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Panel seeks to integrate Central Library design into lower Shoal Creek

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

As part of the design process for the new downtown Central Library, an interdepartmental team within city staff has made a number of recommendations on how to integrate the new library into its space along lower Shoal Creek.


Assistant City Manager Bert Lumbreras, who oversees libraries, called the design and construction of the new Central Library “a once in a lifetime situation for the city.” The task force considered an area that encompassed a number of city-owned properties: Seaholm and the Central Library as part of its site, plus Green Water Treatment Plant, an energy substation and the energy control center.


Fred Evins, who spearheaded the task force efforts, said the charge to the interdepartmental team was to establish a shared vision for lower Shoal Creek; recommend improvements to the creek itself; and offer input and suggestions that could inform planning and design along Shoal Creek.


The addition of new mixed-use projects in the last decade, plus the inclusion of Ballet Austin and the new Austin Music Hall, had significantly changed the area, Evins said. Those projects soon will be joined by the construction of the second phase of Gables Park Plaza, the reconfiguration of the energy control center, the redevelopment of the Green site, and construction of the library.


“By the time we’re done, this will almost completely redevelopment the original southwest corner of the downtown area,” Evins said.


The vision of lower Shoal Creek, Evins said, was a setting fully integrated into the broader community; a successful destination location; an urban environment with a natural context; and a place where design creates sustainable urbanism.


Lower Shoal Creek, tucked away into Lady Bird Lake, is a corner of downtown that most people don’t even know existed, said Council Member Chris Riley, who has been a long-time champion for the area. Riley said it was easy, at times, to not think of the location as downtown Austin at all because portions were so secluded.


The commitment from staff to consider the placement of the Central Library Project, and how it will fit in with surrounding parkland, is a key finding of the report. Shoal Creek’s banks and the trail adjacent to the library will be improved, Evins said. The city also will consider a possible dock at the library for boats.


Among the recommendations made by the interdepartmental task force:


·       A subsurface utility engineering analysis should be performed to identify all live and abandoned city infrastructure in the creek channel. Plus, pursue funding to bury overhead electrical transmission circuits along Shoal Creek, which had the support of Mayor Leffingwell;


·       Extend the main trail below bridges, long term, with a secondary trail at street level. Close the trail gap between West Avenue and Fifth Street. Also consider the realignment of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway between Cesar Chavez and Third Street;


·       Study a multi-modal crossing at Third Street for the lower Shoal Creek district, a stop which could be incorporated into future urban rail plans; and


·       Study areas along lower Shoal Creek, such as The Falls, Shoal Beach, Little Shoal Creek Tunnel and Lady Bird Lake Peninsula, with the goal of providing some improved destination points in the area.

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