Watson: Parking lot best place for Austin’s medical school – Austin Business Journal

Shouldn’t they be looking at places in Austin that have lots of space and are under-served?  What about the 208 acres in the Colony Park area where an anchor is needed to build up that community? Why try to squeeze a medical school in such a small space?  Is Kirk Watson a representative of all of Austin or just certain areas?

Watson: Parking lot best place for Austin’s medical school – Austin Business Journal.

Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 2:11pm CDT

The parking lot between the Frank Erwin Center and University Medical Center Brackenridge is the best place to center Austin’s proposed medical school and teaching hospital, according to one of its most vocal backers, state Sen. Kirk Watson.

Watson, D-Austin, was asked about possible locations for the ambitious proposal during a luncheon Tuesday put on by the Austin chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women. Watson told CREW members the parking lot is desirable because it’s already owned by the the University of Texas — which is collaborating with Seton Healthcare Family on the medical school proposal — plus it’s next to UMCB, which could still be used to teach doctors after a modern teaching hospital is built next door.

Watson said the medical school wouldn’t be confined to that parking lot and the current UMCB site at East 15th and Red River streets on the northern fringe of downtown. He also spoke of “expensive” tennis courts to the east of the parking lot and possibly underused state property closer to the Capitol. But the heart of the complex, he said, would be around Waterloo Park, which is next to the Erwin Center parking lot and UMCB.

CREW members were eager to learn about the bidding process for the billion-dollar project. They wanted to know who would issue bids — UT, Seton or another entity — and whether local contractors would get preference, but Watson had no answers.

“I’ll probably start looking at the bidding process on Nov. 7,” he said.

That’s because Austin voters must approve a tax increase to fund the proposed medical school during the Nov. 6 election. If approved, Watson said Austin gaining a medical school is tantamount to it securing the University of Texas in 1883. A recent report pegged its annual economic value to be more than $2 billion, and 15,000 jobs could be created.

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