Monday, October 24, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 2, 2016

We live in interesting times, times of rapid change. We can either lament the change and stand on the sidelines, or we can enter into the change and try to shape the future for the better.

Our neighborhood is changing. You probably have noticed that many of our neighbors have been developing their property. Several years ago the University Baptist Church undertook a land lease with a developer, and now we have the Calloway House down the street. Soon after that the Lutheran Center (catty-corner from our Parish Center/Gym) also entered into a deal with developers, and now we have University House as a neighbor. The University of Texas has also gotten into the act, buying property around MLK and Guadalupe for their new business school Clearly that work is well underway. Finally, we all learned recently that the McDonald’s site is being redeveloped and will become a multi-story luxury hotel in the Marriott chain. Our neighborhood is changing.
I think that we as a parish, with all the development going on around us, need to ask what are we doing?

Well, we just upgraded our school with new bathrooms, an art room and an enrichment center. We are updating the appearance of our Church on the drag, redoing the first floor of the rectory, and adding a new lobby with new bathrooms. Beyond that, however, what opportunities and possibilities are opening up for us?  How can we best use the potential that our location gives us?

Beginning with some questions from the School Advisory Board, we have begun to seriously ask that question. We have received permission from the Diocese of Austin to meet with developers to explore potential redevelopment opportunities that would leverage our existing properties to the maximum mission and financial benefit to our community. I have formed a small committee (Development Committee) to assist me in this process: Christopher Kennedy, Trish Dolese, Christopher Bell, Ted Smith, Kelly Badu and Jennifer Anderson. We are in the process of selecting a broker to represent the parish’s interests as we solicit offers from developers. This committee will be formulating our “needs” that any development deal will have to address and will be reaching out to relevant parish and school groups, as needed, for assistance.

At the outset of this exploration, I want emphasize that this is an exploration, and I want to allay any concerns you may have about what we are doing. So as to maximize opportunities for developers to think about the totality of our property, we have only placed a few restrictions on the ideas we are willing to entertain:

  • ·         No land will be sold as part of any deal. Rather, a long term lease will likely be negotiated.
  • ·         The church building itself (as our worship home) and the new entrance lobby we are adding      will remain, and no development plan will be entertained that removes these buildings.
  • ·         Any development deal will need to include space for our school on-site.
  • ·         Any development deal will need to include ministry space on-site.

This will be a long undertaking, and there is absolutely no pre-conceived notion about the success of any development deal. We are undertaking this exploration as good stewards of the parish’s resources, attempting to ensure that those resources are being used in the best manner possible to continue the mission of this parish, now and into the future. All the various groups such as the parish staff, the school community, the Diocese of Austin, and certainly St. Austin Parish at large, will be consulted prior to any agreement.
I want to assure you that we will keep you up to date as this process unfolds! I ask for your prayers as we proceed.  THANKS. 

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