Parking Enterprise

If approved, Parking Enterprise Fund Resolution will invest in garages available to public, with revenues providing funding for transit, trails, sidewalks, and bike paths

On a semirelated note, one item that got bumped from last Thursday's council agenda: a Parking Enterprise Fund Resolution. If approved, a new Austin Parking Enterprise will invest in garages available to the public; enterprise revenues will provide long-term funding for transit, trails, sidewalks, and bike paths. State and federal dollars could help fund construction. The enterprise would own the Seaholm Garage; however, its profits go first to the developer under the master development agreement. The big money would come from new underground parking on the nearby to-be-redeveloped Green Water Treat­ment Plant site. Other structured parking opportunities named in the resolution: Down­town, South Congress, transit-oriented devel­opment zones, the Domain-area "second downtown," and along rail lines.

Council authorized the adaptive reuse of Seaholm in 1996 to create "a unique and exceptional cultural facility in downtown Aus­tin." Many cool cultural proposals were floated in a public conversation about Seaholm; meanwhile, once-discussed tenants like the Austin Children's Museum and the Austin Museum of Art still need permanent homes. When the economy tanked in 2001, however, Seaholm became something of a civic white elephant, weighted down with daunting costs for redevelopment, retrofitting, operations, and a projected $30 million in streetscape infrastructure improvements. Three years after hiring a development team, plans show a mix of retail, condos, hotel, and offices – hardly "unique and exceptional" in today's Down­town. But at this point, all involved simply want to get the project into construction – before the development cycle dolphins downward yet again.

One vocal project critic has been Andrew Clements, former chair of the Urban Trans­porta­tion Commission. He believes the redevelopment plans will be "an unfortunate violation of the long-term public good, instead favoring the short-term financial benefit of the development team." Clements' focus is preserving mass-transit options, particularly existing Union Pacific rail track. The 2004 council resolution seeking a Seaholm redevelopment team specifically cited "mass transit use options" and "a possible passenger rail/transit link to central downtown and other points." Clements and others fear those options have been needlessly lost in accommodating the developer.

But Council Member Brewster McCracken said the debate amounts to a "philosophical disagreement" over which rail technology is best now for a Downtown circulator – heavy rail, ultralight rail, or a streetcar. A choice on the transit configuration was made after a study, jointly funded with Capitol Metro, which explored five different visions for how the Seaholm rail juncture could work. McCrack­en favors light rail, or a modern streetcar; he said the heavy rail line from San Antonio still could link up to it at Seaholm. Mayor Will Wynn has called for a passenger-rail referendum in November 2008, to provide short-hop transit around the central city. Now in planning is an inclusive city-led public forum on alternate technologies and routes, seeking (voter) input on whether the line should run all the way to Seaholm and/or the Long Center, across Lady Bird Lake.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Katherine Gregor
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Climate Protection: City in No Hurry To Cool It
Checking in on the Climate Protection Program's progress – or lack thereof

Aug. 6, 2010

Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Climate Change Crosses County Lines
Study predicts how climate change will affect Texas' future water needs

July 30, 2010

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Parking Enterprise Fund, Parking Enterprise Fund Resolution, Seaholm Garage, Green Water Treat­ment Plant, Andrew Clements, Brewster McCracken, Capitol Metro

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle