By Bill Oakey – June 5, 2014
Update: Response From Austin Energy Is Now Included
If you owned a business that needed more space, what choice would you make on this deal. Would you build a brand new building for $67 million, or would you buy a bigger building with plenty of parking right next door for less than half the price?
Well, guess what…Austin Energy not only wants to spend $67 million for the new building, but on June 12th they will ask the City Council for an additional $9 million to develop the PLANS for it! The bureaucracy is alive and well, but this time we can’t let them get away with it.
Brian Rodgers, who is well-known for exposing the commercial tax appraisal inequities several years ago, sent out an alert this morning on the Austin Energy building boondoggle. A broker friend of his advised him that the huge 48 acre campus formerly owned by AMD is available for sale for $25 million. The address is 5900 East Ben White. It is located just a few feet away from the spot where Austin Energy wants to build their boondoggle. The price tag for AE’s dream building comes in at $375 per square foot, which is higher than the going rate for many downtown buildings. There is also another building nearby that should be evaluated for cost.
Right now, we need to do two things:
1. Contact all seven City Council members, using this link, to ask them to cancel the $9 million planning contract for the new building. This is Item #13 on the Council Agenda for June 12th. Ask them to evaluate purchasing the former AMD campus at 5900 East Ben White, as well as Building 312 at 6800 Burleson Road.
2. Work with the new candidates running in November to establish a reform. All proposed City building projects should be evaluated on a matrix against specific alternatives, using strict cost-conscious guidelines.
Austin Energy Responds – What Part of “Affordability” Do They Not Understand?
Late this morning, the Austin American-Statesman posted an online story on the criticism of Austin Energy’s expensive new building plans. The response from Austin Energy will probably not surprise you. Vince McGlone, a facilities manager, made this comment regarding the former AMD facility that is bigger and half the cost:
“I’m very familiar with that building, I used to work there,” McGlone said. “It does not suit our needs, it is 1986 vintage equipment. What we’re trying to do with our new suite is create a building that does not draw upon natural resources as much.”
Sandra Strauss-Jones, an Austin Energy project manager, offered this description of the new building that they want. “The new East Austin building would highlight the green-building practices the utility preaches. It will have solar panels in the parking lot, rainwater harvesting and pedestrian walking and biking trails.”
My Comments: It would be great if they could provide some type of solar panels for whatever building they get. There are lots of green building options out there. They need to go back to the drawing board and find a way to do it cost effectively with an existing, cheaper building. As for the bicycle and pedestrian hiking trails, I’m sorry. But we just want you to keep our lights on, guys! Do your hiking on your own time at your own expense. Or else, uh, take a hike! What part of “affordability” do you not understand?
A Look Back At Austin Energy’s Current Headquarters
For a bit of nostalgic history, here is how Austin Energy wound up in their current headquarters on Barton Springs Road. In the late 1980’s that building was called the Sumiken Building. A hack “consultant” who had worked in the mayor’s campaign lobbied for the contract to construct that building. Even though this guy had no real estate license, and often wore no shoes, he received a fat commission for speaking on behalf of the project at City Hall. Citizens were so outraged by this and other insider deals, that they elected several new council members who were far worse than what we had. It wasn’t until a few years later that Brigid Shea, Daryl Slusher, and Jackie Goodman were elected on a neighborhood and environmental platform.