Changing Austin's Landscape From Old To New

By R.G. Pickard | September 28, 2010

When the Concordia University campus, which was built in 1926 near present day downtown Austin, needed room to expand, real estate in the area had become tremendously expensive. The original 23-acre campus was estimated to be worth $80 million on the real estate market in 2006, so the decision was made to sell the land and move the Concordia campus to the old Schlumberger Oil Company’s 365-acre research campus at the Balcones Canyonland Preserves on the outskirts of Austin.

Austin’s East Avenue Investment Group LP purchased the original Concordia campus that had 21 buildings near downtown. Some buildings dated to the time Concordia opened in 1926, but the newest ones were only four years old. All of it had to be removed to make way for a planned $750-million future development of the site, and the demolition of the campus was contracted to A&R Demolition, Inc., of Del Valle, TX.

The buildings on campus that had to be demolished ranged from approximately 5,000 square feet to approximately 60,000 square feet in size, with the tallest being four stories. Prior to demolition, asbestos remediation on the site was done by A&R Demolition’s sister company, Allstate Environmental Ltd., and a number of trees on site were removed and mulched by Austin Wood Recycling.

A&R Demolition used conventional methods to demolish the campus structures, employing a Hyundai 360 excavator with shear, and two Hyundai 290 excavators with hammer and processor attachments. Materials were loaded and removed using a Caterpillar 973 loader and a Terex articulated dump truck.

Stephen Reveile, project manager for A&R Demolition, said that the main problem was scheduling, because the East Avenue Investment Group was selling the land in parcels, so A&R demolition had to clear each parcel one at a time. However, Stephen said, “We also had to demolish one building right next door to a hospital which was keeping the emergency room open. The building was a four-story structure which we had to take down with a Hyundai excavator, and that required a lot of effort and coordination. That particular building was a bit more challenging than a normal demolition because of the need to minimize dust particles, which we did by using a high-pressure water spray to soak the airborne particles while it was being demolished. Additionally, we had to avoid touching the live power lines for the hospital which ran parallel to the structure. Those power lines were only 10 feet away from the building we were demolishing.”

All of the steel and concrete from the site is being recycled and sold, and the concrete was removed and crushed off-site. Stephen Reveile said that “we did a huge amount of recycling on this project, ultimately achieving a recycle rate of over 80 percent,” and due to the current slump in market prices, he adds, “We’re actually holding onto a significant amount of steel, waiting for prices to go back up. When we demolished everything, steel was selling for only $60 a ton, and now it is back up to about $120 per ton.”

The Concordia demolition was completed in January 2009, and Reveile said, “We did a lot of work on the Concordia campus, preparing the way to change Austin’s landscape from old to new,” and the future $750-million development of the site “will include condominiums, medical buildings, a hotel, shopping centers, and when the development is complete, it will be almost like having an entire town on the 23-acre site.”