cooper, Robertson & Partners will be paid, over the course of the approximately one year project, a fixed fee of $4,590,782. Expense reimbursements under the contract are limited to $549,100. Because of the broad scope of work under the master planning services contract, Cooper, Robertson has engaged a number of subconsultants, mostly from the Austin area; consequently, Cooper, Robertson’s actual share of the fixed fee amount is $2,025,600, and the following subcontractors will share in the remaining portion of the fee:
Cooper, Robertson is neither the developer nor a consultant to a developer. Cooper, Robertson & Partners has been hired by the U. T. System Board of Regents to prepare two or more conceptual master plans for the redevelopment of the Brackenridge Tract. There are no developers on the team of subconsultants that Cooper, Robertson has assembled. Moreover, to ensure the integrity of the work, Cooper, Robertson will neither seek nor accept a position on any developer’s team for any future work on the Brackenridge Tract.
No, the Board has not selected, nor has it sought, a developer for the tract. If the Board ultimately elects to redevelop portions of the tract, the Board will then consider the best method of doing so, which might or might not involve the use of a private developer. Were a developer to be selected, the Board would use an open selection process, as it did when it selected the master planning firm of Cooper, Robertson & Partners.
What opportunities will the public and interested parties have to provide input during the master planning process?
The opportunity for the public to comment and participate in the planning process is of utmost importance to the UT System Board of Regents, the Brackenridge Tract Task Force and Cooper, Robertson & Partners. As was the case during meetings of the Task Force, several opportunities for the public to offer input will be available during the master planning process, to include listening sessions and workshops. The UT System Board of Regents remains committed to an open and transparent process.
There will be an Update Session at LCRA Redbud Center on May 20th (9:30 -11:30 am or 6:30-8:30 pm). The team will present the plans to The University of Texas System Board of Regents in June. The website (www.utbracktract.com)
Whether there will be redevelopment, what that development will be, and when it will occur, are all decisions for the Board of Regents. The consultant team is to report to the Regents in June 2009. The Regents will then consider the conceptual master plans delivered by Cooper, Robertson in evaluating actions to take and on what schedule.
The Brackenridge Tract Task Force, in its report to the Regents, recommended that the tract not be sold, absent a compelling reason to do so. The preference is to lease the land so that future Boards of Regents may periodically assess how best to use the tract to meet the philanthropic purpose directed by Colonel Brackenridge: advancing and promoting University education.
Are there other University holdings in Travis County that could be sold to provide funds for University purposes?
The majority of properties in Travis County owned by the Board of Regents for the benefit of UT Austin are properties used for campus purposes. The tax appraisal district lists properties as they are acquired, so there are numerous tax parcels that make up the main UT Austin campus, the J. J. Pickle Research Campus in northwest Austin, and other campus lands. The only other properties owned by the Board of Regents in Travis County are six gift properties, including the Brackenridge Tract, which are typically leased for income production.
The Brackenridge Development Agreement (“BDA”) is an intergovernmental agreement entered into between the City of Austin and the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on May 25, 1989. The BDA establishes development regulations for portions of the Brackenridge Tract, as described in subsequent sections of this paper. The regulations are in effect for an initial 30-year term. The agreement also provides for three five-year extensions of the term, but either party may terminate the agreement at the end of the initial term or any extension term by giving notice as specified in the agreement. The agreement is recorded in Volume 10968, Page 0388 of the Real Property Records of Travis County, Texas.
The BDA is a detailed, extensive document, totaling 140 pages, plus exhibits. It establishes height restrictions, use restrictions, floor to area ratios, pervious and impervious cover requirements, mechanisms for reviewing site plans and construction plans, mechanisms for the provision of utility services to the parcels, and a variety of other matters pertaining to the non-university development of parcels of land that are subject to the BDA.
The BDA governs non-university development of approximately 279 acres out of the original 503-acre tract. The 279 acres consist of several parcels, which are referred to in the BDA as:
The BDA does not govern development of the Brackenridge Tract for university purposes, nor does it address development of the 141 acres leased to the City of Austin for a golf course or the 14 acres leased to the West Austin Youth Association for youth sports activities. Both leases are coextensive with the term of the BDA. The BDA expressly states that the lease of the 141 acres to the City for a golf course terminates at the same time that the BDA terminates.
What non-university development on the Brackenridge Tract has occurred since the BDA was entered into?
Several parcels have since been developed in accordance with the BDA. Approximately 76 acres out of the Stratford Tract were platted, sold to private developers, and developed as two residential subdivisions. The remaining 11 acres of the Stratford Tract were sold to the City of Austin for utility infrastructure and conservation uses. All other development has been accomplished through leases. The Boat Town tract was developed by the ground tenant for retail, office and restaurant uses in a project known as Oyster Landing. The Park Street Tract was leased to the Lower Colorado River Authority for use as its headquarters and for parking for Oyster Landing. The Deep Eddy tract was leased in several parcels for apartments and commercial uses (CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Lion Gables Realty Limited Partnership, and Heidi’s German Bakery Pastry Shop, Etc., Inc.). (A portion of the Deep Eddy tract had earlier been leased to The Southland Corp. and the Safeway Tract was also subject to an earlier lease.)
The remaining tract covered by the BDA is the Town Lake Tract, which consists of three contiguous subparts that front on Town Lake: (1) the Brackenridge Apartments site (53 acres), which is closest to Red Bud Trail; (2) the Biological Field Lab site (82 acres), which is the middle parcel; and (3) the Colorado Apartments site (21 acres), which is the parcel closest to Loop 1. Under the BDA, the Colorado Apartments site became eligible for non-university development in 1999, the Brackenridge Apartments site becomes eligible for non-university development in 2009, and the Biological Field Lab site is not to be developed for non-university purposes while the BDA is in effect. All three parcels are currently used by UT Austin for campus purposes.