City making plans for south shore of Lady Bird Lake


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 11:13 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 21 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN --  A tale of two lakes: To the west of South First Street, Lady Bird Lake is visible, accented with hike and bike trails, parks and public spaces. But the east side is a different story.

"There's no public access. There's no people running or walking down there, no dogs, no bikes," said Joan Hyde, who rows on the lake.

Looking from Barton Springs Road, you can't even see the lake behind the buildings.

"There was no master plan about as these properties developed, how to make sure there were good connections from the neighborhood down to the lake," said Alan Holt, Principal Planner for the City of Austin's Urban Design Division.

Holt is talking about the south central shore: 97 acres stretching from South First Street to the Joe's Crab Shack on Riverside Drive and from the lake to Barton Springs Road. According to Fregonese Associates, an urban planning company hired by the city, the shore is prime real estate and development isn't stopping.

"The total market value of those buildings is just shy of $2 billion," said John Fregonese, president of Fregonese Associates.

"Where we have some big property owners, the Statesman, the Crockett, they don't have plans to go anywhere yet, but over the next 10 or 20 years, the economic forces indicate that they may likely decide it's time to do something different," Holt said.

So, the city is creating a plan for developing the shore. At a public meeting held Tuesday night, PennPraxis, a design firm also hired by the city to study the area, presented its vision.

"The team that I led thought it could be a mixture of uses from housing to office to retail with a lot of open space, that this was really an opportunity to bring Austin to the river-front," said PennPraxis executive director Harris Steinberg.

That's something Austinites say they want.

"There's a lot of buildings downtown, and there's good access from downtown, so I don't think the buildings and the parking lots are the problem," said Hyde.

"I'd like to see good access to the lake for the public, and I'd like to see a good walkable community there," said Austinite Charles Naeve.

Over the next few months, the city will host additional public forums to hear input.

Go here for more information on the South Central Shore Waterfront Plan.

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