As a clued-in DAB reader, hopefully you already know about the recent announcement of a very exciting vision and plan to potentially redevelop some 20 or so blocks of Downtown Austin land surrounding the Capitol. It’s land owned by the State, most of it terribly underutilized and poorly built out today. The plan could transform the area into as much a 7 million square feet of new office and mixed use space.
Info on the plan has been well covered by both the Austin Chronicle and the Statesman. And Chris Bradford does a nice job of discussing the economic impact aspects in his Austin Contrarian blog. Obviously getting so many blocks onto the tax rolls would be a huge boost to the local economy while also bringing alive the virtual “dead zone” of downtown space between the Capitol and UT.
But the one further exciting possibility to work into this equation that I have not seen explored yet: the opportunity for new housing. AFFORDABLE HOUSING, to be specific.
This has started to be investigated somewhat as part of the planning work being done around the Waller Creek Tunnel & Redevelopment project. Now, this Capitol redevelopment plan raises the possibility of really connecting these pieces into a solution of great possibilities.
The target properties are all those hideous parking garages that line San Jacinto and Trinity streets.
And the target population to serve should be: State office workers, of course. But also downtown service and support industry workers like bar and restaurant staff, hotel housekeepers, retail clerks, musicians and artists. And also UT and ACC students, too (that would help take some pressure off of over-development of multi-unit housing along the East Riverside corridor where the EROC Neighborhood Association is fighting for survival of what SFR neighborhoods they have left).
Jude is better qualified than I to comment about the supply versus demand of half-million-dollar-plus condos within the CBD, But I am a business owner who works in and close to the aforementioned “service and support” infrastructure that provides downtown with its excitement, vibrancy and great economic vitality in this area.
In that capacity I can say that we have a massive missed opportunity right now to build out a whole neighborhood of mid-rise, mixed-use buildings that has as its core focus affordable housing. I’m talking smaller studio, 1BR and 2BR rental units that can lease for $500-$1,000 per month.
That would give us places to house our critical service industry workers, students and state office support staff within walking distance of the places where they work, study and play the rest of their dayparts. Right now, these folks are having to live in far north or south Austin, thus adding to the traffic congestion on local roads or having to add hour-long bus rides in two directions to their already long and hard days. (Not that Cap Metro runs any bus service after midnight when loads of these folks get off of work or leave our multiple downtown entertainment districts.)
If you would like to see and hear more about the Capitol Redevelopment vision/plan, the Downtown Austin Alliance is hosting a forum next week — June 3rd, 7:30am — where you can have a close up look and hear directly from the folks involved with the project. It’s early in the morning but you can do it! Free and open to the public but an RSVP is requested to make sure there are enough breakfast tacos and OJ on hand to reward your attendance. Details can be found here.
WHAT: Downtown Austin Alliance, Issues & Eggs Breakfast Forum
TOPIC: Capitol Complex Redevelopment Plan
WHEN: Thursday, June 3, 2010; 7:30am breakfast, 8:00am presentation
WHERE: St. David’s Episcopal Church, Sumner Hall, San Jacinto betw. 7th & 8th
RSVP by June 1 to: email@example.com or call (512) 381-6270