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THEME 4 | (RE)PROGRAMMING COMMUNITY SPACES
(Re)Programming Community Spaces explores methods of programming and reprogramming social spaces throughout Austin, further enhancing the cultural vibrancy and diverse social activities that make Austin an exciting place to live. Nurturing Cultural Amenities studies the landscape of Austinâ€™s dispersed cultural amenities. It develops frameworks for cultivating existing spaces to host new cultural activity and social connections. Retrofitting Suburbia explores methods for systematically transforming sparse suburban development patterns along Austinâ€™s edges into more dynamic district centers that accommodate anticipated population growth.
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Photo: “The Art of SHOES.” Source: Jeff Jamawat
“In Austin, culture matters.”
This chapter explores a strategy through which cultural amenities can be equitably expanded across every neighborhood in Austin.
Austin is unmistakably unique. From the e ee e ec e ffi O O Gallery downtown, Austin fully celebrates its character. A fundamental part of this identity is rooted in the city’s continued interest and investments in culture. As the City prepares for growth, culture cannot be left out of the equation.
What Are Cultural Amenities? e e e e c amenities, let alone for culture. There is general consensus that culture can be physical—such as products, events, or activities—or it can be interpersonal—such as connections or social groupings between people. Whether culture is rooted in the physical or interpersonal, having a place to cultivate it is essential for building a city’s identity. These ce c e e e cultural amenities. A cultural amenity can range from local spaces in which people can bump into each other all the way to a space in which people experience meaningful programming. A cultural amenity could be as simple as a grocery store in one context or as elaborate as a big bandstand concert in the park in another.
community-based cultural master planning ce e e e e c c e e e e e ce Office This initiative—CreateAustin—emphasized
How does CreateAustin Define Cultural Amenities? CreateAustin took particular interest in arts, culture, and creative industries embodied by: • • • • • • • • •
Architecture + Landscape Arts Education Community Arts Crafts Culinary Arts Dance Design and Graphic Arts Fashion Design Film and Video
e c c e c amenities are critical to forming complete communities. In other words, cultural amenities have the potential to improve the quality of life for individuals and their communities.
Existing Efforts to Strengthen Austin’s Cultural Amenities Culture matters so much to Austinites that in e e e e e e e e
• • • • • • • • •
Gaming and Digital Media Heritage Literary Arts Music + Recording Performance Arts Photography Slam Poetry Theater Visual Arts
the economic importance of programming related to arts, culture, and creative industries. CreateAustin also set the stage for expanding and sustaining cultural amenities through funding, policies, and civic infrastructure. Through extensive stakeholder research and community engagement, the CreateAustin c e e e e e c areas in which to focus their recommendations. e e c e e e e e
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Nurturing Austin’s Cultural Amenities
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Communications and Collaborative Ventures; Financial Resources; and Cultural Infrastructure. Across the sections, the cultural plan provided 34 concrete recommendations ranging from establishing task forces, an Arts and Culture Department, and stakeholder partnerships for providing assistance and learning services to expand the presence of cultural programs.
The Cultural Asset Mapping Project One of the most important recommendations the CreateAustin puts forward is about developing e cce ec ce all types.” This recommendation has been a primary motivation for investigating how Austin’s cultural amenities are distributed across e e e CreateAustin ffic e e e Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan has picked up where CreateAustin e Imagine Austin, the City’s Cultural Arts Division began a Cultural Asset Mapping Project Participants in each district of the City were asked to help identify “cultural assets” in e c c e e e produced a set of district-by-district maps that revealed the locations of cultural amenity clusters and scarcities. It is important to note that not every amenity shows up on these maps, e c e e e e c e The citywide map of cultural assets shows that cultural amenities are largely concentrated in the e ee e e e and west of this band, the density of cultural amenities decreases.
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Each dot represents a cultural amenity, as defined through the Cultural Asset Mapping Project.
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Places like Northeast Austin, for example, have very few amenities and amenities are nondiverse. The CAMP maps showed that cultural amenities are primarily located on the periphery of Northeast Austin. This may be a result of historic disinvestment in minority communities. South First Street is at the other end of the spectrum: Here, there are many cultural amenities that help concretely define unique identities along the corridor.
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Johnny Morris RD
Decker LN 180
Martin Luther King BLVD
Art, Studio, or Workspace
Museum or Gallery
Theater or Arts Venue
Bar or Club
Recreation or Open Space
Cultural amenities outside of the site area
Business or Organizations
Place of Worship
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Photo: SXSW Music 2011 - Austin, TX. Source: Kris Krug, flickr
A one-size-fits-all cultural planning strategy may not be most effective in Austin.
