The City of Austin, Texas worked with local stakeholders to create a Vision Framework Plan to guide redevelopment of and public investments in the City’s South Central Waterfront, a 97-acre district on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. The emerging Vision aspires to a lively and attractive pedestrian environment, safer bikeways, great public spaces, better connections to and along the waterfront, and development of a significant amount of affordable housing. The City won a competitive award to receive technical assistance through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Greening of America’s Capitals” program.
Through this award, the EPA hired CMG Landscape Architecture to assist Austin with developing portions of the Vision Framework Plan. Over the course of several months, the City and CMG undertook a participatory design process, including extensive public charrettes and focus groups with key stakeholders, to develop and identify design options that could improve the public realm. Conceptual design options for five individual sites were developed that respond to the surrounding conditions and community input. The community’s desire for green infrastructure and a balance of public amenities, private investment, and cultural connectivity, shaped the design options.
Two of the focus areas are on private land in the South Central Waterfront district. Design options for these sites focus on waterfront connections that combine public and private benefits and integrate required stormwater systems with publicly accessible open space. Another two focus areas are streetscapes in the public right-of-way. One design option strengthens the north-south connection between downtown and the capitol to the north, and the thriving South Congress (SoCo) neighborhood to the south.
The fifth focus area integrates east-west neighborhoods through widened sidewalks, protected bikeways, shade trees, and stormwater treatment planters. Design options for the final site highlight a creek that runs along the northern edge of the Texas School for the Deaf campus. The design concept focuses on balancing public access to the creek’s natural beauty with a hiking and biking trail and bridges. Stormwater treatment gardens improve water quality and prevent erosion of the creek banks.
This report identifies near- and mid-term steps the City could take if it chooses to implement any of the design options, as well as strategic public and private partners who could support and fund implementation. These next steps could catalyze public and private investment in the redevelopment area; test traffic configurations for improved safety; and demonstrate how the public realm could be more vibrant, beautiful, and ecologically beneficial.