Medical Center

Portions of Red River Street will close between March and October 2014 for street realignment, which will allow Seton Healthcare Family to build a teaching hospital on an enlarged tract of land, meant to accompany the future Dell Medical Center.

Because the University needs more room than it currently has for the medical district, which is projected to be more than 1 million square feet with the addition of the teaching hospital, the city agreed in August to reroute Red River Street, city spokesperson Clark Patterson said.

The curved portion of Red River Street near 15th Street will be vacated by the city in exchange for University land east of the street, Patterson said. This will extend Red River Street to East 15th Street.

At a UT System Board of Regents meeting in May, architecture professor Lawrence Speck said the realignment would allow for a more practical building structure.

“[Red River Street] creates strangely shaped parcels of land, where the grid [that used to be in place] made for much more sensible parcels,” Speck said.

The road extension, utilities, landscaping and other preparations are projected to cost $16.5 million, according to Dell Medical School preliminary documents.

The medical school, scheduled to begin construction in April 2014, will be built on land that is currently Centennial Park, said Rhonda Weldon, director of communications. Part of this land is also a Frank Erwin Center parking lot and another part is University property east of Waller Creek.

Because the medical school’s construction will take away parking from the Erwin Center, there will be a parking lot in the medical campus area to make up for this,
Weldon said.

The University is leasing the land to Central Health, a governmental entity that maintains health care facilities in Central Texas, which will in turn sublease to Seton, said Florence Mayne, executive director of real estate for the UT System. Because the land is zoned for various uses, including multi-family, general commercial services and general office uses, the UT System is requesting that the city change the zoning to public.

“[The University] just came in and said, rather than have all this various zoning, which also gives you various development standards, we’ll just change it all to [Category P],” Paterson said. “We’ll be under one big umbrella.”

Weldon said the University is working to ensure construction will not affect Waller Creek, which runs through Centennial Park.

“The university plans to improve Waller Creek … sure up banks, manage health of vegetation and water,” Weldon said. “We see Waller Creek as a natural amenity, an asset to continuing the pedestrian experience we already have on campus.”

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The subject involved in an armed standoff with Austin Police Department on Sunday night has been identified as Gene Phillip Vela, a graduate public affairs student.

Vela, a member on the Senate of College Councils leadership team and a representative for the Graduate Public Affairs Council, was shot in the torso by police Sunday after pointing a handgun and laser at them through his apartment window.

Members of the Senate of College Councils were instructed by the executive board not to comment.

Vela was treated at the University Medical Center Brackenridge and released into police custody Monday, and was booked at 3:26 a.m. at the Travis County Jail on charges of aggravated assault on a police officer.

The two policemen who fired at Vela, Leo Cardenas and Adrien Chopin, were put on administrative leave until the investigation concludes, which APD Assistant Chief Raul Munguia said is standard procedure. Cardenas has been on the force for three-and-a-half years, while Chopin has been on the force for two.

Police were summoned to Vela’s apartment at 2900 Cole Street, close to St. David’s Medical Center, on Sunday night after Vela called a friend, requested help and hung up abruptly, at which point the friend called 911.

“[When the officers arrived], the subject started pointing the gun at the officers, so the officers naturally tried to take cover,” Munguia said Sunday night.

After an officer discharged a round, Vela retreated into his apartment, and police heard what they believed to be Vela loading and discharging more firearms, Munguia said.

When Vela returned to his apartment window, he pointed his handgun, which was equipped with a laser, directly at the officers’ chests, at which point Cardenas and Chopin fired.

“Within a few minutes, the subject in the apartment said he was bleeding and that he needed help,” Munguia said. “At that point, he came to the front door with his hands up and pretty much gave up. The officers took him into custody and helped him into the ambulance.”

Vela is one of two teaching assistants for Introduction to International Relations and Global Studies, taught by government lecturer Stephanie Holmsten. Government graduate student Cathy Wu, the other teaching assistant, said working with Vela has been an entirely positive experience so far. 

“I didn’t know him before this semester at all, but at least in my experience, he is always very nice,” Wu said. “I saw him at most once a week, maybe twice, but we’ve shared our experiences teaching — he gave me some good suggestions about leading discussion. We share our ideas.”

Wu said she was entirely taken aback by news of Vela’s arrest.

“Absolutely, of course I am surprised,” Wu said. “I didn’t expect this — not at all, honestly.”

Click here to read the full story of the standoff.

Ceramic cows located around Austin will be auctioned off on Nov. 13 to benefit Superhero Kids

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Jay Leno will make a guest appearance Nov. 13 when the painted cows that have made their home in downtown Austin are auctioned off for charity.

Proceeds from the auction, which will be held at ACL-Live Moody Theatre, will benefit Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Superhero Kids program, a foundation offering financial assistance to families of children fighting cancer and blood disorders, said U.S. Money Reserve CEO Dean Leipsner. The founder of U.S. Money Reserve is a sponsor of CowParade Austin.

“This is what happens with CowParade,” Leipsner said. “The money goes to the charity and the cows go home.”

The 40 to 45 cows are expected to be auctioned for anywhere between $500 and $10,000 each, Leipsner said. He said their monetary goal from invitations to the auction and bids is to raise half a million to a million dollars for the Superhero Kids program.

“Every cow has been and continues to be a major piece of artwork,” Leipsner said. “These are not just ceramic cows that have had paint slapped on them and thrown around the city. We are one of 71 CowParades that have taken place all across the U.S. and around the world.”

Leipsner said CowParade Austin was made possible by a $75,000 donation from U.S. Money Reserve founder Milton Verret. The auction, which will be hosted by renowned auctioneer Spanky Assiter, will allow winning bidders to keep the cows and take a picture with Jay Leno.

The cow auction will be an invitation-only event limited to 2,000 seats, Leipsner said. He said the public can receive an invitation by making a minimum donation of $25, or a minimum of $500 for a VIP invitation.

CowParade surveyed needs of the Austin community and decided the Superhero Kids program was a natural fit for their outreach, said Ray Blue, senior development director for the foundation.

“I think more than the money we’re going to generate, the awareness we’re going to raise about the center and the fund is going to be so much more valuable long term,” Blue said.

The money raised will directly assist families with children going through treatment, said John Joseph, co-founder of the Superhero Kids program. He said it will help pay for things such as bills, transportation and clothing because oftentimes a parent has to quit work in order to attend medical appointments and care for the child who can’t continue school.