Austin City Council: What Were They Thinking… in 1916

Austin City Council: What Were They Thinking… in 1916

At the beginning of 2016, the Golden Age of Downtown Austin augurs nary a hint of dinting nor dulling. From North Lamar to Interstate 35, constructions crane swoop across the landscape. On the streets, workers, residents, and visitors walk, bike, and drive to jobs, homes, shops, restaurants, and parks. The total energy of one of the most prosperous regions in the country is, by the laws of gravitational economics, concentrated right here in this urban core and, man, there’s a wild bustle to it all.

But, lo, this current period of dynamic fun n’ games was a long time in the making. And many of the same weirdo problems we face today have been bugaboos that generations of City Councils in their various forms have tried to take their respective whacks at. Now, thanks to the miracles of technology and open government (and the greater miracle that I can still afford an internet connection after the recent holidays), we can peer back in time at the political landscape of a century ago.

jan 13 1916

Austin City Council agenda item, Jan. 13, 1916

Behold above, a small sample of the Austin City Council agenda from Jan. 13, 1916. Long before the ongoing Waller Creek revitalization project, Mayor A.P. Wooldridge and his four white guy colleagues on the dais rassled with infrastructure issues on that flood-prone stream. The Council gave unanimous approval to designs for bridges to cross the stream from 1st Street (now Cesar Chavez Street) all the way up to 29th Street. Whether those bridges still exist or why existing bridges needed to be replaced to begin with are questions for another day. For the time being, one can only wonder why no one back then gave any thought to boring a colossal concrete flood-control tunnel 70 feet below the creek’s surface through which to channel tens of millions of gallons of water into the Colorado River, a friendly gesture that would’ve given the City a head start on that aforementioned revitalization project. Since this was pre-Capitol View Corridors, it would’ve saved us all a giant headache. Slackers.

feb 3 1916

Austin City Council agenda item, Feb. 3, 1916

As our current Council continues its graceless plod towards new regulations on transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, with the full backing of Big Taxi, it’s worth remembering that not too many people were in a hurry to get Big Taxi in the first place. One hundred years ago in February, Mayor Wooldridge n’ The Boys received a petition calling for an ordinance “for the purpose of properly regulating local street transportation of persons for hire by ‘Jitneys’, automobiles, busses (sic), and other motor vehicles.” The petitioners claimed to have the signatures of 1,239 qualified voters — not bad for a city of, at the time, roughly 35,000 souls. But there were a few problems. Turns out that upon further review, city officials determined many signatures weren’t valid. Meanwhile, perhaps because they were spooked by a heavy-handed propaganda campaign launched by private interests, several hundred authors of valid signatures wrote in to request their removal from the petition. I cannot tell you when Council finally adopted a regulatory framework for taxi services, but I would guess that when they did, many people who called for cabs that night are still waiting patiently for their rides to show up.

Austin City Council agenda item, Jan. 6, 1916

Austin City Council agenda item, Jan. 6, 1916

Hey, here’s an item that demonstrates one big difference between the Austin of 100 years ago and the Austin of today: Land prices. In 1916, the City purchased the lot on the southeast corner of Red River and E. 11th streets for a cool $250. Today, TCAD values that land at just over $4.5 million. Now, as a professional journalist, I leave the math-doings to better minds, but I’ll take a rough crack at this and declare that if the City were to finally decide to sell this land today, it would stand to make a seventwentyteen-jillion percent profit.

Now, let’s scoot ahead a few years in our travels through the archives to take a moment to remember that this town hasn’t always been a model target of good-hearted snark. Often, in fact, even to this day, lots of municipal behavior deserves some degree of hot-fire derision. Like this piece of crap from Oct. 5, 1933:

Austin City Council agenda item, Oct. 5, 1933

Austin City Council agenda item, Oct. 5, 1933

Here we find a petition, “signed by thirty-eight citizens and property owners in the vicinity of the 1700 block of East Avenue, protesting the erection of a Negro business establishment at this location.” Certainly, these kinds of shenanigans should be expected when perusing the political archives of a southern city during the age of Jim Crow. However, I offer a counterpoint: What a bunch of dicks. It’s impossible to tell whether the business in question was technically in Downtown since this was before East Avenue was converted from a tree-lined boulevard into the concrete death-wall of segregation made manifest known as I-35, but it hardly matters. It’s also impossible to know what became of the petition since many similar items in Council agenda items end in similar referrals to some city agency with the ambiguous tone that a professional snarkster is eager to believe is a passive-aggressive way of saying, “This is garbage and the paper it’s written on is hardly fit for my doodles of Herbert Hoover with devil horns.” At any rate, this mess is a powerful reminder of how bad things were, how much worse they got (with the construction of a literal barrier to integration), and how much better things could yet be with the proper amount of progressive leadership.

