applying new urbanist land use and urban design principles in austin
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But soon realized that good urban design is about much more than construction materials. ... The problems with modern urban design... Infrastructure and sprawl ...

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Presentation Transcript
slide4
In 2003, a battle over a big box got a lot of Austinites thinking about how to encourage higher-quality commercial development.
slide5

As an early step, we invited national consultant Robert Gibbs to rate Austin’s commercial development.

On a scale of 0-10, Austin’s score was between0 and 1.

as we began discussions of how to turn things around we started by talking about fa ade details
As we began discussions of how to turn things around, we started by talking about façade details. . .

But soon realized that good urban design is about much more than construction materials.

the problems with modern urban design tax base
The problems with modern urban design…Tax base
  • National big box retailers typically abandon stores every 8-10 years.
  • Some stores remain abandoned for years.
  • Poor quality prototypes can be difficult to reuse.
the problems with modern urban design infrastructure and sprawl
The problems with modern urban design…Infrastructure and sprawl

Post-war development patterns produce greater traffic than traditional urban development patterns.

Lack of interconnectivity

Superblocks

Large single use developments

Every trip funneled on to highways

the problems with modern urban design infrastructure and sprawl9
The problems with modern urban design…Infrastructure and sprawl

Employees in highway-based business districts produce a 1,500% greater impact on roads than employees in downtown business districts.

Urban Land Institute

the problems with modern urban design land use
The problems with modern urban design…Land use

Big box sites are 6 to 10 blocks in size.

the problems with modern urban design land use11
The problems with modern urban design…Land use
  • Historic block size in Austin: 276’ x 276’ (1,104 linear feet)
  • Suburban block size in Gateway/ Arboretum area: 2,112’ x 2,112’ (8,448 linear feet). The size of 53 downtown blocks.
  • Peter Calthorpe’s recommended maximum block size: 660’ x 660’
what matters
What matters?
  • Form
  • Finance
  • Process
what matters13
What Matters?

Form

  • Mixed use
  • Abundant windows
  • Wide sidewalks with trees
  • Buildings oriented to the street
  • Parallel or head-in parking
  • Small blocks on an interconnected grid system
what matters14
What Matters?

Form

A form-based code describes what the community wants instead of what it doesn’t want.

what doesn t matter
What doesn’t matter:

(Or at least isn’t worth the headache.)

  • Façade materials
  • Parking caps
  • Rigid adherence to every element of textbook “good design.”
what matters16
What matters?

Finance

  • V = I/R
  • infrastructure
what matters process
What matters?Process

Design Standards: Over 200 stakeholders from diverse groups including--

  • The Real Estate Council of Austin
  • Austin Neighborhoods Council
  • Architects
  • Affordable Housing advocates
  • Design and Planning Commissioners
  • New Urban developers
  • The Quick-Service Food Industry
plus three major community charettes
Plus three major community charettes. . .

. . . about a zillion marked-up drafts. . .

And many important lessons learned.

what matters in the consensus building process
What matters in the consensus-building process?
  • Establish the context for change: why failure is not an option.
  • Include all stakeholder groups.
  • Listen to interests, not positions.
  • Commit to 100% consensus.
  • Get an elected official personally involved and invested.
austin s innovations
Austin’s Innovations
  • Citywide applicability
  • Affordable housing
  • Green building for

national retailers

  • Block size standards
  • The VMU Overlay
case study
Case study:

The Vertical Mixed-Use Overlay

slide23
VMU

This…

slide25
Developers got onboard because the VMU Overlay gave them the opportunity to build about 50% more density.

Plus, the Overlay made parking reductions voluntary, and allowed parallel or head-in “teaser” parking.

citizens welcomed vmu design
Citizens welcomed VMU design. . .

. . . But had all the normal fears about density and traffic.

consensus building tool 1 density sweeteners
Consensus-building tool #1:Density “sweeteners”
  • Affordable housing
  • Residential permit parking program
  • High streetscape standards

Plus, height was non-negotiable.

consensus building tool 2 the opt in opt out process
Consensus-building tool # 2: The opt-in/opt-out process
  • Neighborhood groups can recommend to Council that certain properties on Core Transit Corridors be “opted out” of the VMU dimensional and parking bonuses.
  • Neighborhoods who “opt out” properties lose the opportunity for affordable housing and the other sweeteners.
  • Be careful to make the process simple and direct.
the vision a better future for austin
The Vision: a better future for Austin

• Promote high quality density on corridors.

• Protect single family neighborhoods.

• Create a second downtown in North Austin.

• Create dense urban town centers at rail stops.

questions
Questions?

Brewster McCracken

Austin City Council Member

(512) 974-2256

[email protected]

www.brewstermccracken.org

www.ci.austin.tx.us/development/commercial_design.htm

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