Austin: Developers of $90M Holdsworth Center Still Wading Through Permit Process
Feature Photo (above): As seen from near the Pennybacker Bridge (SH 360), the red arrow points to the vicinity of the future Holdsworth Center. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis County) – Officials with The Holdsworth Center are anticipating they will get through the city of Austin’s permitting process for their 44-acre multi-million dollar campus sometime in the late fall.
The concept for the campus, which project architect Lake|Flato estimates will cost about $90 million, was presented to City Council in February 2017. Since then, the project team has been slogging through the lengthy review period on a project that is in one of the city’s more sensitive areas–the Lake Austin waterfront property northwest of downtown.
The Holdsworth Center describes itself as a premier school leadership institute. Plans are to convert the site into a retreat for class training and leadership development for the benefit of public school districts.
Conceptual illustration of the living quarters for invitees of the future Holdsworth Center. Courtesy of Lake|Flato.
The center was founded by Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B. It is named after his mother, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt, an educator and philanthropist.
“The Center’s goal is to successfully support and develop the leaders of the more than 1,200 public school districts in Texas in order to improve the quality of education offered in the classroom,” according to the mission statement Holdsworth Center submitted with its land development application.
“Holdsworth participants will explore their personal leadership through a unique set of experiences including international travel, exposure to the best military and private industry leadership experts in the country and facilitated lectures with expert faculty and group discussion.
“Adding to the experience will be the environment in which all this takes place–a retreat setting that promotes reflection, thought and dialog. Classes and group projects will focus on critical topics such as change management, effective teaming, board relations and best practices in talent management.”
A Holdsworth Center land use plan. Courtesy of City of Austin public records.
Construction plans include the place of 17 buildings varying in height from one to three stories for a total of about 180,000 gross square feet. Building heights cannot exceed 40 feet for structures placed at elevations below 520 feet above sea level, and they can’t exceed 25 feet for buildings placed at elevations higher than 520 feet above sea level.
The terrain is steep, dropping from about 640 feet above sea level at Ranch-to-Market 2222 to about 500 feet near the shore, where the center will be across the lake from the Austin Country Club.
“Permitted land uses shall include meeting facilities, sleeping quarters for no more than 250 invitees, common area dining facilities, administrative offices, recreational facilities, one permanent residence for Holdsworth Center staff, accessory uses, parking and related facilities and uses,” the planned unit development (PUD) application states.
Impervious cover will be limited to less than 20 percent of the 44 acres, or about 8.8 acres. The provided parking will be limited to 300 spaces.
The retreat will include three boat docks of which two will be “day docks” that extend 45 feet from shoreline, but with no mechanical equipment. The third dock will have two boat slips with mechanical lifts and it will extend 60 feet from shore.
The mobility/traffic plan for Holdsworth Center. Courtesy of City of Austin public records.
Environmental considerations include a “dark sky” plan to minimize after-hours lighting, and a tree plan that must preserve 75 percent of heritage trees that are greater than 6 caliper inches.
The land is comprised of dense forest and is owned by the R.G. Mueller Jr. Partnership LP; the Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership LLC has it under contract.
The planned unit development was approved by the city Dec. 20, 2017. Last week, Development Services approved the site plan, which brings the development team a step closer to being able to do some site work and infrastructure.
However, permits for parking lots and building construction, especially the main meeting facility, are pending.
Kate Rogers, executive vice president of the Holdsworth Center, told VBX that the project manager is hoping to work through the permitting process sometime in the late fall.
In the meantime, construction documents are still in development, as is estimating on project costs, she added.
Once construction begins, Lake|Flato estimated it will take about 21 months to finish.
Early conceptual illustration of the Holdsworth Center. Courtesy of Lake|Flato.
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.