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A calendar of upcoming urban planning events

It's spring in Austin, the bluebonnets are blooming, and a young metropolis' thoughts turn to … urban planning and design, judging from recent and upcoming events around town.


Transit-Oriented Development

Is a rail station coming to a neighborhood near you? The city has kicked off its public participation process for station-area planning and transit-oriented development, or densely planned and well-designed mixed-use and residential development around new rail transit stops. Austin is planning now for the first three inner-city stations to serve the Capital Metro commuter rail line.

The planning process for each station includes a public charrette (hands-on design workshop) to gather neighborhood input, which will be led by national TOD design experts Parsons Brinckerhoff.

• MLK Boulevard TOD charrette: Tuesday, April 24, at David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church (Fellowship Hall), 2211 E. MLK.

• Plaza Saltillo TOD charrette: Wednesday, April 25, at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile.

• Lamar/Justin Lane TOD (Crestview Station) charrette: Thursday, April 26, at Old Koenig Lane Christian Church, 908 Old Koenig Ln.

All events are scheduled 6-9:30pm, with a light meal served. For more information and ongoing updates, visit the city's TOD Web site at www.ci.austin.tx.us/planning/tod.


Barton Springs Pool Master Plan

Do you love Barton Springs? The city of Austin is seeking public input on a master plan for improvements to that beloved shrine, Barton Springs Pool. Improvements to be considered include the facilities, grounds, infrastructure, water quality, and salamander habitat conditions. At a town hall meeting on Monday, April 16, at 6pm, city staff and consultants will gather citizen comments (each speaker is limited to three minutes). The public input will influence a list of short-term projects to be presented to City Council for review in early summer, with final approval by late summer. A list of long-term projects also will be generated.


Opportunity Mapping

Community Partnership for the Homeless held a well-attended luncheon event on March 21, Opportunity Mapping: Leveling Central Texas' Playing Field, to unveil the results of a study with far-reaching implications for land-use development and the siting of affordable housing. Opportunity mapping previously has been used in other U.S. cities to identify geographic patterns of societal opportunity – measured by indicators such as access to education, transportation, affordable housing, and health care.

The thought-provoking local report "The Geography of Opportunity: Austin Region" was presented by its author John A. Powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity in Columbus, Ohio. The report and intriguing, colorful maps and graphics are now online at www.austinhomeless.org. Perhaps most striking was Powell's strong recommendation that new subsidized and affordable-housing projects should not be located on cheap land, located in outlying areas that are far from the axis of opportunity; instead such housing should be close-in, so that residents can access resources to improve their lives. At a subsequent Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Cid Galindo called for this conclusion – and the Central Texas opportunity maps – to be considered in all new city of Austin affordable-housing initiatives.

The nonprofit's board president is developer Tom Stacy, president and CEO of T. Stacy & Associates, known for his work with landmark Downtown properties such as the Scarborough Building, Littlefield Complex, and the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. In conjunction with requested upzoning for a planned condo tower near Fifth and Congress, Stacy has offered as a community benefit a $250,000 donation to Community Partnership for the Homeless, to be used for affordable housing.


Conservation Development Design

Randall Arendt, a leading national expert on conservation design, will present a public workshop in Hays County. Arendt is a nationally known planner who focuses on green building and conservation design (for subdivisions that dedicate at least 50% of the land for permanent preservation). Land planners, large landowners, and developers working in the Texas Hill Country are encouraged to attend, as are real estate professionals and public policy makers.

The event is Monday, April 16, 3:30-8:30pm at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District Performing Arts Center in Kyle (dinner provided by the Salt Lick). Travis Co. recently passed a conservation subdivision ordinance to promote the practice; the city of Austin now is actively exploring adoption of a similar ordinance. The event is hosted by Hays Co. commissioners Jeff Barton and Karen Ford, with support from the Hill Country Alliance. RSVP by April 13 to michele.walters@co.hays.tx.us.


What Should Replace the Farmers' Market?

Travis County is selling the 2.3 acre property on Burnet Road that long has been home to the Travis County Farmers' Market. On March 21, County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt hosted a public hearing for area residents to review three alternative private redevelopment concepts for the property – by developers who all promised to follow the 2004 Brentwood/Highland Neighborhood Plan, which allows for mixed use on the site. However, the eventual purchaser of the property cannot be required to follow the redevelopment concept they presented at the neighborhood hearing, according to Crestview resident Steve Kuehner. Look for a sale by late summer, with redevelopment beginning in mid-2008. For more info, visit the Crestview Neighborhood Association's new Web site at www.crestviewna.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

development, Transit-Oriented Development, Opportunity Mapping, Barton Springs Pool Master Plan, Conservation Development Design, Travis County Farmer's Market

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