Army officials are defending nearly $8.5 million in Austin real estate purchases from 2018—around the same time public buzz peaked for the new Army Futures Command headquarters. The military technology hub is now established in Austin, which beat out several other U.S. cities in a process that mirrored Amazon's search for its second headquarters, or "HQ2."
A private company hired by the Army spent $8.49 million on high-end real estate deals in Austin's "second-richest ZIP code," according to Stars And Stripes. Here is how much each property cost at the time:
- $3.4 million
- $2 million
- $1.8 million
- $1.29 million (lot next to one of the commander's home)
The private housing partner Fort Hood Family Housing helped the Army find luxurious properties for three Army Futures Command leaders: the four-star general in charge of Army Futures Command, the command sergeant major and the three-star deputy commander.
Army officials defended the purchase of the four properties as "the right decision ... just given the complexity of the Austin market," presumably referring to the rapidly rising values of Austin properties.
Back in October 2018, for example, the average cost of an Austin home was $308,355. Now the Austin Board of Realtors reports that $355,000 is the median Austin home value, a 15% increase since the Army purchases. That means the combined value of the four properties could be approximately $9.76 million today.
They also dispelled any notion that investments in Austin took away from housing investments at the Fort Hood Army base in Killeen.
"There's no impact to what we're investing in Fort Hood because of the purchase of the homes in Austin," Maj. Gen. Robert D. Harter told Stars And Stripes.
Fort Hood Family Housing was directed to find housing in close proximity to the Futures Command headquarters in downtown Austin, and the properties purchased are all within a 10-minute drive, Stars And Stripes reports. The homes also were slated to be 4,000-5,000 square feet, although at least one home is reportedly smaller than that.
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With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."