By Camelia Bulea, Associate Editor
With a $1.6 million master plan, downtown Austin has great chances of changing its look with urban rail, better parks, wider sidewalks and moderately priced housing. The $350 million plan, which the City Council must first approve, envisions the transformation of downtown Austin over the next decade. The money needed could come from fees, bond elections and even public-private partnerships.
The plan—which took four years to finish and several meetings with Austin residents—lists seven ideas for transforming the downtown over the next 10 years without destroying what already exists in the area. For example, one of the plan’s goals is to divide the downtown into nine distinct areas in order to transform the existing melting pot.
Moreover, the plan includes transforming existing parks, building urban rail line, and preserving and improving the cultural part of the downtown by turning it into a greater boulevard with a more natural landscape. Another ambitious change included in the plan is the creation of 225 residential units that target very low-income and formerly homeless; other units target low- and medium-income people.
McCann Adams Studio, the planning firm, also proposed that the City Council should accept development projects for taller and bigger buildings, but in exchange the developers would have to provide public benefits. As this program has been largely debated over the last four years, the planners have recently proposed an alternative, by which developers must appear before the Planning Commission and the City Council to ask to build tall buildings. In addition, the developers that want to build taller buildings must explain how they could comply with the density bonus program in order to have their projects approved.