Auditorium Shores: The Next Millennium?

Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on hand

Although City Council is informally on hiatus until August, the work goes on in steamy July Austin. This week featured an informal Tuesday afternoon "meet and greet" with former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is now executive chairman of Tur Partners LLC. Tur, according to its web site, is "an investment and advisory firm that partners with global businesses to drive expansion into new and existing markets." But Tur CEO Lori Healey (planning commissioner under the Daley administration) said the firm also does consulting on city planning and redevelopment, and was brought in because of the leadership's experience in the creation of Millennium Park, controversial at its conception, but now a landmark destination and international showcase for Chicago.

The immediate Austin-Chicago connection is C3 Presents, promoters of both the Aus­tin City Limits and Chicago's Lolla­pa­looza festivals. C3's Charlie Jones explained that his group was so impressed with Chicago's design, development, and management of Millennium Park that when they proposed to "give back" via the Austin Parks Foun­da­tion, it was on the condition that an outside consultant be brought in that could "work with all the stakeholders." C3 recommended Tur (Gaelic for "tower").

In addition to investment counseling, Tur has its fingers in a number of municipal pies, and elsewhere is described as engaged in consulting on "sustainable development." That's its current task in Austin, where it was hired (by APF with C3 money) to help the city's Parks and Recreation Department develop a "long-term plan" for the city's Downtown parks. Daley was in town partly to mark the recent release of the first fruit of that project, a report titled "Town Lake Metropolitan Park Redevelopment Study."

According to the report, the "Auditorium Shores Improvements Project will be led by PARD, actively coordinated with the APF and C3 Presents ... on a comprehensive analysis of city plans, policies, and initiatives relating to Austin's Public Park System, with a particular focus on long-term redevelopment plans for Town Lake Metropolitan Park." This week's Tur visit is one of several fact-finding trips during the year.

The project, which began in late 2012, is intended to help create "a long-term vision and execution plan for developing Town Lake Metropolitan Park" (for some reason, the report reflects a titular aversion to the name "Lady Bird Lake"). The current report provides "preliminary findings" and renderings of work already in progress on the park (trailhead redesign, children's garden, off-leash dog area); the final report, to be issued in April of 2014, "is intended to act as a suggested roadmap for the city of Austin in developing Town Lake Metropolitan Park into a best-in-class facility that serves as a parks centerpiece for the city as a whole."

Council Members Mike Martinez and Chris Riley attended the meeting, as did PARD Director Sara Hensley. Daley and Healey emphasized that the planning and design process needs to proceed from "the bottom up" and engage all Austinites, in order to design a park system "unique and different" that expresses the best of the city. "People [in Austin] have to figure out what they want to accomplish," Daley said, "to make a special place for the whole city."

Posted here is the report on the ongoing plans for redevelopment of Downtown parks, prepared for the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Department, with consultation by the Austin Parks Foundation and Tur Partners LLC.

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News, Auditorium Shores, Richard M. Daley, Tur Partners LLC, Lori Healey, C3 Presents, Austin City Limits, Austin Parks Foundation, Town Lake Metropolitan Park Redevelopment Study, Lady Bird Lake, Mike Martinez, Chris Riley, Sara Hensley, Charlie Jones

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