Downtown plan includes option for parking ramp

Published 10:24 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

The city of Austin could have more green space, a parking ramp, further development throughout the downtown area and more if the city adopts the final draft of a proposed downtown master plan.

Consultants CR Planning and SEH presented their recommendations for Austin at a community meeting Wednesday, which included a parking ramp that could go at the location of the Paradise Island building on Second Avenue Northeast, development opportunities near the Austin Post Office and the old Austin Utilities downtown plant, and a renewed emphasis on making the downtown an economic powerhouse with a cultural flair along Fourth Avenue.

“These are simply recommendations,” Brian Ross, project leader told more than 20 people at the meeting.

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While many residents agreed with the plan overall, they disagreed with certain aspects of the draft.

A proposed parking ramp drew an equal amount of support and dissent on feedback maps posted along the wall of the City Council Chambers. Ross said the proposal, while a bit controversial, would help solve Austin’s density issues and allow for more development space in the city’s central business district.

About 25 percent of Austin’s downtown is surface parking through public and private lots, with even more street parking. While the city has enough parking to accommodate certain projects like the Spam Museum relocation, Austin could run out of parking space in the future if the city wanted to attract more downtown development.

“Surface parking is the least efficient way to use land in your downtown,” Ross said.

Yet many were encouraged by the plan’s emphasis on access to Mill Pond and the Cedar River, as well as other features including a proposed heritage preservation committee.

Jack Erwin said he was excited by the possible green space and further expanding Fourth Avenue as a “cultural corridor” of sorts for the city.

“I like the idea of a green space in the downtown,” he said. “That just sounds wonderful.”

Laura Helle, Vision 2020’s Director of Vision Creation, said she was pleased to see so much community engagement throughout the downtown master plan process, especially as the plan took into account several of Vision 2020’s goals. She was glad to see Vision 2020 volunteers as a part of the process and hoped more people would continue to be involved in large-scale projects.

“Increased community engagement is just what’s going to happen,” she said.

Residents can review the plan on the city’s website. The plan will eventually go under review by city officials and could be adopted by the Austin City Council as official policy.

“It’s on the right track,” Public Works Director Steven Lang said.