MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
November 17, 2008
Appendix A: Transcription of the Presentation by Mr. Milana
Thank you, Dr. Hillis. Thank you all for inviting us to come and share with you an update. I think we have a visual of the tract that’s for everyone’s reference. (See D 6661 from The Brackenridge Tract Task Force Report. This is the Brackenridge Tract, which is roughly 350 acres given to The University of Texas by Colonel Brackenridge in 1910. As Dr. Hillis mentioned, we were selected by the Board of Regents back in April to look at preparing two conceptual master plans for this land over a scope that spans over 12 months. It’s a long time period because it’s a very large scope. It’s a scope that involves the work of nine different consultants, seven of which are local to Austin. It’s a scope that involves creating surveys of the property, various mappings of the property, traffic assessment, market assessment, and environmental regulatory assessments for the property, as well as analyzing the property from an urban design perspective, and then moving toward the ability to prepare a minimum of two conceptual master plans by June of 2009.
As part of our charge by the Board of Regents, we were asked to engage several interested parties, the first of which start right here, UT officials, both at the System level and at the Austin level. We’ve also engaged city and state government officials. Then we’ve gone and had a very extensive community outreach, which included talking directly to the tenants on the site, community groups that are interested in the future of the site, as well as three well-publicized public involvement sessions. Starting back in June, we had a listening session, where we merely introduced ourselves and the charge provided by the Board of Regents. We allowed the attendees to just talk to us about their feelings about the Brackenridge Tract in the future and about what it meant to them. As you would imagine, many of them are residents of the West Austin neighborhood that the tract is a part of. There was great passion conveyed by the members of the community, many of whom were happy to see it stay exactly the way it was, or is.
In August, we came back to the public and held an information session where we gave an update of our work to date. Primarily, that [session] involved the status of our mapping efforts. The survey had just been completed at the time we had come back in August. We relayed back the core community values that we had learned from our listening session. The highlights of those would be, first of all, a great appreciation for the qualities of West Austin, the uses of the tract, the open space of the tract, the sensitivity to the edges of the tract and how that interfaces with the neighborhood, and the need to make sure anything that happens on the tract doesn’t adversely affect the neighborhood, specifically with [regard to] traffic.
Then, as we continued our analysis of the tract, which we do in any event when we look at an opportunity, we prepared for a weeklong workshop, which just occurred the first week of November. That was a week where we worked on the site in one of the LCRA buildings. It was the former Lakeview Lodge. It was a space for us to do our work for a week, and we held three sessions on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week that engaged the public. The first was an opening session where we presented the results of our analysis. In that presentation, we really tried to expand the context through which people look at the tract. Much of the discussion regarding the tract to date has been from the perspective of West Austin and from the edges of the tract, [which involved] thinking about it in a very localized way. We tried to expand that and show the relevance of the 350 acres city-wide and regionally. In our opinion, [the tract is] one of the anchors of Austin’s waterfront. If you think of Lady Bird Lake being between Tom Miller Dam and the Longhorn Dam, and the lake front being Austin’s waterfront, this [tract] is an anchor to Austin’s waterfront.
We, on Wednesday, held two identical work sessions, where we had 10 tables [of individuals] look at five pre-determined scenarios with respect to the future development of the tract. [One of the scenarios included] everything from the tract stays as is but allows the existing uses to be maintained and enhanced. Those [individuals who considered this scenario] focus[ed] primarily on the graduate student housing sites that were on the tract; [their] thinking [was] about how those [sites] might be redeveloped, even as student housing, and what opportunities would come with a different model of housing, if you will, on the site. We also allowed some of the tables to think of everything north of Lake Austin Boulevard as being available for development and, conversely, everything south of Lake Austin Boulevard as being available for development. We had an option that had everything available for development except for the back nine holes of the golf course. Then, there was an option in which everything was on the table for redevelopment. One of the ladies who presented her table’s scheme described herself as a reluctant bride because of very strong feelings about the tract, and many of [the attendees] had a hard time just engaging in a different future for the tract than what currently there. They did participate in good faith. I think we got a lot of great response in [their] thinking about [what are the possibilities] if change is before us. Then, the groups really came together and started to come up with constructive ways to affect the future of the tract. What we heard was that there was a strong desire for maintaining UT uses on the site in some form that would be the most useful for the University. There was strong support for better models of development than what currently exists on the site. I think everyone acknowledged that the land has not been utilized efficiently and that better building models--better urban models--could be utilized. So, in thinking about redevelopment, for example of a Colorado apartment tract, many, many of the tables suggested mixed uses that might include housing but other uses as well, [which] would be pedestrian-oriented, would be in an increment that would be walk-able, and would be green sustainable. [There was] lots of support for sustainability on many levels.