CreateAustin e e e e work to make cultural planning a priority e e e e e e e e e e e c e e where cultural amenities are located. These inequalities complicate the way certain neighborhoods gather, experience Austin’s culture, or even build their own identity. There is a continuum of access to cultural amenities in Austin, resulting in heavy concentration of amenities in some areas and e e e e continuum of strategies could increase both the number of cultural amenities and the opportunities to build place-based identity in contextually-appropriate ways. A one-sizec e e e e ec e e this chapter explores three strategies that e e e e ee e e communities. e e building basic amenities c e e c include places for nutrition, education, open ce e ce c c c health, are essential for initiating moments of interpersonal interaction and identity building. In places that lack cultural amenities, a robust network of basic amenities can create opportunities for informal or unprogrammed gathering. The second strategy is about enhancing third spaces. Third spaces are the places that people e e ee e e c third spaces with thoughtful programming and design, they can become vibrant spots for gathering, relationship-building, and connections. For third spaces to exist, the basic amenity infrastructure needs to be strong. e e ec about knitting in arts, culture, and creative
There are three different strategies presented in this chapter to address the different cultural amenity needs of Austin’s different communities: STRATEGY 01: Building Basic Amenities
STRATEGY 02: Enhancing Third Spaces
STRATEGY 03: Knitting in Creative Industries
industries (what Austin traditionally considers “cultural amenities”). Once basic amenities are in place and third spaces have been enhanced, cultural amenities—everything from art to dance to music to festivals—can be meaningfully incorporated. Furthermore, each of these strategies can be woven into the zoning code to ensure that elevating the importance of culture and identity is possible in every community.
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A Continuum of Amenities
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01 Building Basic Amenities
Basic amenities serve as key spaces for community-building and, subsequently, cultural exchange.
In Austin, communities that lack cultural amenities also seem to lack basic amenities. This is partly because the population or housing density in these areas is not large enough to support the economic viability of certain businesses. At the same time, there is a basic mix of amenities that should be accessible to every community, especially if resource equity matters. c e e ce e c needs, but they also serve as spaces for organic interactions between people. Activities as simple as picking up a gallon of milk at the local grocer or taking the dog for a walk in a local park can generate interactions between people within a community. These moments of interaction are critical to strengthening a community’s connectedness, which is why building basic e e e e cultural identity. This strategy primarily targets areas in Austin that are missing cultural amenities, but as Austin grows, basic amenities will need to expand or scale up to meet demand.
NUTRITION: Corner stores, grocery stores, farmers markets EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: Schools, preschools, job training facilities, colleges, learning annexes OPEN SPACE: Parks, playgrounds, fields, trails, community gardens, plazas RETAIL: Restaurants, stores, kiosks, flea markets FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS: Banks, ATMs, tax preparations services, lenders HEALTH INSTITUTIONS: Urgent care facilities, primary care offices, pharmacies, hospitals CIVIC INSTITUTIONS: City halls, police stations, government offices, libraries, non-profit services
What Are the Basic Amenities? At the very least, communities need places where nutritional, educational, open space, e c c c e ee c e met. These needs can be met through a variety of businesses and services, including:
“There are a lot of amenities missing from the neighborhood. We need a civic center, health clinics, day care, grocery stores, restaurants, library, community garden, the list goes on.”
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Current Amenity Mix
Amenities not scaled for communityâ€™s density
Limited amenities within 15-minute walking radius
Insufficient mix of amenities
Ideal Amenity Mix
Larger and more diverse amenity mix to match scale
Small-scale amenities within walking distance
Appropriate scale and mix
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These examples listed are by no means comprehensive, but they provide a sense of the diverse businesses and services that can address community needs. They also help describe how amenities range in scale. A community with a smaller population and lower density, for instance, may not be able to economically support an HEB grocery store, however, a corner store selling fresh fruits and vegetables may sufficiently meet nutritional needs. Similarly, a full-scale hospital in a densely-populated area may need to have a satellite clinic in a moderately-sized community..
A Role for Zoning In an ideal world, zoning code would mandate the ideal mix of amenities in every community and provide the appropriate scale for each amenity depending on the zoneâ€™s planned density. Questions of economic feasibility and neighborhood preference, however, make modeling this complicated. Expanding the number of areas designated as mixed-use zoning may help provide flexibility as to where basic amenities can be placed. Mixeduse zoning does not have to be solely reserved for high-density areas. In fact, by assigning low-density mixed-use overlays or districts, predominantly residential communitiesâ€”like those in Northeast Austinâ€”can unlock the ability to open more community-based businesses and build the basic amenities needed to thrive.
