Amy Wanamaker

The West Pickle Research building may be demolished in a project leasing 109 acres of UT land to commercial development. The eight university departments within the building will have to be relocated regardless of the potential demolition.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Eight University departments will be relocated when UT leases 109 acres of land on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus for commercial development. 

The land UT is planning to lease to Houston-based developer Hines includes the West Pickle Research Building, an office building and a small storage building, according to Amy Wanamaker, campus director of real estate.

The land is located at the corner of the North MoPac expressway and West Braker Lane and is part of the J.J. Pickle Research Campus tract, which is 475 acres in total. At the last Faculty Council meeting, President William Powers Jr said the University never had plans to use all of the research campus’ tract. 

Wanamaker said Hines will decide whether or not to demolish the complex, but the UT departments within the building will be relocated. Wanamaker said University officials have yet to determine if there are buildings available on the main research campus to utilize for the relocation.

Hines spokeswoman Kim Jagger said Hines has not made any decision regarding the research facility’s future on the property.

“Hines will work closely with UT to make that determination, but no decision has been made at this point in time,” Jagger said.

According to Jagger, Hines has worked on a variety of properties, including industrial parks, medical facilities, skyscrapers and residential communities. She said Hines worked to develop the athletic alumni center at the University of Houston and the Shepherd School of Music building at Rice University. 

Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the University accepted bids on the land from developers. The University is negotiating a contract with Hines that should be finalized within the next few months. 

Hegarty said the University has previously leased land bordering the research campus for commercial development. In 2003, the University leased 46 acres of land to Simon Properties, creating The Shops at Arbor Walk, a shopping center including a Home Depot, Marshalls and DSW Shoe Warehouse.

The Shops at Arbor Walk is located directly across the North MoPac Expressway from the Pickle Research Campus West project area. Hegarty said the University will have more involvement in the development of the 109 acres than they did with Simon Properties.

“In the arrangement, which we have gotten approval to negotiate with [Hines], we will work hand in hand with the developer,” Hegarty said. “I’ll distinguish that from across the street where, with Simon properties, we went to market, but we were just out in the market to lease that land to a developer to put up a commercial facility as they deem fit.”

Jagger said Hines has a general idea of what will be constructed on the land.

“Hines intends to develop a mixed-use master plan primarily consisting of office, multifamily, retail and hospitality uses in addition to significant preservation of natural open space,” Jagger said.

Hegarty said the University hopes to see residential apartments constructed on the land in order to address the needs of UT employees.

“We were happy to see the residential development because many of our researchers and people who work at Pickle have expressed an interest to be able to live close to where they work,” Hegarty said. “Yet, there are no neighborhoods around there — this will create its own neighborhood.”

The first student housing project to be built on University-owned land but developed and maintained by an outside company opened Tuesday.

2400 Nueces is a $63.9 million complex standing 16-stories tall. It is located two blocks from campus and has 304 apartments with 622 bedrooms, with rates ranging from $796 per person for a four-bedroom apartment to $1358 for a single-bedroom apartment. Josh Wilson, vice president of development on 2400 Nueces, said the building is already at 99 percent capacity.

“[2400 Nueces] is the premier student housing at UT right now,” Wilson said. “I just think it’s going to be high-quality product for the neighborhood.”

The complex offers amenities including a swimming pool, fitness center, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a coffee bar. 

Walter Wukasch II, a University Area Partners board member, said although some may be concerned with the rising cost of living in the campus area, this development will help lower housing costs in the long run by adding housing units where there were none before. University Area Partners acts as the neighborhood association of West Campus.  

“These are upscale units,” Wukasch said. “[But] the total number of units in the neighborhood is going to make it where the new projects are going to have to be more competitive.”

The housing development stands on the lot of what was previously Wooldridge Hall, which housed the University’s International Office, an administrative body of UT that handles study abroad, international students, English as a second language classes and other services. The International Office now operates out of the first and second floors of 2400 Nueces.

Wooldridge Hall was already due for demolition before the University decided to create more student housing, said Amy Wanamaker, campus director of real estate.

