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AUSTIN-The University of Texas owns 405 acres of largely undeveloped land straddling MoPac Boulevard in Northwest Austin. That’s about to change, presenting an array of opportunities for the university and the city’s business and real estate communities.

The university has hired Ft. Worth-based Carter & Burgess to create a master plan that will guide development of the property as a satellite campus to the main campus in central Austin. The plan’s timeline: 20 to 25 years.

The architecture, engineering and construction management firm is teaming up for the project with Ayer/Saint/Gross of Washington and Baltimore, a planner of educational facilities. In the 1990s, UT hired Cesar Pelli & Associates, based in New Haven, CT, to update the master plan for the main campus.

Carter & Burgess’s Austin office is breaking the $1-million job into two parts. The first is to assess the university’s needs and establish a vision of what it wants. The second is to figure out how to make the vision a reality, i.e., the master plan.

“It’s a potential paradigm shift in the way they’ve handled properties up there,” Steve Coulston, architect and regional design manager in Carter & Burgess’s Austin office, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re probably looking at much denser land use that has a little bit more critical mass, that potentially ties into new transportation systems and becomes a more responsible utilization of their land assets. Kind of making the most out of a very valuable piece of land in Northwest Austin.”

The western 180 acres strings out along the back of what has been called Austin’s Golden Triangle, the intersection of MoPac, Texas 183 and Capital of Texas Highway. It’s a haven of mixed-use with shopping centers such as the Arboretum and Gateway Shopping Center; hotels such at the Austin Renaissance Hotel; and a growing number of office buildings.

That portion of the UT land is vacant except for the Microelectronics and Computer (MCC) Technology Building and parcel leased for commercial use. Built for MCC and leased to it in the mid-1980s, the building is largely occupied by university functions as the research consortium was phased out.

The eastern part of the UT land, 225 acres, is the site of the J.J. Pickle Research campus. It has been built somewhat haphazardly as some research-related work outgrew the main campus.

Coulston says the Carter & Burgess team this week is visiting satellite campuses in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, including some of the newer ones at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Centennial campus at North Carolina State University.

Another task will be to interview a wide range of people at the university about what they want to see at the northwest campus. From those interviews, “we’ll start to see some replication of objectives and goals that can be formulated into what the long-term strategic vision is going to be,” Coulston says. And from that, the master plan will be developed with design guidelines, building and land-use parameters and the overall development of the property.

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