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Photo: La Mexicana Bakery. Source: Elizabeth Haney
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02 Enhancing Third Spaces Vibrant third spaces can encourage connections, culture, and community identity-building.
There is a consensus around the idea that spaces in between home (the primary place where people spend their time) and work (the secondary place) need to be built with more thought and care. These spaces—what sociologist Ray Oldenburg coins as third spaces— are critical for leisure and social interactions, which help build community and establish neighborhood identity. A third space could be as simple as a coffee shop or as complex as on-line social networking sites.
other parts of the City, such as Northeast Austin, there are several community schools on massive plots of land, yet few spaces for organic interaction among residents. By enhancing their public qualities, these existing spaces can be reconceptualized as vibrant and inclusive areas for communities.
To facilitate Austin’s creative culture, it is particularly important for physical spaces to be designed to promote connections. By enhancing a robust basic amenity infrastructure through programming and design, third spaces can become vibrant places for people to connect, create, and grow in the spirit of complete communities.
Time Guides Multifunctionality
Thinking Beyond Conventional Third Spaces When people think about typical third spaces, they usually consider: • • • • • • • • •
Community parks Cafés Libraries Gymnasiums Churches, mosques, and temples Bars and nightclubs Community and senior centers Shopping centers Local business
There are also third spaces that do not fall into these conventional categories. One potential spot for new third spaces is the bus stop. Bus stops along South First Street, for example, are sterile and considered simply waiting areas despite being opportune points for organic interactions between people. In
These are two examples of enhancing third spaces that highlight the possibilities for multifunctional space over the course of time.
These strategies must take into account how people use space over the course of the year, seasons, months, weeks, and even days. Time can influence the different types of activities people participate in or the spaces that they visit, and these patterns have an impact on how third spaces are used. The temporal nature of activity in Austin, as depicted in the time wheel, provides the motivation for enhancing third spaces for multiple purposes. Flexibility and multifunctionality are important for adapting spaces for different activities, whether they serve a more standard purpose or they are pointed cultural amenities. Furthermore, this multifunctionality gives communities that may have less amenities a way to repurpose or reuse existing spaces in innovative ways. With small investments, creative energy, and considerations for temporality and multifunctionality, these enhancements to third spaces can be achievable in the near-term in Austin.
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Example: Bus Stops as Cultural Hubs As the City of Austin expands its transit service along corridors and nodes, bus stops can be programmed to facilitate organic connections.
Uninspired bus stop surrounded by bleak parking lot
Sidewalks do not have an inviting public realm
Bus stop enhanced with landscaping, programming, and art Sidewalks can become spaces of their own, enhancing the public realm
Design of space allows for flexible and multifunctional programs
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Example: Schools as Gathering Spaces e e ec c e e the few amenities that are equitably distributed across Austin. Given the importance of schools to communities, they serve as a natural location e c ec e ce e allow multifunctional use, such as rearrangeable walls and landscaped outdoor spaces. Further, e e ce e e e daytime school uses and evening community events.
Typical classroom layout during the daytime
Unused open space on school grounds
Flexible walls can allow spaces to transform Permeability between inside and outside events depending on time and season
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A Role for Zoning As with adding basic amenities, increasing mixed-use designation through overlay zoning could help existing third spaces build out the infrastructure necessary to sustain enhanced programming. Another role that zoning could play in enhancing third spaces is through creating cultural planning overlay zones. The City, for example, would identify areas across Austin that could benefit from enhancements to third spaces, apply a cultural planning overlay zone to those areas, and use the overlay district as a way to protect and cultivate culture in those areas. Overlay zones could help incentivize local businesses and organizations to make small, incremental investments in their communities, ultimately enhancing third spaces. Further the City could encourage builders to collocate cultural amenities (as discussed in the next strategy) next to each other. Floating zones and density bonuses could also be useful zoning tools for cultural planning. Beyond zoning, there are other regulatory measures that the City of Austin could take to build vibrant third spaces. Tax credits or incentives for adaptive reuse of existing buildings for cultural uses could push developers and others to create multifunctional spaces for communities.
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“What we need is some kind of arts or community gathering space. It’s all commercial down here.” Photo: Cranes on a Tree, Austin, TX. Source: Elizabeth Haney
A Handbook for Complete Communities in Austin, Big Ideas for Small Area Planning. Includes 07. Theme 4 | (Re)Programming Community Space -...
Published on Oct 11, 2018
A Handbook for Complete Communities in Austin, Big Ideas for Small Area Planning. Includes 07. Theme 4 | (Re)Programming Community Space -...