Support the ERCMP

16 02 2010

As you know, the East Riverside Corridor is in desperate need of wholesale re-invention. Indeed, one could say no other part of Austin is in such dire straits. This is having a detrimental effect on our City’s overall health. We here at The Placemaking Institute believe the proposed East Riverside Corridor Master Plan (which was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on February 9th, albeit with compatibility standard and zoning classification amendments that should not be part of Phase 1) is both comprehensive and excellent, and we are writing to urge you to support it because

It is a plan that puts forward a vision of thoughtful land use supported by a much needed rail transit  system.

It is a plan dedicated to high-quality public space (i.e., streets and parks and trails) that will support and encourage appropriate private investment in a location in much need of just that. 

It is a plan that will facilitate and enable a more integrated pedestrian environment of appropriate mixed-land usage that is more walkable and bicycle-friendly.

It is a plan that clearly demonstrates socioeconomic integrity by following all the very best principles of True Urbanism, and it was in fact created by the public itself through open and transparent community visioning charrettes, where anyone who wanted to participate could – And did.

In short, the East Riverside Corridor Master Plan will move Austin further along the path toward Progress by transforming an area that can only be considered a huge liability into one that would be a wonderful precedent for a pattern of future renewal. It will provide many healthy lifestyle options, in the process generating a significant new tax base. While we know Austin will grow, we don’t know how or where, and will it occur in a sustainable manner? If the leaders of this community do not, on February 25th, ultimately approve such an excellent vision and support its long-term implementation, what hope can we truly have for the future of our City?

While it will and already has been (by the Chronicle’s Katherine Gregor) said that the “The master plan lacks any economic analysis or direction on value capture – a glaring omission,” Our Most Senior Fellow’s Eminence Gris explains: “The reason that the master plan lacks these things is due to the scope imposed upon Nelessen by the City; economic analysis or direction on value capture was outside of Nelessen’s purview and, thus, this glaring omission should not be considered to be a knock on the Master Plan itself per se. A better question would be to ask, why didn’t the City include these aspects within the Master Planning process?”

Our Most Senior Fellow would like to add (from his point of view as a classically trained economist with a master’s degree that focussed on economic development and affordability [which he generally abhors admitting in public]) that “Yes, obviously an economic development component must be added. However, the ERCMP is a wonderful vision that we should all embrace before working together to ensure that an appropriate economic development strategy is insinuated within it. How many times over the years have we as a society taken radical redevelopment actions such as this one solely initially predicated upon an economic development plan? That strategy has not really worked well for we the people, has it?”

And we conclude with the words of Mr. Tony Nelessen himself: “For your info we completed two economic analysis’s for the site. One was done by a local firm and we completed another in house to meet the needs of the contract and to understand feasibility. The city has both reports and did not include them in the Master Plan which is appropriate. Regarding value added for transit: Given the negative perceptions of the land today, the plan when adopted will already add value! If the plan is implemented without the light rail, there will have to be a serious upgrade to the bus service, stops, lanes and image. I guess that there is no question about the value added if the urban design master plan was implemented along with the light rail. To answer how much more will land and adjacent property be worth? And, what is the fiscal impact and benefit to the city if LR was implemented?

“The answer to these questions is going to be a factor of how much FAR/DU’s the city will allow at what distance from the station, along with the positive or negative images of the transit, stations, landscaping/streetscape, cars,  service etc. It is one of the key principles of smart growth and if there is a market for the housing as planned then there is certainly a justification for transit and vice versa. I can’t imagine a sustainable city without a huge emphasis on mixed and multiple use, walking and bicycling within the TT6 and TT5 and TT4, with more emphasis in the TT4 on bike, walking, local jitneys and car use. I have just completed the second rush of a new video about TT Transit Transects.  It is very interesting and compelling. Uses all the principles of the New Urbanism except TT6 is heavily weighed towards the pedestrian and landscaping not the car. This is a really good model for Sustainable Urbanism. In the next week(s) it will be on YouTube.”

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