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Salvation Army's downtown homeless shelter is being sold and redeveloped

A sign on a building says The Salvation Army.
Julia Reihs
For nearly four decades, The Salvation Army-owned property was home to a shelter for women.

The Salvation Army is selling the site of its shelter for homeless Austinites downtown.

The shelter shut down abruptly last month. The national nonprofit retained the developer CBRE to sell the site, which is expected to fetch millions.

Salvation Army Austin Commander Major Lewis Reckline said profits from the sale will go toward programs at the nonprofit's two other shelters in Austin, which are currently full.

A view of the Salvation Army land downtown.
Courtesy of CBRE
A view of the Salvation Army land downtown.

"We are committed to thoughtfully reinvesting the proceeds from the sale of the downtown building in the local community," he said in a joint announcement with CBRE.

Reckline said there is currently a 500-person waitlist for The Salvation Army's family shelters, which focus on helping women and children transition out of homelessness.

CBRE touted the downtown property, suggesting the three tracts had "the potential to develop more than 230,000 sq. ft. of mixed-use development."

All told, the site includes the lot that housed The Salvation Army's shelter at Eighth and Red River streets, a 1,500-square-foot building on Red River and a half-acre parking lot on the same street.

Salvation Army abruptly announced the closure of the shelter in February, citing costs of services and maintenance for the building, which was constructed in the late '80s.

After community pushback, the shelter agreed to postpone its closure to mid-March. Then, the city stepped in to ensure the nearly 100 residents were safely relocated before it shut its doors for good in April.

Last year, the county appraisal district valued the properties at more than $12 million.

They were essentially gifted to the nonprofit by philanthropist and real estate magnate Dick Rathgeber in 1985. Rathgeber told the Austin History Center in 2012 he made a handshake deal for the land, giving $1 million and a sizable plot of land on Lake Travis to the previous owner. The shelter was built shortly after that.

The shelter was a vital resource for Austinites experiencing homelessness, specifically single women, for nearly 40 years. It effectively became an anchor for homeless services downtown in the decades that followed.

The site is near nonprofits like Caritas and faith-based service providers like Trinity Center. It's also next door to the city's shelter for men, the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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