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Brackenridge plans do not include Muny

Friday, June 19, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

The University of Texas Board of Regents were presented with two plans for the Brackenridge Tract along Lady Bird Lake, both of which would close the Lions Municipal Golf Course, known as “Muny.” The historic 18-hole course has a lease until 2019, so wouldn’t be closed before then. West Austin neighborhood residents have formed the group Save Muny in an attempt to preserve the course.


Master planning firm Cooper Robertson Partners created the plans for the tract, and partner Paul Milana told the regents the golf course “has a greater future to be able to provide freely accessible open space.” To that end, both plans envisioned a central park along Schulle Branch Creek, which snakes through the middle of the Brackenridge Tract and empties into Ladybird Lake. Currently, Schulle Branch is an intermittent, low flowing drainage ditch. However, Milana said that runoff and retention ponds would turn that trickle into a lush centerpiece for a large connecting park.


Both plans envision a savvy mix of new urbanism concepts and feature two to six story buildings, along with mixed-use developments, pocket parks, mass transit accessibility and pedestrian friendly roads and sidewalks. Mike Weaver of Prime Strategies, CRP’s transportation consultant, told the regents via taped video that the plans would ultimately reduce traffic by more than 40 percent.


The two plans, the “Brackenridge Village Concept” and the “Park Concept,” primarily differ in their treatment of the Brackenridge Field Lab, with the village plan relocating it and the Park Concept setting aside 56 acres for the lab. If the lab were to be relocated, CRP suggested McKinney Roughs, an 80-acre parcel of land currently under lease from the LCRA. Both plans would relocate the graduate school housing to the current Gateway Apartments site. The two plans also include a revamped marina.


The Village concept proposed a “Red Bud Connector” that would link Enfield with the bridge across Red Bud Island. Exposition Boulevard would serve as a shopping district and Lake Austin Boulevard would have a market square feel, similar to the French Market in New Orleans. The Park Concept would have Lake Austin Boulevard serve as the shopping street, with Exposition retaining its current layout rather than continuing to the lakefront.


University faculty were concerned about the loss of the field lab. David Hillis, in an email to media, blasted the plans. He wrote that CRP “completely ignored all the recommendations from our committee, the Dean’s committee, and from the Provost and President of UT. We recommended an extensive plan for improvement of the site for academic purposes.” He went on to say, “If implemented, the plans would cause enormous damage to our academic programs and reputation.” In a press conference after the presentation, UT Austin President William Powers said the displeasure of faculty “will carry extremely important weight.”


There were other so-called “optional uses” in the plans. These included space for an elementary school across the street from O. Henry Middle School, and another was a 21.5-acre plot for academic purposes.


Council Member-elect Chris Riley sat through the presentation and told In Fact Daily, “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t have any option that included preservation of the golf course,” but said that the city’s financial state could be a significant obstacle for the city to step in to save Muny. Riley said there were “a lot of impressive elements to the plan, but from the standpoint of preserving significant parts of our historic fabric in that area, there are elements left to be desired.” 


The regents and University officials stressed that they had yet to receive the final report from CRP. They plan on several months of in-depth study before hosting another public input session this fall.

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