Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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Regents Adopt Recommendation to Retain UT Austin Brackenridge Field Lab

AUSTIN – The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (Dec. 22) unanimously adopted a recommendation that would retain The University of Texas at Austin’s biological field laboratory on land in West Austin known as the Brackenridge Tract.

The action was taken during a special called meeting of the Board and follows the formal recommendation of a special advisory committee charged with reviewing conceptual master plans of the proposed redevelopment of the 350-acre tract.

“After several discussions, it became clear that UT Austin’s Brackenridge Field Lab is an integral part of the College of Natural Sciences and its mission to provide an outstanding academic experience for students, faculty and researchers,” said Regent Janiece Longoria, who is also a member of the advisory committee. “The advisory committee feels strongly that its retention is of paramount importance to the UT Austin academic community at this time. Furthermore, this decision is consistent with the Board of Regents’ commitment to respect Col. Brackenridge’s wishes that the land be used to serve the best interests of UT Austin.”

The 82-acre Brackenridge Field Lab, which stretches along Lady Bird Lake between the Colorado and Brackenridge apartment complexes, was identified to be either redeveloped or reduced in size in proposed conceptual master plans submitted by the firm of Cooper, Robertson and Partners LLP to the UT System Board of Regents in June.

"I applaud this thoughtful decision by the Board of Regents," said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. "It reflects their understanding that the field laboratory is a vital resource for world-class scientific research at the university. The special advisory committee has clearly listened to our faculty's concerns and perspectives. This is an important step in a long-term process to develop the Brackenridge site for the benefit of the university. I am extremely grateful for our Board's hard work and vision during this process."

The special advisory committee will continue to evaluate the two proposed conceptual master plans presented by the firm and to receive feedback from stakeholders and other interested parties during the academic year. Decisions by the UT System Board of Regents on how to proceed with development of other parcels of land within the tract will follow as the deliberative process continues. In addition to Regent Longoria, other members of the special advisory committee are Regent Printice L. Gary and Regent Wm. Eugene Powell.

“The action taken today by the Board reflects its responsibility to periodically review assets and programs and the respective contributions each generate to ensure the advancement and promotion of excellence at our institutions,” Regents’ Chairman James R. Huffines said. “The Board looks forward to reviewing the other recommendations the special advisory committee may bring forward on how best to use the Brackenridge Tract for the benefit of future generations of UT Austin students and faculty.”

Approximately 500 acres along Lady Bird Lake were donated in 1910 by George W. Brackenridge, who was then a 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 350 acres of undeveloped and developed land that includes the biological field lab, a municipal golf course, UT Austin student housing, a youth sports complex and various commercial buildings and enterprises on property leased from the Board.

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