Open space was a huge component of the tables’ discussions. Some of the tables see Muny [the municipal golf course] as their open space and would like to keep that just as it is. Some of the tables actually had proposals for real, usable parks that wouldn’t be gated and wouldn’t be specifically for one type of use but would be flexible. When Muny was left on the table, there were tables that acknowledged that in order for the gift to serve the educational mission of the University that issues of how economic benefits could be derived would need to be addressed, [such as] whether that was a different agreement with the city, some sort of sale with the city, or a land trade with the city, [There was] lots of discussion about how the University could get value from the golf course if it were to remain.
On the Friday, we presented a re-cap of all of our week’s discussions and what we had learned. We summarized for the group all the things that we had heard. I should mention that on Monday night we had introduced a set of draft design principles. Those design principles became a gauge by which we conditioned all of the discussions at the table. Each of the tables was asked to think about the principles in response to the conversations that were going on. I’d like to just read them to you now, if you haven’t seen them. The first is legacy, and that is to honor the intent of Colonel Brackenridge’s gift that the land be used in trust for The University of Texas at Austin for the purpose of advancing and promoting University education and preserve opportunities for future University uses on the tract. The second is context and compatibility, and that is to recognize and respond to the tract’s context within the city of Austin as part of the city’s waterfront and to the context of the West Austin neighborhood by respecting the character of it’s edges with appropriate land uses, building scale, landscape, and traffic mitigation. Third is place-making and public realm, which means to conceive the tract as a distinct and integrative whole, rather than the sum of its parts, organized by a collection of walk-able neighborhoods with an integrated system of streets, trails, and freely accessible usable open space, collectively known as the public realm. [Fourth is] compact development, [which means to] employ compact development strategies that maximize open space, embody a hierarchy of experiences, and encourage mixed-use pedestrian friendly and vibrant areas that will characterize the tract within the region, the city, and the vicinity. [Fifth is] ecology and environment, [which means to] celebrate the lakefront and other significant natural features of the tract, such as it’s creek and mature trees by organizing a large open-space system about these elements while embracing the best methods and practices to ensure their preservation and to support the regional ecology. [Sixth is] transportation and connectivity [which means to] recognize that transportation solutions are achieved at a city-wide scale but designed to minimize neighborhood traffic impacts by providing additional connections that reduce the dependence upon Enfield Road and Exposition, by mixing uses to capture otherwise offsite trips, and by planning for future transit options. Secondly, [the transportation principle intends] to incorporate a hike and bike system that is interconnected to Upland Pathways. [Seventh is] sustainability, [which means to] plan the future of the tract based on a holistic approach to sustainability that considers social and economic as well as natural systems and resources, building upon the strengths of the past and what exists today while preserving options for future generations. Finally, [the last principle includes] feasibility, flexibility, and economic viability. [This eighth principle means to] develop an economically feasible plan that can be phased over time, be flexible to changing markets and conditions, and generate income on the tract, using sound planning principles to support the educational mission of the University while contributing positively to the community.
As part of our involvement with interested parties, there are two that are specific in that we have been conducting collaborative planning with the graduate student housing and with the student-housing group, and we have been conducting collaborative planning with the Brackenridge Field Lab group. David McGregor will talk to you in more detail about those. That’s been on-going, and our work on that is part of the charge that we have received—to understand the needs of those groups, how they work currently, the needs they project for the future, and the ways that will continue to serve the University in thinking about what the options for those uses are in light of redevelopment for the tract. In thinking about the overall schedule, I talked about it being more than 12 months. That has been designed to be roughly six months--the first six months of the effort--[for our team to be engaged in] calling, listening, learning, and analyzing. The last six months is design, evaluation, and implementation. We are nearing the end of our first six months. By the time that we end 2008, we will have been completing our collaborative planning efforts and finalizing all of our initial studies for the tract. Then, moving into the new year, we will be initiating the options, which will lead to a minimum of the two conceptual master plan options. We will then need to test those options against a series of criteria, and our goal would be to have draft versions of the plans that we end up taking to the Board sometime in April or so, so that we can have final testing and implementation strategies that can be designed against those so that our final recommendations can come before the Board in June. With that, I’d like to introduce David McGregor to talk to you further about our collaborative planning efforts as well as other efforts.
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