Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Rezoning of J.J. Pickle brings possibility of development

Amara Lopez

The Austin City Council voted in favor of rezoning the J.J. Pickle Research Campus as a life sciences lab and biomedical zone to expand on- and off-campus developments on March 21.

J.J. Pickle Research Campus sits in North Austin on 475 acres of land, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The facility serves as a research hub, including a nuclear research reactor, a 45,000-square-foot structural engineering lab and one of the largest university supercomputers. Now, with the rezoning, the University hopes to expand its current research to place emphasis on the growing industry of life sciences. 

The current plan combines yearslong planning efforts from the University for the research campus with city development plans first started in 2007 for the North Burnet/Gateway area, according to the redevelopment plan. The November 2007 plan proposed developing select parts of North Austin from industrial structures to mixed-use development. The rezoning has changed building regulations for the J.J. Pickle facility, giving the University and other partners the opportunity to expand and develop possible housing and commercial ventures within the area, according to the development plan

“There is great work going on right now at Pickle — advanced manufacturing and advanced computing for example — and our enhancing the current opportunities and efforts will only further the life sciences strategy and vision,” Dan Allen, executive director of Real Estate Planning and Strategy for the University, said in an email. 

According to a report released in July 2023 by Austin Medtech Connect and Austin Next, Austin’s venture funding for life sciences grew tenfold from 2017 to 2023, proving the need for increased development for the industry.

“Life sciences is a particular type of industry that the council is interested in incentivizing, and, therefore, they want to centralize the innovation district that would create and accelerate the life sciences sector,” said Jorge Rousselin, division manager for the city of Austin Urban Design department.

The possible expansion is linked to UT’s goal of developing innovation, including the future hospital developments at the Frank Erwin Center site. In September, President Jay Hartzell expressed in the State of the University Address the University’s desire to become a hub for the life sciences. 

“I would argue now is the time for that (investment) to extend to the life sciences,” Hartzell said during the address. “One of the ways that we can rally behind this idea is with an academic medical center, with a top medical school in conjunction with the other assets of this university to really make Austin the next hub for life science technology and innovation.”

The University is currently exploring the next steps in accomplishing UT’s long-term goals, Allen said. There is no known timeline for development in this area. 

“Our long-term vision is for Pickle to become a vibrant, mixed-use innovation district that might include housing and other commercial opportunities,” Allen said.

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