Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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UT System Regents Announce Master Planner for Brackenridge Tract

AUSTIN – The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (March 26) selected an internationally recognized master planning firm to develop a minimum of two conceptual master plans for the potential redevelopment of land in West Austin known as the Brackenridge Tract.

The Board selected Cooper, Robertson & Partners, LLP, a New York-based firm, following interviews today with two finalists from an initial pool of 13 firms that responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ) issued in December 2007. 

Information about Cooper, Robertson & Partners, LLP and the project team may be found online. 

“The board looks forward to engaging in this planning process with Cooper, Robertson & Partners and receiving the comprehensive analyses and conceptual master plans of the Brackenridge Tract,” Regents’ Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr., said. “We are very impressed with the firm’s experience with and plans for community input during the planning process.”

In accepting the motion to select the firm offered by Regents’ Vice Chairman James R. Huffines, the board instructed UT System and UT Austin staff to present a plan for a permanent dedication of potential revenue realized from the development of the land to benefit faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. Examples of such uses could include efforts aimed at faculty recruitment and retention and the funding of academic programs and essential student services. 

The selection of the master planner is another step in the implementation of a key recommendation issued by the Brackenridge Tract Task Force in October 2007. The Task Force recommended that the board engage a master planner to provide a comprehensive analysis of the tract to facilitate planning for future uses. The Task Force also recommended that the analysis engage UT Austin and seek input from members of the community, civic and governmental leaders, and other interested individuals.

In making its recommendations, the Task Force stressed that the Board has a legal and ethical duty – indeed, a fiduciary duty - to carry out Colonel George W. Brackenridge’s fundamental philanthropic purpose to use the tract for the benefit of the educational mission of UT Austin.

Cooper, Robertson & Partners, LLP, is charged with producing a minimum of two conceptual master plans for the redevelopment of approximately 346 acres along Lady Bird Lake in West Austin. The master planning team will begin work no later than May 2008, with a goal of presenting comprehensive planning documents to the Board of Regents between March and June 2009. 

An internal selection committee identified two finalists to be interviewed by the Board. The RFQ called for nationally-recognized planners with outstanding communication skills and sensitivity to and understanding of the challenges confronting public universities. The RFQ also sought firms that had completed master plans for developments of comparable size and complexity.

“We want to thank the many organizations and members of the public who took time to share their views with the task force and the Board,” Caven said. “The Board is committed to ensuring that this process remains transparent with additional opportunities for the public to provide input as we move forward.” 

The land along Lady Bird Lake was donated in 1910 by Brackenridge, a former UT System regent from San Antonio, for the benefit of The University of Texas at Austin. Since that time, some acreage was conveyed for streets and similar public purposes and for residential development. Today, the tract consists of approximately 346 acres of undeveloped and developed land that includes a municipal golf course, UT Austin student housing, a biological field laboratory for the campus, a youth sports complex and various commercial buildings and enterprises on property leased from the board.

About the University of Texas System

Serving the educational and health care needs of Texans for more than 125 years, the UT System is one of the nation's largest higher education systems with 15 campuses – including nine academic and six health institutions – and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion (FY 2008). Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates three-fourths of Texas health care professionals. With more than 80,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in Texas. 

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