My dream is for one day to have my friends’ grandkids trawling through the viz-deck archives of tomorrow’s Holo-Council and finding the hilariously antiquated transcripts of today’s leaders arguing against plans like Reconnect Austin.

Downtown Austin’s best days are still ahead of us, gang.

The Bridge Connection: Adding Grid To Downtown Without Roads

The Bridge Connection: Adding Grid To Downtown Without Roads

Take a look at the original layout of Austin — what we now call Downtown Austin, the grand cultural and economic gemstone in the greater Violet Crown — and you will see a street grid that is so thoroughly connected that it makes Frank Sinatra look like a friendless schlub from District 6.

But the intervening century-and-a-half has not been so kind to our great municipal waffle iron. Look at it now and witness so many strange ruptures that break apart once-fully connected streets.

old austin planSome fissures can be blamed on nature. Take the strange case of San Antonio Street at W. 7th, for example, an odd diversion necessitated by a fairly steep cliff.

Other fissures are entirely man’s fault — although you’re entirely excused for believing that the hulking Austin Convention Center and its permanent (and possibly growing!) dominion over Neches, W. 2nd, and W. 3rd streets is actually an act of divine terror.

Finally, there are fissures whose blame is shared by both nature and man. While nothing short of a zip-line* could patch San Antonio Street back together and, indeed, only divine terror could address the Convention Center, there are extremely exciting developments happening to stitch back together one of the most unfortunate examples of this third category, and on Thursday we saw one of the more satisfying fruits of those efforts.

shoal creek bridge

Shoal Creek Pedestrian Bridge at W4th & Rio Grande

Behold!  A newly-set pedestrian bridge spanning Shoal Creek at the convergence of W. 4th and Rio Grande streets.  After it arrived by truck from Alabama on Wednesday afternoon, Austin Public Works crews spent all day Thursday setting into place the $675,000 glorified gangplank  (which shouldn’t be confused with the nearby Butterfly Bridge that will soon reconnect W. 2nd Street across the creek).

The bridge is a key part of the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail Improvements Project, an ongoing $4.5 million effort to rehab a truly rad pedestrian and bike trail that runs *almost* the full of length of Downtown. Once the project is completed in October 2016, the missing parts of the trail south of W. 5th Street will be in place and you’ll be able to walk, jog, or cycle from Pease Park all the way to the Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake without having to tangle with car traffic.

shoal-creek-bridge-map

On the street level, though, the new pedestrian bridge gives pedestrians and cyclists a new option to cross the creek in area that has seen and is continuing to see some of the most exciting development in town. Opposite of W. 4th and Rio Grande, will rise Austin’s tallest skyscraper, The Independent. Adjacent to that residential tower is the 360 Condominiums, the Green Water redevelopment site, the new Downtown Central Library, and Seaholm — a dense blend of residential, commercial, and cultural destinations.

Naturally, the new pedestrian bridge won’t be shouldering the load all by itself. Helping out is the existing pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek on W. 3rd Street as well as that aforementioned Butterfly Bridge that will carry cars, pedestrians and cyclists).

Along with the newly created Walter Seaholm Drive and the eventual reconnection of West Avenue to W. Cesar Chavez, one key section of the Downtown grid is slowly reemerging from a badly needed cosmetic update that, as this section of town always does, badly puts the rest of Austin to shame.

-Caleb
(*Zip-line supporters can find the contact information for District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo’s office here.)
Signals of progress at Waller Park Place

Signals of progress at Waller Park Place

Small signals are often precursors of BIG news.

This past weekend, fencing was observed being erected around the site of Waller Park Place, the largest private development ever proposed in downtown Austin.  Demolition permits were issued back in August for the vacant structures along Red River Street.  The new fencing is a sure sign that site prep is about to begin.

The 3 acre site in the Rainey Street District stretches from Cesar Chavez to Davis Street, hugging the eastern bank of Waller Creek along the way.

