If you haven’t yet read this week’s edition of The Austin Chronicle – and seen the amazing front page photo/rendering – please check it out at once here! Stupendous reporting by Senior News Editor, Michael King, of breaking news regarding a multi-billion dollar plan to build a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the middle of Lady Bird Lake, coupled with the new Light Rail line running straight through the center of the stadium as the train crosses the river.
Austin’s bike share program is finally really beginning to roll. This is a monumental achievement for Austin’s urban core.
Later this year, the first 10 stations with about 100 bicycles will be in operation. The remaining stations will follow in Spring 2014. In total, the system will have approximately 400 bikes, 600 docks, and 40 stations.
This bike share system, long passed off as a novelty, will become integral to City of Austin decisions regarding mobility and transit policy in the urban core. I’ve been advocating since 2010 that the return on investment is huge. For distances of less than one-mile, these are cost-effective systems of getting urban-Austinites and visitors where they want to go. The system encourages users to spontaneously decide to “go further” than they would have otherwise gone on foot – an amazing recreational amenity for our city.
The city just launched a new website (http://www.votebikeshareaustin.com) soliciting feedback for where the public (that’s you!) would want to see bike share kiosks placed around the city and and a number of public engagement events are scheduled – including one today at City Hall. The nifty little website (produced out of the Open Austin collaborative) lets anyone suggest a location and others vote on the location.
Below is a screen grab showing where people have suggested locations. I’ve highlighted a few “no-brainer” locations with green dots.
Very exciting stuff.
Cities evolve. Few quite as visibly as Austin over the past couple of decades.
We’ve got the first look at what’s coming to the site of the former RunTex store at S. 1st and Riverside Drive. Demo permits were approved last month, and fencing has been erected around the site.
In its place, a six-story cousin (some might say “clone”) of The Crescent apartments – just down the street – is planned, called “Broadstone on the Lake.” It will feature 119 affordable units and 207 market rate ones, for a grand total of 326 apartments, according to city records.
The building is being designed by Kelly Grossman Architects, who designed the Hill Country Galleria, The Crescent and 404 Rio Grande.
I’m not going to lie. While I’m thrilled about packing in some more density into the core, I’m pretty “meh” about the whole faux-urban motif of the design. Some might say that level of design is better suited for a series of outlet malls in San Marcos. But, let’s remember that the Broadstone apartment housing brand, much like the Millennium apartment housing brand coming to Rainey Street, is a national chain of apartment complexes, and it is what it is.
Thankfully, The Catherine – a 19-story, $68 million, 300-unit residential tower beginning to be constructed next door – has some design panache. Formerly nick-named “StreetLights at Barton Springs” that building is next iteration of the Aquaterra condominium project, which fell victim to the lending withdraw of the 2008 recession.
(Also, also… the Hyatt Town Lake is removing a substantial amount of surface parking, and building a seven-story parking garage and ballroom behind the Sherry Matthews building. Austin Towers profiled the development there this past February.)
A note about RunTex
Although RunTex was a tenant and was going to get booted anyway, the poetic tragedy of the demolition coinciding with the apparent troubles of the RunTex business and brand is too dramatic to not mention here.
RunTex was founded 25 years ago, and as a fellow entrepreneur who knows about blood and sweat in pursuit of a dream, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for all the people whose lives are intertwined with the bricks and pavement about to be wiped from the earth there.
It is important, though, to note that I used the word “evolve” in the first sentence of this post. Change isn’t easy, but the development of the site is a natural and healthy evolution for downtown Austin.
With the increasing amount of construction happening in the Rainey Street District, I think we have seen the last of the Google Villages and such taking the neighborhood over – at least for a while.
I’m going to lay out a summary of the transportation plan here first, then drop my two cents in the bucket on the drama surrounding it.
What to expect
City staff have settled on maintaining two-way traffic on the street, and adding sidewalks where there is not existing development taking place. The east side of the street will retain on-street, metered parking, while the west side (on the right side if you are facing the river) will be converted into a striped area with pedicab pick-ups and bike parking.
Once the sidewalks are built out, the city may move forward with converting that striped area into bike lanes.
The city will convert the turning circle into a “modern roundabout” – like this one at Rio Grande and 10th Street. The city also plans to install speed humps (not speed bumps) and up the ante on the navigational signs in and around the area.
As a member of the now defunct Waller Creek Citizens Advisory Committee and a past resident at the Sabine condos with a view directly over the excavation site, I’ve seen planning for Waller Creek evolve over the years.
Earlier this week, Matt Parkerson in Council Member Riley’s office, invited me to join them on a tour of the tunnel. I jumped at the opportunity.
The logistics of mining under a city is fascinating. The tunnel diameter tapers wide from 20 feet to 26 feet in diameter as it approaches the outlet at Lady Bird Lake. The pace of progress is about 15 feet per day. Dump trucks make somewhere around 75 trips per day.
We entered the tunnel between 4th and 5th Streets. Once inside the tunnel we walked to the end of their progress, currently, just below Iron Works BBQ.
Once the mining is complete, the exposed limestone will be coated with concrete. Cost to construct the tunnel: $105 million.
If you’ve ever seen Discovery Channel special on how NYC subways were bored, know this is not like that. There is no giant spinning disc cutting through the earth. Compared to Manhattan granite, this Texas limestone cuts like butter. Like an old dot matrix printer, the boring head cuts away limestone with each back and forth pass.
As an aside: everybody on the tour was thinking the same thing. Why couldn’t we do this for a subway? Well, we can. One of the contractors shared (off-camera) that Austin’s limestone is [actually] perfectly suited for mining a subway tunnel and wondered why the city has not pursued that with more enthusiasm. The length of Waller Creek tunnel is roughly the same length to get from I-35 to Lamar Blvd. An identical tunnel for similar cost could support a subway to traverse east-west through downtown.
Thanks to Council Member Riley and his staff for the invitation!