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Lamar Beach Master Plan moves to Council

Thursday, October 13, 2016 by Joseph Caterine

Pitching a park master plan at a Planning Commission meeting is a hard sell, especially when you’re following presentations on the city’s fiscal health and its affordability crisis. Rebecca Leonard of Design Workshop nevertheless took up the task before an exhausted commission last Tuesday evening.

City Council passed a resolution in June 2014 to initiate the conceptual plan, and Design Workshop was brought on in February 2015 to begin the process. Because the beach had never been master planned, Leonard explained, the current layout is a hodgepodge of different elements, to the point where the park does not have much of an identity.

“When we conducted our initial surveys, most people did not know what we were talking about,” she said. “They thought it was more of an extension of Town Lake park.”

In fact, Lamar Beach is 65.4 acres of parkland bounded by Lady Bird Lake to the south, YMCA of Austin and railroad tracks to the north (roughly), Austin High School and MoPac Expressway to the west and North Lamar Boulevard to the east.

The plan’s recommendations include various infrastructure and trail improvements with more extensive changes further down the line, including realignment of Cesar Chavez Street.

Though the Planning Commission was in agreement on the beauty of the plan’s design, many thought that it would likely be shelved by Council due to costs. If all of the recommendations are implemented, phase one comes with a price tag of $27.4 million to $35.7 million, with the highest-ticket item being an $18.9 million to $24.6 million animal shelter. Phase two of the plan is estimated to cost between $37.5 million and $51 million, with the Cesar Chavez Boulevard realignment accounting for an estimated $27.1 million to $37.3 million of that cost.

Regardless, commissioners voted 10-0-1 to send the plan to Council, with Commissioner Nuria Zaragoza alone in abstaining. Commissioners Angela Pineyro De Hoyos and Stephen Oliver were absent.

Zaragoza echoed the concerns of City Demographer Ryan Robinson during a previous commission presentation about turning the city into a “Monaco on the Colorado.”

“I just can’t support such an intensive redevelopment when we’re moving significant infrastructure, and when I look at it within the balance of public space and affordability,” she said.

Zaragoza told the Austin Monitor, “We have to ask ourselves, what are we doing as a city to rev up these engines that are exacerbating our problems with density and affordability?”

The plan is currently scheduled to go before Council for adoption in November.

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This story has been corrected to clarify the fact that Robinson was referring to Austin as a whole, not Lamar Beach in specific.

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