The More Things Change...
TOP NINE BUZZWORDS EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD SHOULD KNOW
1.Smart Growth. Duh. Include with this one all the sub-buzzwords like "destination parks" or "greenways," and any acronym ending with "Z."
2.Stakeholder. The mot de rigeur for a player, or potential player, in a neighborhood dispute, or potential dispute. Given the dozens of such players involved in matters like the Triangle or the ARA, one wonders if Austin will soon experience a shortage of stakes for us all to hold.
3.Mixed-use. As we hear it most often, this means apartments on top, storefronts or small offices below. That leaves about nine dozen different uses that remain unmixed, and that still need to be accommodated in the Smart Grown blocks of Austin Tomorrow. Let us know when y'all figure out where to put the McDonald's and the rendering plant.
4.Pedestrian-friendly. This means short distances between points of interest (usually a "10-minute walk," itself a buzzphrase), conspicuous "traffic calming" (ditto) measures, and pleasant and engaging surroundings, like fun shops and pretty benches. It does not mean "Enclose and air-condition all public spaces so Joe and Jane Average can walk 10 minutes in August without expiring."
5.D.U.'s per acre. Dwelling units, that is. Urban gold. Densi-tea. Of course, in your Better Neighborhoods we're still talking about owner-occupied, single-family units. The densest and most urban (and, for that matter, most mixed-use and ped-friendly) neighborhood in Austin is West Campus, but no one seems to want that to be their Smart Growth model.
6. Public realm. The space between the houses wherein happens public life, idealized by NewUrb architects and by them sorely missed in the standard suburb. As is often the case with architecture, the theory is that if you build the realm, the public will follow; if every house has a front porch, people will sit on them and sip tea and visit with the neighbors.
7. Transit-oriented. A semantic curiosity: We talk all the time about how neighborhoods and developments should be transit-oriented (a coinage borrowed from Peter Calthorpe, himself now an Austin buzzword), but we describe the Bad Places as being auto-dependent. We are waiting for the project that comes billed as "transit-dependent."
8. Location efficiency. An up-and-coming buzzword that paraphrases the following: "If you live in the central city, you can afford a more expensive house, because you won't be spending so much money on your cars, your extended day care, your dog-sitter, the person who cleans your house because you don't have time to do it yourself because you're commuting two hours a day..." and on and on. Banks in Chicago are now offering "location-efficient mortgages."
9. Community values. After you've done your neighborhood plan, or your "visioning" exercise, or your "visual preferences survey," or your "charrette" (Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!), you will know your "community values." Henceforth, you can work with developers in glorious harmony to build a mutually agreeable Austin Tomorrow. That is, until the 90% of your "stakeholders" who were out at the lake decide your roadmap is Satan-spawned.
TOP NINE GHOST PROJECTS THAT HAUNT AUSTIN TODAY
1. Municipal Office Complex. So, if we hadn't abandoned our early-Eighties City Hall project on the Municipal Annex site, where would we be putting Computer Sciences Corp. now?As it stands, the MOC has been transformed into CSC, potentially locking Austin Tomorrow into a plan designed to meet the needs of Austin Yesterday.
2. Austin-San Antonio Regional Airport. This was two New Airports ago, before Manor and Bergstrom; had this one happened, we wouldn't be fretting about how to create a "regional identity" for the Central/South Texas corridor, though Lord only knows what would have happened to Mueller.
3.The Superblock. Another ghost haunting CSC, this keystone of the late-1970sAmerican City Corp. downtown-renewal plan would have flanked the Annex with a mall/hotel/office/ entertainment complex complete with "peoplemover" system (think Tandy Center in Fort Worth). The Superblock is more like the CSC plan than some might like to admit, but at the time, it was vilified as being "totally alien to Austin values." Apparently, those values have changed.
4.Laguna Gloria Downtown. Even more so than with a new airport, many Austiniteswill not believe we're going to have a real downtown art museum until its doors swing open. With the protracted failure to build the Robert Venturi design of 15 years ago, Austin may also have lost its best chance to have an actual building (as opposed to a plan, like the new Triangle Square) from a truly great modern architect(as opposed to an accomplished museum designer like Richard Gluckman).
5.East Side Mall/East 11th Street Village. Seeing these ghost ships of East Austin redevelopment sail through the recent hearings on the Austin Revitalization Authority's renewal plans was enough to make even the hardest heart all misty and nostalgic. Prediction: Within two years, the city will attempt to buy the Bennett Tract.
6.San Jacinto/Trinity Bridge. This one goes way back -- whatever happened to the plan to build another bridge across Town Lake, alive as recently as the mid-1970s? Had this happened, no Convention Center, no Four Seasons Hotel, no Statesman building, but maybe no traffic crisis of national import at the I-35 crossing either.Oh well.
7.El Mercado. Not the restaurant, but the redevelopment plan for the Cap Metro-owned Eastside railyard. How tenuous (at least at present) is the proposition that light rail will come to pass? Yet redevelopment interest in the blocks flanking the railyard -- which would be the main hub of the rail system -- has so far been conspicuous by its absence.
8. Decker Lake Festival Complex. Had this one happened, we might still have an Aqua Fest, though not at the heart of town where such an event genuinely belongs. We'd also have a bona fide "destination park" on the Eastside (although Lake Walter Long as it currently stands is pretty close), and we could seeif such parks really have any effect on desired growth patterns.
9. Crosstown Expressway. We are convinced that Kirk Watson's tenure as mayor will not end without some proposal for a Crosstown -- perhaps the "Crosstown Lite" up-grading of several major east-west thoroughfares first proposed around 1990. The original Cross-town, which would have run straight through downtown, is long dead, but a Koenig Lane Freeway is still not out of the question.