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Seaholm Waterfront study produces a plan that PARD recommends

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Seven years ago, the Seaholm Intake building along the shores of Lady Bird Lake was turned over to the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, and it has since stood waiting for change.

Now, after months of study, community input, and a partnership between the parks department, The Trail Foundation and the Austin Parks Foundation, there is a three-phase plan to transform this building into a public hub with water access.

After reviewing the proposal at their July 24 meeting, the members of the Parks and Recreation Board unanimously offered their recommendation for it to go before Council.

“We want to get people into the space. We want to activate it,” said Heidi Anderson, executive director of the Trail Foundation. To do so, the first step is to clean up the derelict building. This project has already received $600,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax funds, which Anderson said will only be enough for remediation of the structure, including removing the glass that is everywhere from the broken windows. The cost of replacement of the windows, let alone the total cost of the execution of the project, remains unknown.

“Is it $15 million, or is it $50 million? We don’t know yet,” said Anderson. However, after this project is taken to Council for approval they will be better able to crunch numbers and settle on a final figure.

Although all the details have not been ironed out, from a macro point of view, the project is imagined to be a flexible space with basic amenities like a cafe, Wi-Fi and restrooms for everyday use, and it would also retain the ability to be used for concerts and events. Physically, “the building would stay the same with support buildings being added on the outside,” explained Katie Robillard, a landscape architect with the Austin Parks Foundation. These additional buildings would include amenities in the interior and outdoors, and there are plans to put trails down to the water’s edge as well as a lookout point over the lake.

“We still have quite a bit of study to do,” noted Robillard. She explained that the team still needs to tackle erosion issues, traffic patterns, and how it will renovate the Odom Pavilion in conjunction with the Seaholm building.

For the design, the city has selected Studio Gang to do the work. The hope is that with the group’s design expertise and input from the community, the space will become a hub in the burgeoning Seaholm District.

“This is the model for how these things should progress,” said Board Member Rick Cofer. Chair Jane Rivera also approved, saying, “This looks much more like what people have been asking for.”

According to Robillard, “Right now no one really stops. They’re just trying to get through this area.” In an effort to change that, the parks board unanimously recommended that this plan move forward to Council for approval in August.

Photo and diagram from the Studio Gang presentation given to the board.

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