New downtown Austin train station making room for pedestrian plaza

New downtown Austin train station making room for pedestrian plaza

The downtown Austin “Red Line” train station is about to undergo a significant makeover, that will add room for two more trains at the station.  The capacity upgrade is expected to double the people (from >400 to 800) to commute to downtown from north Austin during rush hour.

However, the final design seems to be departure from any of the proposed concepts.

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Downtown Thriving as a Live-Work-Play Community

Downtown Thriving as a Live-Work-Play Community

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Artist’s rendering of the office tower now going up at the site of the former Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant in downtown Austin where Google will take more than 200,000-sf. CREDIT: Gensler Austin

Nice story in The Statesman about the vibrant community that continues to grow downtown – not just in terms of nightlife, but also new economy jobs and associated residents:  Austin’s Tech Scene Heats Up Downtown.

It’s worth pointing out however that all this has not “just happened” by itself.

It has been 15+ years in the making with great purpose by the likes of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA), the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), Mayors Kirk Watson, Will Wynn, Lee Leffingwell and their City Councils, the Downtown Austin Plan, and many more driving forces.

Except for weekday lunchtime and weekend nights on East 6th, it was a veritable ghost town when my team first opened an expanded Wild About Music down here in 1995, then started living here in 1999.

There’s still a ton of work to be done around issues of homelessness and vagrancy (two different matters), affordability (having only $50/ft rents and million dollar condos is not sustainable), traffic (a car-free zone?), and that IH-35 east-west barrier.

Dave Sullivan, longtime Austin civic leader during this big growth period, also just told me: “When I joined the City Planning Commission in 1994, software development was a prohibited use Downtown. I remember voting to change that in the late 90s. Seems incredible.

Incredible indeed, Dave.


And a worthy update:  After this story published I received a note from a longtime steward of Downtown Austin’s evolution, Michael Knox, of the City’s Economic Development Department.  He filled in another 10 years of preparation that went into the creation of today’s Downtown before my timeline even picks up.  Mike says:

“I started working on downtown in 1988, when it was part of AustinPlan’s Sector 1.  Of course AustinPlan, the comprehensive plan update to replace Austin Tomorrow, was never adopted.

“In 1989 we (Jose Martinez and I) started working with the Downtown Commission, actively promoting a thing called R/UDAT.  The 1990 R/UDAT application we co-wrote was accepted, and in 1991 we got the R/UDAT team visit and report, followed in 1992 by “A Call to Action: R/UDAT Implementation” that, in 1993 gave birth to the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Austin Downton PID.  These efforts involved hundreds of dedicated Austinites.

“Downtown initiatives were kicked up a notch in 1997 when Kirk Watson became Mayor, and Assistant City Manager Jim Smith (now Aviation Director) and I put together Kirk’s first six downtown initiatives, including the Waller Creek tunnel, Downtown Design Guidelines and the Poleyard and AMLI developments.”

So there you go…another of Downtown Austin’s many unsung heroes.  We thank you, Michael Knox.

~Fred

Chill Out

Chill Out

Leave no stone unturned. Check out how Austin Energy wants to use a sliver of downtown land, next to Gables Park Tower, for a new chilling station.

The site dimensions make the site pretty much unusable for intense development, so it is great to see a municipal use.  AE has engaged Cotera Reed to handle the design.  The project is being presented to the City of Austin Design Commission on the 25th.

Many downtown buildings are connected to the the City’s “chilled water loop”.  One of the existing chilling stations is at 5th & Sabine (that blue tile “box” connected to the ACVB parking garage).

-Jude

potential "skin" of the station

potential “skin” of the station

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

Chilling Station design by Cotera Reed

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The Republic Square Park Makeover

The Republic Square Park Makeover

Friends, it took a minute, but we’re finally just months away from the start of a momentous project that promises to further ratchet up the quality of life here in Downtown Austin.

After nearly two decades of fitful effort and planning, work is set to start this June on tremendous upgrades to Republic Square Park.

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Republic Square Park, renovation project

Situated on Guadalupe Street between 4th and 5th streets, you probably know it now as the place where all the buses stop, or the joint with the grass and the trees where you wait in long lines for the shuttle to ACL Fest, or the site with the weekly farmers’ market. By virtue of its central location, the park sees a ton of traffic each day, but its lack of amenities means that it doesn’t get a ton of use.  Right now, Republic Square Park is essentially a verdant plaza of the largely lifeless Federal Courthouse directly to its west, and eye candy for Plaza Lofts to the east.

View into park from Federal Courthouse

View into park from Federal Courthouse

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Millennium Rainey Apartments Wrap Up Construction

Millennium Rainey Apartments Wrap Up Construction

For the past couple of years the east side of Rainey Street’s [already limited] sidewalks were barricaded for the construction of the Millennium Rainey apartments.

Today, those barricades came down!  Woo hoo!!!  The Millennium Rainey adds 326 downtown apartments to the rental inventory.

Some of you will remember that The Sutton Company assembled several Rainey Street parcels back in 2012 and planned this three story tower.  Then, they sold the assemblage to Dinerstein and the intertubes pitched a fit about Lustre Pearl moving.

Now, Lustre Pearl is back, Millennium Rainey is completed, Sutton is focused on Waller Park Place, and the Rainey neighborhood has better sidewalks.

-Jude

 

Millennium Rainey apartments in downtown Austin

Millennium Rainey apartments in downtown Austin