“The cost to bring the property up to standards was prohibitive for us, and we needed a more functional building,” Wanamaker said. “These are the reasons we thought of capitalizing the return on the property here by allowing a ground lease. And we didn’t want to sell [the University’s] property.”

Under the terms of the ground lease, the University lends the use of their land for a yearly fee of about $100,000 to Education Realty Trust, which owns and operates college housing across the country and is a $1.8 billion publically-traded company. The company paid the entire $63.9 million cost to develop the building and will receive all profits from its operation.

According to Wanamaker, the University accepted the company’s plan for student housing primarily because of the company’s 50-year history in the student housing industry. This is the first time UT is working with Education Realty Trust.

“Their experience, their ability to work with UT and their desire to be in the market made them a good partner,” Wanamaker said. “We particularly wanted something built that wasn’t a dorm. We have dorms.”

Larry Speck, a UT architecture professor and lead designer for the building, said he designed the building to foster a sense of community among its inhabitants, to be environmentally sustainable and to make the surrounding neighborhood a better urban space.

“We really are conscious about trying to build a nicer West Campus,” Speck said.

Speck also said he designed 2400 Nueces to help change the pattern of UT students moving from one apartment building to to another  every year, which he believes harms students’ chances of forming lasting friendships.

“I hope it’s the kind of building, which is rare at UT, where people actually can move out of living in Jester their freshman year, and they move in here and they stay here for three years,” Speck said.

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UT is currently building a 16-story tower on Nueces and 24th street, which will provide 622 beds, a swimming pool, a fitness center and a rooftop patio. The $63.9 million building will be ready for occupancy in Fall 2013.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

A new addition to West Campus is scheduled to open in the fall semester of 2013.

2400 Nueces, the new student and faculty housing, will consist of 304 units that will provide 622 beds ranging from studios to four-bedroom apartments.

“It’s not a [typical] UT housing development,” said Amy Wanamaker, campus director of real estate. “UT owns the property, and we saw the opportunity to generate return on the property and the need for student, faculty and graduate housing within two blocks of the University.”

UT has ground-leased the property that was once old Wooldridge Hall to Education Realty Trust, one of the largest companies in the U.S. involved in developing and running collegiate housing. Architectural firm PageSoutherlandPage designed 2400 Nueces to go along with the modern look of the University.

“PageSoutherlandPage are local, well respected architects that came up with a beautiful design,” Wanamaker said.

EDR is developing this new 16-story high-rise for the UT System Board of Regents and will proceed to own and manage it, said Susan Jennings, spokeswoman for EDR. The $63.9 million production will provide amenities such as structured parking, a swimming pool, a fitness center, a rooftop patio, granite countertops and ceramic tiling, she said.

“The apartments are designed and marketed for graduate students, staff and upperclassmen, but we abide by all Fair Housing Laws,” Jennings said.

In addition to apartments, the University Neighborhood Overlay requires that the ground floor contain a “high percentage of local uses.” These uses may include retail and the possibility of the International Office moving into the building.

“[The] UNO requirement is for either office or retail, and we’re proposing that the International Office relocate back on the property for the board to approve in their Nov. 10 meeting,” Wanamaker said. “It’s not a guarantee until the lease has been negotiated and executed, and the board has approved the request.”

The International Office staff has been temporarily moved off campus. Candace Shye, International Office director, said they are excited about the possible transition to a new building.

“We used to be in 27,000 square feet. We’re in less than 18,000 now, and we’re in three different locations so they had to split our offices up,” Shye said. “One of the things I’m looking forward to if we get our office is that our whole office will be back under the same roof again.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: More housing added by campus for 2013

A total of 622 new beds will be available to students in West Campus for the fall 2013 semester, according to an official from the University’s realty group.

The site, located where the 120-year-old Wooldridge Hall stood until this summer, will contain a high-rise apartment complex built by Education Realty Trust Inc., said Amy Wanamaker, director of campus real estate. While the University will continue to own the land, the building will be handled by the realtors, and the University will make only a small profit, she said.

“It’s kind of a low-risk, low-profit endeavor for us,” she said. “We’ll always own the land and the better news is that we’re not putting our own funds into the development. There will probably be a modest return, but it’s a low-risk one, which is really important to us.”

