Monday, May 1, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 30, 2017

Last week I provided an update on our Church Renovation effort. You can all see the progress for yourselves. This week I wanted to provide an update on an entirely different project, namely our potential property development. 
We have all seen the growth of our neighborhood. Several years ago it was the University Baptist Church that leased property to a developer resulting in the Calloway House. Then we saw the Lutheran Center (catty-corner from our Parish Center/Gym) enter a similar land lease, and now we have University House. Who can miss the UT McCombs Business School expansion with Rowling Hall in our front yard? Speaking of our front yard, this fall you will be able to visit Target after Mass with their new store in Dobie Mall. And if the Golden Arches is where you stopped for a quick bite after church, you will soon need to find a new spot, as the new multi-story Marriott hotel is being built on the McDonalds site. We understand that demolition will begin this summer.
Before the Christmas holidays, I let you know that we received permission from the Diocese of Austin to explore development opportunities on our properties. We formed a Development Committee who has been busy over the last few months interviewing firms to represent St. Austin. We are happy to announce that we are now under contract with CBRE to represent us as broker as we explore potential opportunities over the next year. CBRE is a global company who in 2015 had over $310 billion in business worldwide. There was a great deal of interest in our potential project, and it was a very competitive process with seven firms being interviewed by the committee with names that many of you would recognize. CBRE edged out the other firms with their extensive global network, and the Diocese of Austin approved their contract in early April.        
As I communicated last fall, we have a guiding framework we are working under:
-         No land will be sold. We are only exploring long term land leases.
-         The Church and the new entrance portico will remain.
-         Any development deal must include ministry space on-site.
-         Any development deal must include space for our school on-site.
-         Any development deal must bring third-party revenues to help us upgrade our existing campus.
At this point the Development Committee sees four phases to this exploration:
-         Over the next month, we want to communicate what we are exploring and get your input.
-         Summer 2017:  Test our assumptions in the market.
-         Late Fall 2017:  CBRE takes our needs to the market and accepts development proposals.
-         Early 2018:  Review proposals and see if there is something we want to explore . . .  or not!
I want to be clear we are simply at the exploratory phase. This is truly an exploration, and if this is not the right time for us to do something, we won’t. We need to let the developer markets propose their best ideas, and we get to sit back and see if it is right for us. It just seems that now is a very hot real-estate market in our neighborhood, so as good stewards, we want to test this. 

We are going to provide a number of ways for parishioners to keep abreast of this important work. In next week’s bulletin we will have a full list of communication sessions to hear about this effort during the month of May. I ask you to please consider joining in one of these sessions. I think you will find this effort interesting. The more we all know on the front end, the better off we will be when we need to make a decision next year. Thank you for your consideration.   

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