-Jude

waller-park-place-demolition-signal2

waller-park-place-demolition-signal1

 

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Maufrais

Maufrais

[Editors note: I’ve always wanted to know the story behind the ubiquitous “Maufrais” stamped into the sidewalks of downtown Austin.  Rob Hafernik wondered the same back in 2008.  Below we’re reposting Rob’s article, originally published at Texas Escapes, and reveals some history about one of Austin’s most long-lived and mysterious brands… a legacy that began over a century ago.]

I’m a curious kind of guy. When I walk the dog, I wonder about the things I see along the way.  Everyone in Austin is familiar with the word “Maufrais”, but almost no one knows what it means. There are poems about it, and blog entries wondering about it. There are even people who think “Maufrais” is as mysterious as crop circles.

MaufraisSidewalkAustinTX1RHafernickThe reason for this mystery is that the word is stamped into half of the concrete in Austin. Just in the space of one good dog walk, I see the word a dozen times or more. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that it must be the name of a concrete company, but enquiring minds want to know more. These days, enquiring minds are as addicted to search engines as Wimpy is addicted to hamburgers.

[Read more…]

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Historic Downtown Sampson Building Will Host New Co-Working Space

Co-working in downtown Austin has arrived, and competition is delivering flexible work spaces that are incredible.

WeWork is set to expand through to two additional floors (close to 1,000 new desks) in their current building right around the time of the opening of the 25,000 square foot Galvanize space in the Seaholm development.  Capital Factory, the original downtown Austin co-working/incubator/accelerator concept, is a major player in the market, as well.

Those large concepts look impressive, but aren’t a fit for everyone looking for a quieter space to be productive.  The result is that there are new co-working concepts leveraging smaller spaces in historic buildings.

As I walk into the space on the top floor of the Sampson Building on Congress Avenue, I am immediately struck by the quiet – audibly and visually.  The lack of distraction, hectic bustle, and co-working “flair” sets a much different tone than what I’m used to seeing in the other downtown Austin concepts (wework and galvanize), and the atmosphere is just one of the ways Open-Source Co-Working is trying to set itself apart from its larger competitors.

I’m a sucker for a historic building.  The patina and beauty that comes from being in a building like the [Read more…]

What’s the haps at the Green Water?

What’s the haps at the Green Water?

Adding new street grid, a mix of uses, and an attractive new “butterfly” bridge over Shoal Creek, downtown Austin’s Green Water Treatment Plant (GWTP) redevelopment is one of the most significant projects underway.

There are several pieces to the GWTP puzzle, and even us inveterate downtowners will benefit from a refresher.  The site is visibly made more complex with concurrent redevelopment of Seaholm and the new Austin Central Library to the west, and Third+Shoal to the north.

The Green Water Treatment Plant four-block redevelopment, for many years, was a concept of “what could one day be” and for years was not.

GWTP in 2009. POV looking south. Photo by AustinTexasDailyPhoto

GWTP in 2009. POV from 360 condos pool deck, looking south. Photo by AustinTexasDailyPhoto

Built in 1925 and decommissioned in 2008, the Green Water Treatment Plant was Austin’s first water treatment facility. In 2008 the City of Austin sought developers for public-private partnership to redevelop the site, as part of broader 2nd Street District, and selected Trammel Crow because they proposed the most dense and ambitious plan for the site.

Some environmental issues stalled the redevelopment for a while, but now remarkably there are three distinct projects underway, plus one more wildcard to-be-determined.

The four blocks of GWTP redevelopment. Cesar Chavez @ San Antonio

The four blocks of GWTP redevelopment. Cesar Chavez @ San Antonio

Northshore (Block 1)

block1-trammell-crow

rendering of Northshore apartments

Construction on the first phase of redevelopment is the Northshore, a three-tiered mixed-use tower that bills itself as “the ultimate luxury living experience” with approximately 440 luxury apartments, along with 50 affordable units and more than 40,000 square feet of office and retail space. Construction is wrapping up, and the project is expected to open soon.

http://www.northshoreaustin.com

500 W. 2nd Street (Block 23)

500w2nd-office

One block up from Northshore is the the 500 W. 2nd Street office tower. Construction started December of 2014 on this 29-story, 500,000 square foot office tower that will have two ground-level restaurants. The lobby of 500 W. 2nd Street promises to be a striking experience from both the inside and out, by way of 26-foot tall frameless glass wall. Google made headlines by becoming the first tenant to sign on at the project and will occupy almost half the building by its completion in 2017.