The group plans for the UT International Office, formerly in Wooldridge Hall, to relocate to the first floor of the complex, which is required by the University Neighborhood Overlay to be reserved for office or retail space, Wanamaker said.

The unit will be 16 stories tall, providing studio, one-, two-, three- and four-bed units, and will contain a structured parking garage and a swimming pool, said Gene del Monte, director of construction and development for Education Realty Trust, Inc. The project will have 613 beds for undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty, he said.
Construction on the project is scheduled to begin this month, and the complex should open in August of 2013, del Monte said. Although pricing will not be determined until later in the building process, it will be based off of pricing in other comparable apartment complexes in West Campus, he said.

“Pricing will be competitive,” he said. “We’re not going to overprice the complex while other new buildings are going up as well.”
The project is one among several new complexes being built or already built in West Campus that are particularly tall, including 21 Rio and The Castilian, del Monte said.

The University will lease the land out to the realty group and building the facility will likely be costly, said Brian Donovan, a member of the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee. An August discussion regarding affordability in the West Campus area among groups such as CANPAC resulted in a compromise with city commission members. If the compromise is approved by City Council, new complexes will have to contribute more to the affordability funds and provide more beds at lower rates than before.

The University is exempt from city zoning restrictions and could choose to ignore affordability requirements if officials wanted to, but Donovan said he believes they will choose to follow the requirements. Providing affordable housing through the realty group is actually better in terms of affordability than it would be if the University had chosen to build the complex independently, Donovan said.

“I believe that they’re going to comply with the University Neighborhood Overlay’s requirements,” he said. “I feel good about the fact that they’re going to follow the requirements like other developments in West Campus instead of taking advantage of the option to ignore them.”

A construction worker helps demolish the International Office building located on 24th and Nueces Wednesday afternoon. The new office has been relocated to 23rd and Rio Grande, above Red Mango.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The International Office found a new home this summer after UT leased its old location to developers looking to erect a new apartment tower.

The Board of Regents signed a 60-year ground lease with Education Realty Trust, who will develop, own and manage a multi-family apartment complex at 2400 Nueces Street, said campus director of real estate Amy Wanamaker. The International Office is temporarily located at 2222 Rio Grande Street above Red Mango but will be permanently housed at the new complex upon completion.

Wanamaker said UT is demolishing Wooldridge Hall, the former home of the office and ground-leasing the location to the student-housing developer after determining this was the most profitable use of the land asset.

UT leased the location so the firm would develop the property and return profit at minimal risk to UT, she said.

“They have 50 years of experience in higher education student housing development, and we thought they would be a good fit for the University,” Wanamaker said.

With an increasing student population there is a growing need for housing, said Education Realty Trust spokeswoman Susan Jennings.
Jennings said the firm was designing an apartment community that would appeal to different people, including graduate students and faculty.

“[The] main priorities were to take some of the textures and colors from the existing historical architecture of the campus and repeat them in this building to make a nice transition into the neighborhood,” she said.

Jennings said construction follows the guidelines of the University Neighborhood Overlay, designed by the city to allow for dense development in the West Campus area.

The $63.9 million project will include 306 units ranging from studios to four-bedrooms, a parking garage, a swimming pool, a rooftop patio and ground-level retail space, she said.

Construction will begin in the next few months and continue until summer 2013, Jennings said.

Wooldridge Hall was originally built in the 1880s but was so heavily rebuilt over the following 45 years that it was no longer the same building, said UT spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon.

“The building didn’t have elevators. There were structural problems with the roof, and so the regents ended up making the decision to go this direction,” Weldon said.

The International Office was located in Wooldridge since December 2004 and had been told multiple times that UT intended to move them since, said Candace Shye, an executive assistant for the office.

Shye said the staff is generally positive about the move, considering the old building had rain leaks, sinking floor tiles, dripping air-conditioning units, overflowing sinks and even a six-month rat infestation.

“Generally we’re all very happy that we moved over here, and I think, for the most part it was a smooth transition,” she said.

Once the apartment construction is finalized in August 2013, the International Office will relocate to the office space in the first two stories of the complex, she said.

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: International Office moves to Rio Grande temporarily