Just before 2 a.m. Friday, the Austin City Council approved what’s billed as the largest development project to hit downtown.
Developer Trammell Crow won the right to buy the former Green Water Treatment Plant for $42 million. The decision followed nearly six hours of opinion from concerned citizens and construction workers.
Oralia Garza with Austin Interfaith says the city council holds the key to success for hundreds of families who could have jobs revitalizing the old Green Water Treatment Plant. Garza urged the city council to require developer Trammell Crow to pay construction crews a living wage of $12 an hour.
"We must work together to strategically eradicate poverty by paying our construction workers at least $12 [an hour] because $12 will get them out of poverty," she said.
Met by opposition from Trammell Crow and concerns that certain trades would be paid less than the market demands, the city council took the living wage off the table in exchange for paying workers the prevailing wage for their specific trade. Contractors and sub-contractors are also encouraged to enroll workers in training programs that can easily bring their wages above the living wage baseline.
The city will get $42.4 million from the sale of the property. Most of that money will go to the city's General Fund. However, not everyone agrees with how the sale's profits are distributed. Community activist Paul Robbins says the city is using appraisals of the land that are almost a decade old. He believes the property belongs to Austin Water, and the city never would approve the same sale if the water utility was negotiating it.
"The council would go after this profligate project like a bloodhound,” Robbins said.
Trammell Crow has plans to build several high rises of apartments on the land, along with hotel, office and retail space. At least 10 percent of the apartments it will build will meet affordable living guidelines for 40 years.
Also, architects will work with the City Arborist to integrate seven heritage trees on the property, although it's not required.
Contractors will also be required to pay all construction workers a prevailing wage and ensure all receive proper safety training. You can read the details of the contract between the City of Austin and Trammell Crow by clicking here. The related materials accompany items 12 and 13.