http://500west2nd.com

Austin Proper Hotel & Residences (Block 188)

austin-proper-hotel1

This 32-story Austin Proper hotel and condo tower (now taking reservations) is the most recent to make the news, having just been announced this summer.  The project will include 243 hotel rooms, plus another 94 condo units ranging in size from 850 square feet to 6,000-square-feet penthouses.  Construction is scheduled to start in November.

http://www.properhotel.com

 

To-Be-Determined (Block 185)

block185-waiting

The last phase of Green Water is still up in the air, and please tip your editor if you know.  Trammell Crow is being tight lipped. The master plan calls for another residential tower, hosting 295 units, and a little more retail. It’s unknown if the residential units will go up for sale, or for rent, but I’m hopeful that the market will support a condo development.

Honorable mention: Third + Shoal

It’s worth noting that the four-block development butts up to one other major development to the north, which is not part of the Green Water redevelopment: Third+Shoal (slideshare), at 208 Nueces. Construction of the 349,000-square-foot, 28-story office building is scheduled to be completed in early 2017, following the demolition of the underwhelming Austin Music Hall.

-Jude

third-shoal-office

DAB: News Roundup

DAB: News Roundup

Bowie Street underpass finally on drawing board

The Bowie Street underpass project, to connect the Market District to the Pfluger Bridge under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, has been in the public domain for almost six years, but stagnant without any real progress.

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

the fence cut-through used today to get from Bowie St to Pfluger Bridge

Now it appears engineering plans are finally here!  This is especially welcome news for residents of Gables West and Spring Condos.

Records show a site plan by city infrastructure contractor HDR (although watermarked as “preliminary”) was officially signed off by engineers and submitted to city permitters in mid-August. Past reports anticipated the underpass to wrap construction in 2016, and this is a good sign the ball is moving.

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge

Dark shaded area shows proposed Bowie Street underpass towards Pfluger Bridge

 

So Long, Cozzoli’s

Cozzoli’s Pizza, a frequent late-night haunt of downtowners at 7th & Congress since 1981, closed its doors for good last month.  Owner Moosa Meschin, who worked behind the counter until the end, posted a farewell well note as he enters retirement.

Hatbox, a haberdashery once located on South Congress, has opened up shop in the space and is a welcome addition to promote an activated N. Congress corridor.

I’ll miss Cozzoli’s comfort food.  This is a loss for everyone in downtown Austin who appreciates the unpretentious.

cozzolis-closes

 

416 Congress Boutique Hotel back from grave?

It was way back in 2011 that City Council blessed the 416 Congress “sliver hotel” only for the project to stagnate and never get off the ground.

However, the project has just been resubmitted, keeping it in play, and it remains unchanged from the 2011 vision. That plan call for a 26-story, 130-room hotel and restaurant behind a small 120-year-old Congress Avenue building (the entire structure, other than the front façade, will be demolished).

416 Congress - rendering

416 Congress – rendering Dick Clark Architecture

 

Proposed Kimber Modern Rainey loses the Kimber

The Kimber Modern Rainey hotel, slated to be a 30-room boutique hotel, in the Rainey Street District is at risk after mastermind Kimber Cavendish told local media she is out.

Located near the corner of River St @ East Ave, and with CBD zoning in place it’s an attractive development site.  There’s an indication in the report about the project’s moving forward with a different brand and vision.  Stay tuned.

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

Rendering of new Kimber Modern coming to Rainey Street district [source: Burton Baldridge]

SXSW guru’s company picks up downtown parcel unhindered by Capitol View Corridor

SXSW executive Roland Swenson’s development company — CZ Properties — picked up an acre parcel next to the State Capitol at 1400 Lavaca Street, according to new reports.

The property, which is just under an acre and currently includes a two-story building occupied by the Texas Restaurant Association, could be developed into something much more.

SXSW has remained tight-lipped other than to say it will be overflow office space. But I’d lay a small bet that an announcement will coincide in some way with the SXSW 30th anniversary (next year) if Swenson is planning to develop the spot.

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol

SXSW secures land northwest of the State Capitol

 

Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Downtown Austin News Round-Up

Closed Downtown Austin recycling center lot to be developed by 70 Rainey developer

Ecology Action of Texas announced back in June that the downtown recycling center — at 707 East 9th Street — would close at the end of September.

What’s more interesting for some than the center closing is what’s possibly in store.

