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Planning commissioners focus on Dougherty Center’s parking plans

Monday, April 15, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

The city is deep into developing the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which calls for limiting parking, encouraging alternative forms of transportation and reducing the number of Austinites driving solo in their vehicles from 74 percent to 50 percent by 2039. So commissioners at the April 8 meeting of the Planning Commission were hyper-aware of the consequences of constructing a two-story parking garage smack dab along the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake. The Dougherty Arts Center redevelopment plan features a two-story, 200-space parking structure that slightly exceeds the parking requirements for the 80,000-square-foot space. While the Parks and Rec Board already noted its disapproval of the gargantuan structure and its pollution potential, the Planning Commission expressed other reasons for not liking the idea. “It’s just interesting that there was a stadium proposed here that wasn’t going to have parking,” said Commissioner Greg Anderson. “I hate to see this thing celebrating this central spot with a parking structure,” noted Chair James Shieh. Although Kevin Johnson, the project manager for the DAC redesign, assured commissioners that some thought had gone into removing current ZACH Theatre parking and relocating it to the parking garage, the commissioners said that should be done on a larger scale and that local arts centers in the immediate area should consider sharing parking. However, they warned not to make parking free. “That’s just a better incentive for folks to show up on foot and enjoy the space. Because it’s a park, not a parking lot,” Anderson said. Commissioner Todd Shaw cautioned that parking shouldn’t be so severely limited that parents who drive their children to activities at the DAC struggle to find parking. Parking for parents at drop-off, he said, is “a really big deal.”

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