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eastsider

New Downtown Plan

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The Austin City Council voted unaminously last night to hire an independent consulting firm to help create new guidelines for downtown development.

To do that, the city council will vote tomorrow to hire a national consultant--"the best in the world," McCracken says--to identify potential east-west and north-south rail lines, determine and dedicate station locations for downtown, work with state and county officials to place government-owned undeveloped land on the tax roles, identify an ongoing funding mechanism for streets and infrastructure, assess environmental provisions for Shoal Creek and Waller Creek, and integrate the downtown neighborhood plan and the convention center station area plan into the process.

The city is expected to have the consultant in place by next spring. The process of developing the new plan should take 12-18 months.

Austin Business Journal: City of Austin to begin downtown planning process

News 8 Austin: Rail system is part of Austin's master plan

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Another article about the downtown plan. Austins' mayor has stated a goal of having 25,000 residents in downtown within a decade. One way to do this is to sell off extra government land and broker a deal to make it more affordable to live in downtown.

According to McCracken, the city could roll some of the sale profits back into the deal to essentially bring down the price, similar to what the city did when it subsidized the Austin Children's Museum move downtown with profits from the sale of Block 21. In announcing the plan, McCracken suggested that the strategy could usher in an era of $150,000 or even $100,000 condos.

Even with the subsidy, that price might not buy much condo. According to real estate broker Kevin Burns of Urban Space, construction costs alone can run about $180 a square foot for multistory, multifamily downtown constructions, which are more complicated and costly to build than exurban tract homes.

Austin Chronicle:

Downtown Density Dreams

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Has anyone heard any rumors which planning consultants are being considered for the 'task'? Whomever is selected, they will be the first to plan "Austin". The only other comprehensive plan was adopted when this city was referred to as "Waterloo". I think we are overdue......

Kudos to those with the vision for a new comprehensive plan.

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A study done by Downtown Development Committee shows that there is a major snag in the mayors vision of having a downtown population of 25,000 by 2015, there is not enough avalible land to build on to add 20,000 residents. Currently the population of downtown Austin is over 5,000 and with projects already under construction, it should be over 10,000 in just two years.

A number of factors currently regulate development downtown such as maximum density levels and the Capitol view corridors, which consist of linear paths leading to the Capitol building along which building height is restricted.

At current downtown density allowances, a maximum of 1,000 residents can reside on one city block. While variances are granted by the city on a case-by-case basis, the report goes by the rules. And by the rules, an additional 20,000 residents would need roughly 20 city blocks--space that the committee says just isn't there.

This also assumes that all available properties would be developed as residential, but of course, more commercial space and hotels will have to be added eventually. The consultant that the city plans to hire for the new downtown plan should be in place later this summer.

Austin Business Journal: Downtown living goal hits a snag

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This might help start the process of re-defining zoning in the central city to include more density overall not just in downtown, but around downtown. Also I wouldn't be suprised if there were a few more super talls announced over the next year.

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This is a recent article about the study done by the Downtown Development Committee that includes maps showing sites in downtown that could be developed in the short term and long term. As stated above, there may not be enough property in downtown Austin that can be developed to add an additional 20,000 residents.

The Austin Chronicle: Downtown's Tall Order

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The City received 8 Statements of Qualifications from planners in May, but only 2 of the 8 met the City's rules regarding conflict of interests within the CBD. The City withdrew the RFQ and reissued it last month. I would expect some news on this topic in the couple months.

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