Travis County records indicate the property was sold in May to an entity called Waller Creek Development LLC.  The company, according to web searches, was formed in April this year, and is managed by James Hefelfinger of Sackman Enterprises.

Sackman Enterprises is also developing the 70 Rainey condos.

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

I35 frontage @ 9th Street, former site of Ecology Action

The East 9th Street property is capped by a Capitol View Corridor, but with Sackman staking a claim in Rainey Street, expect something very interesting to come that is complementary to Waller Creek corridor redevelopment.

Filling station at 10th & Lamar sold by Travis County

The Travis County Commissioner’s Court has approved selling the gas station used to fill county vehicles to a developer.

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

10th & Lamar filling station sold by Travis County

Sam Kumar, founder and president of the construction firm Journeyman, told the Austin-American Statesman he plans to build a small office space and three or four condominium apartments at the property.

Although not a huge project, it’s a welcome addition to liven up the North Lamar corridor downtown. The property has been underutilized since the urban renaissance of downtown Austin, and left in rather dingy status by Travis County.

Block 87 — at Trinity and Seventh — as massive mixed-use development

Very exciting news broke this week, the long-blighted parking lot owned by the Episcopal Church, is being marketing for a bold new vision.

Specifically, the Church is looking for a partner to develop Block 87 as part of a 600,000 square feet tower of office, residential, retail uses, generous parking, and the Archives of The Episcopal Church.

The lot at Trinity and Seventh streets was bought by the Episcopal Church in 2009, and sits across the street from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

The Church first planned a 70,000-square-foot, five-story archive building, a garage and limited ground-floor retail.. However, in 2011, it was reported that Church funds were diverted to assist in global disasters, and the lot has since sat untouched.

Sadly, derelict surface parking lots and adjacent homeless resource centers don’t exactly create welcoming environments downtown.  The community should be extremely supportive and optimistic that this project will get off the ground, sooner than later.

block-87

Conceptual rendering of Block 87

Villas on Town Lake HOA contemplates redevelopment

The HOA controlling the two acre site that is home to the Villas on Town Lake condos, located at 80 Red River Street, is availing themselves to proposals from potential buyers.  The 58 unit condo, built in 1982, is situated along Waller Creek.  According to the article, 80% of the ownership would need to approve any proposal.

The development regulations for properties within the Austin Waterfront Overlay, which this site is part of, are historically contentious and could impact what is feasible.

7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

7 Ways To Make Downtown Austin Even Better

“Dude, I’ve got these ideas, so many ideas burnin’ through my skull…”

Living in downtown Austin is great and like anything else, over time, you begin to form ideas on what could really make it better.  Not all of these are my original ideas – but they are all notions that I would support.

1) Downtown Austin Needs A General Store

We need a friggin’ Target, not another boutique doggy day care!

We’ve written about both of these things before, and it seems like quite a few folks are hopping on the urban Target concept (Target Express) bandwagon.

Target Express

Rendering of a Target Express concept – which is geared toward city dwellers

2) Building Spirit

The Grand Illumination in Richmond Virginia

It would be cool to see downtown Austin condo buildings unite for certain holidays (or for other specific reasons / causes).  One idea that I’ve seen floating around is allowing units within the buildings to decorate their respective balconies for the winter holidays, and perhaps do a neighborhood wide contest. Politics aside, it would be wonderful to see a coordinated effort to get people into the general spirit.

photo by Jessica Kilma

photo by Jessica Kilma

Halloween is also a wonderful opportunity for residents of downtown Austin condos to invite families within the community and otherwise to enjoy traditional trick-or-treating. The Shore, in coordination with DANA, has participated in a small scale version of this with much success (Although, I’m a bit biased, as this is an effort that I personally started).  Honestly, I’m not sure who gets more from this particular event, the families or the residents.

3) Ice Cream Truck with a Downtown Route

This kid went to the Rick Perry school of eating.

I would LOVE for downtown to have a traditional ice cream truck that regularly drives around the neighborhood (and perhaps have a route with specific stops so people could plan their ice cream indulgence).

There’s a stationary stand that just popped up next to Downtown Burgers on Cesar Chavez across from the Austin Convention Center, but it’s just not quite the same.

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

Stationary Ice Cream Goodies Offered While They Last on Cesar Chavez, Across from the Convention Center

4) Boat Taxis / Gondolas to Cross Ladybird Lake

This isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

Before the 20th century, getting from downtown Austin to the South bank of the colorado river was done largely by… ferries!  It’s true, and you can see a historic plaque telling you about it on the hike & bike trail as you pass the Four Seasons hotel.

