Seaholm and Green District: Changes Afoot
Proposed and favored location for new central library is current Seaholm substation site
So many parcels, so many plans! For the new central library, the site now proposed and favored by library advocates and the city is the current site of the Seaholm substation, an Austin Energy facility that fronts on Cesar Chavez, between West Avenue and Shoal Creek. Library advocates are excited about the location, where a stand-alone destination library (envisioned as world-class architecture) would overlook Lady Bird Lake. That signature structure would be flanked to the west by the redeveloped Seaholm Power Plant site and to the east by a four-block, high-rise redevelopment on the Green Water Treatment Plant site. Shifting the library from the Green site proper, said Council Member Brewster McCracken, will accelerate the project's schedule – with a design competition now slated for 2008. "They're a huge winner on this," he said of the library, which also gains parking and site preparation in the deal.
Open space near the library – a public plaza, pocket park, and/or enhanced Shoal Creek Greenbelt – is said to be a priority. A new Shoal Creek bridge could extend the Second Street corridor, providing an east-west connection between the library (and Seaholm) and the Green site (and central Downtown). The tall Austin Energy transformers north of the proposed new library site would remain. Immediately north of those tracts, a third Austin Energy parcel hugged by Shoal Creek (currently the site of a control center) also would be redeveloped – perhaps concurrently but by a separate developer. Discussions among City Council members, city staff, and in the community are continuing.
In late January or early February, a request for proposals will be issued for the Green WTP site, said Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman, and teams will submit detailed redevelopment visions (subject to Waterfront Overlay and Capital View Corridor restrictions). Urban designers will be invited to present a "best practices" vision for the site.
The request for proposals also will reflect the phase one recommendations of the Downtown Austin Plan, to be publicly presented by ROMA Design Group at a joint commissions meeting on Jan. 9. Much as occurred with Block 21, said Huffman and McCracken, Austinites will have ample opportunity to review the proposing teams' alternate proposals, drawings, and 3-D models. The public can help select the redevelopment vision that they believe best represents Austin values. In a perfect world, of course.
*Oops! The following correction ran in the January 4, 2008 issue: Due to an editing error, a passage concerning public input into plans for Downtown was garbled in the Dec. 28 article, "Seaholm and Green District: Changes Afoot." The passage in question should have read, "Much as occurred with Block 21, said Huffman and McCracken, Austinites will have ample opportunity to review the proposing teams' alternate proposals, drawings, and 3-D models."