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Architects, Designers Descend on Lady Bird Lake

Image courtesy City of Austin
The planning area in question, on the south side of Lady Bird Lake

The City of Austin wants to know: What do you want our waterfront to look like in 20 years?

Starting tonight, planners are facilitating a three-day discussion on the future of Lady Bird Lake’s “south shore central” area – Congress Avenue, First Street and eastward, including sites like the Hyatt Regency and Austin American-Statesman building. The talks kicked off this morning with boat tours of the area at stake.

Alan Holt, a principal planner with the city, says that this area is lacking in good infrastructure and “like it or not, slated for some big changes because there are a lot of parking lots and development at the end of their shelf life.”

Here to corral citizen comment is the American Institute of Architects’ Sustainable Design Assessment Team, a collection of specialist in riverfront planning, landscape architecture and green building. The team is hosting several open meetings today and Tuesday to discuss development plans.

Austin is one of seven cities nationwide to win a grant from the American Institute of Architects for design and technical assistance related to sustainable development. Holt says the city is getting about “$100,000 in consulting fees for free.”

After consulting with the community and the Waterfront Advisory Board, the team will present recommendations Wednesday night at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Holt says the south shore area is going to be of vital interest as Austin continues to grow.

“With Austin doubling in size every 25 years, south shore central will be an area that will undoubtedly be of keen interest to private development,” says Holt. “From the city side, we know that we have some big plans that will affect south shore central,” potentially including urban rail crossing the river. Holt says the city should aim to “make that bridge connection more than just a functional object that gets a train across, but a real civic object that actually adds quality of the life to south shore central.”

The discussion gets underway tonight at an “Idea Exchange” at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 5:30-8 p.m. You can also offer comment online.

Below, check out a slideshow of photos from the waterfront, shot by KUT News intern Filipa Rodrigues. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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