Bring it back!  Sure would make it fun to check out the hot spots on the South Austin.

5) Swimming in Ladybird Lake

lady-bird-lake-1

And, while we’re talking about the lake, I want to be able to swim in it, gosh dangit!  Full Kramer style.

Sure, it’s filled with trash, old steel rebar, and dog poo.  Those are solvable problems! Every few years Lake Austin is allowed to drain in order to clean up the duck weed.  So, what’s stopping this from happening on Lady Bird Lake and then get volunteers to remove debris?

KUT recently wrote an article explaining why it’s illegal to swim in the lake, and it’s chock full of great information.  The article, however, lacked any proposed solutions that would make the lake swimmable. 🙁

6) Non-terrifying Public Restrooms (Pay Per Use) like the Germans have

pay-toilet-europe

One of my favorite things about Germany is the preponderance of pay restrooms in public spaces (like rail stations, malls, etc).  McClean is among the most well-known of these types of facilities, and they are great. These restrooms require a very small fee (about $0.50) for use, and had attendants.  The restrooms were sparkling.  McClean’s motto is “clean, safe, and served” and that is 100% accurate in my experience.

I want some of these in public spaces downtown – like, real bad.  I am often petrified to use public restrooms in downtown Austin, and I can’t be the only one.

Recently, we discussed a new alley activation movement, and our friend and contributor Fred Schmidt highlighted the need for good, safe, public restrooms.  Seems like this idea could help make that a reality.

7) Personalized Mural Art for Condo Building Parking Spaces

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This one is a little out of left-field – but I just think it would be oh-so-cool.

With all the pretty new buildings popping up in downtown – the fact of the matter is that their corresponding garage spaces remain ugly – particularly on the “inside.”  Wouldn’t it be neat if each condo owner had the opportunity to work with an HOA approved artist to paint a personalized (within HOA set guidelines) mural in their parking space?  If a lot of owners got on board – it would absolutely TRANSFORM the ugliest parts of the condo buildings downtown into something unique, funky, and amazing.  Not to mention how it would be a wonderful opportunity to support local art in a truly cool way.

Some buildings are starting to get on board with general murals in their garages in “common” garage spaces (like entries and elevator bays – see above slideshow for a couple of Austin examples) but this would be an amazing extension of that effort in my opinion.  Many urban cities have been doing similar concepts for years – the concept I’m describing would be a slightly different version of what’s already being done (and, for the record, I would support these concepts, too!).

What ideas do you have for downtown Austin?

Your opinion matters: Seaholm Intake survey open until September 13

Your opinion matters: Seaholm Intake survey open until September 13

[Jump directly to the survey]

Construction is expected to wrap this winter for the Seaholm condos, with buyers who scored two years ago moving in shortly thereafter.  Some of you will remember way back in 2010 when former Austin City Council Member Chris Riley first publicly broached redeveloping the “other Seaholm — the derelict intake facility on Lady Bird Lake connected to the former Seaholm Power Plant.

Then, in 2013, there was a Seaholm Intake design competition.  Today, I’m really excited that the Parks and Recreation Department has announced two final, refined redevelopment proposals, and opened up a survey to hear from the public.

choose-wisely

The top team will be awarded a Master Development agreement for a public-private partnership.  So, I really encourage Parks to publish the survey data.  Curiously, neither of the two final designs hark back to the former “top designs” released in 2013. But that is not to say that the two new final proposals are not merely more refined versions of the 2013 pitches, after structural and civil engineers got in the game.

Proposal 1: Intake at Lady Bird Lake

The first proposal seems very ambitious, striking and breathtaking. It would in reality redevelop the building into an entirely new structure. The metallic spiral corkscrewing through the facility, along with canopy roof, would create an iconic landmark that future generations would associate with Austin.

It would probably cost a pretty penny, but if the city could partially monopolize this space for special events, then I could forsee this being an attractive option.

I’m weighing it a “C” for pragmatic likelihood of getting off the ground.

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Proposal 2: A Place For The City

Compared to the other proposal, this feels like a very bland, unexciting project on the surface. But in terms of time to implement and overall cost, it seems very pragmatic. The exterior gets a face life and the interior basically becomes and exhibit hall and event venue, which is also monetizable.

I’m weighing it an “A” for pragmatic likelihood of getting off the ground.

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