The Austin Chronicle

Stratford Drive: Let’s Work On It

Redevelopment plan goes back to drawing board

By Chase Hoffberger, June 29, 2018, News

The Stratford Drive Redevelopment Project is now on hold indefinitely. Last Friday, via city memo, Parks and Recre­a­tion Department Acting Director Kimberly McNeeley told City Council that she plans to put a halt to the project, following "constructive feedback" from the Environmental Commission and community members.

McNeeley had been hoping to achieve a relatively quick fix for a series of problems percolating around Zilker Park, namely that: a) the clay cap over the Butler Landfill (underneath the beaten patch of grass northwest of the Great Lawn) has been deteriorating such that it now requires a legitimate fix; and b) overflow parking at the Polo Fields (across Barton Springs Road) had become a bit too enduring, and the Parklands Events Task Force suggested the city develop a solution to "reduce usage of green space parking." So PARD hatched a plan to turn the ad hoc parking and staging area above the landfill into a more proper (albeit not technically permanent) parking lot, with seven acres of crushed stone and pervious Grasstone replacing the beaten grass and loosely strewn rocks, and a few beautification efforts (walkways, a water detention pond) mixed in. The plan required no action from Council, McNeeley said at a May meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board, and would move forward so long as it got the Environmental Commis­sion's blessing.

Well, that didn't happen, and on Friday, following two June presentations to that body, McNeeley shelved the plan. She wrote that "PARD believes the proposed project has the potential to address a number of immediate maintenance and operational issues," but acknowledged the concerns that had been voiced, and noted how an indefinite delay should allow her department to "work more inclusively to address the multi-layered set of issues" in the area. Among them:

Completing a master plan for Zilker Park;

Performing an internal study of traffic, parking, connectivity;

Exploring shuttle or rideshare opportunities for park access;

Assessing the removal of parking from the Polo Fields; and

Evaluating landfill cap maintenance and remediation options.

McNeeley's memo indicates "this new direction will take a considerable amount of time," but action by City Council may create some sort of calendar. Today (Thu., June 28), via a resolution sponsored by Ann Kitchen, Ellen Troxclair, Leslie Pool, and Alison Alter, Council will consider directing City Man­ager Spencer Cronk to form a working group to consider PARD's options (concerning both the clay cap and overflow parking), and bring to Council a set of funding options for a Zilker Park Master Plan by Dec. 30. The resolution also tasks Cronk with implementing a shuttle system or transpo/parking improvement by March 1, 2019, and conducting a traffic study of the area, to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019.

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