Austin: Dell Medical Awaits State Funds for $300M State Mental Hospital
Feature Illustration (above): A new signature open space, positioned near the campus center and next to the planned new hospital, can bring new life to the campus, while creating a new and restorative healing environment between the sub-spaces. Courtesy: Page.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis County) — Now that much of the pre-planning is in place for a new state mental hospital, the steering committee headed by Dell Medical School, proceeding to construction will depend on whether the Texas Legislature’s willingness to fund a project that could cost up to $300 million.
In January 2018, Dell Medical at the University of Texas-Austin was awarded $15.5 million to redesign the Austin State Hospital, an obsolete institution whose first buildings predate the Civil War, having been built between 1857-1861. The original Old Main building is a historic landmark and will remain, but three buildings constructed in 1958 that provide clinical services and housing on the Hyde Park campus are marked for demolition.
The Austin State Hospital Redesign Steering Committee retained Page as lead architect and Vermeulens as pre-construction estimator. By December, they were ready to submit a master plan document for a single hospital building, with options. It was updated and publicly revealed in late January, just in time to circulate among the legislators that will be tasked with championing the project.
State Senators Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, are leading that effort.
A Central Spine aligned north-south across the campus will create a corridor for pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation. It provides an opportunity for connectivity and ease of partnerships between the new hospital and associated gray box development. Courtesy: Page.
In the master plan, the future facility is referred to as the Austin State Hospital Brain Health Campus. The campus, at 95 acres, is roughly the size of 10 to 12 city blocks. It is surrounded by chain link fence and numerous other security features. The master plan envisions a more open framework intended to encourage a welcoming environment:
“Extending the established grid of streets enhances site access by improving connection to adjacent vehicular arteries, while the proposed street design includes generous tree-lined sidewalks to encourage pedestrian circulation between uses within the campus and to the surrounding residential neighborhood and commercial uses.”
The three options all have in common the replacement of the outmoded buildings with a modern inpatient facility. It is thought that an attractive, user-friendly brain health campus might cause strategic partners to locate on campus.
“By so doing, the campus will help to destigmatize the care of people with mental illnesses, fostering greater empathy and acceptance of these common conditions.”
ASH Total Project Cost
A space needs assessment concluded that at a minimum the new campus should have a two- to three-story 373,867-square-foot of facility on 15 acres next to North Lamar Boulevard between West 42nd and 43rd Streets. An “enhanced model” put the facilities total at 407,831 square feet. A total project cost for a 240-bed, 373,900-square-foot hospital building, plus site development and other required services was estimated to be $282,680,000.
The inclusion of certain recommended optional costs added almost $10 million to the base total estimate.
There was also consideration given to the addition of a second patient building that would have 48 inpatient beds and a size of 51,250 square feet. The construction subtotal is $505 per square foot, with a total per square foot cost at build out of $744 for a grand total of just over $38 million.
Other optional cost considerations included:
Abatement/Demoltion of Existing Buildings: $8,040,000
Campus Center Plaza: $3,625,000
Extension of a North-South Drive: $3,230,000
Replacement of Electrical Gear and Bldg Enclosure (for Building 538): $11,070,000
Dr. Stephen Strakowski is chairman of the steering committee and Dell Medical’s Department of Psychiatry. In a recent Austin Business Journal report, he expressed the hope that a construction manager-at-risk would be selected this month through a request for qualifications (RFQ).
Depending on the availability of funding, the project schedule calls for the early package subcontractor solicitation to be out the third quarter this year. Early package construction documents will go out from the fourth quarter 2019 through mid 2020. The construction phase is slate to start late summer 2020 and continue through the first quarter of 2023.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.