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map courtesy City of Austin Neighborhood Planning & Zoning Department; rendering courtesy MWM Design Group


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Key Urban Commuter Rail Rapid Bus 1. Lakeline Rail Station 2. Techridge Park & Ride 3. Crestview Rail STation 4. MLK Jr. BLVD. Rail Station 5. Plaza saltillo Rail Station 6. Convention Center Rail Station

Commuter rail is returning to Austin, bringing with it several transitoriented developments (TOD) that will drive the creation of new live/ work/play neighborhoods centered around at least eight train stations. Perhaps as early as this fall, Austin will join Dallas and Houston in reviving urban rail travel as a means to reduce traffic congestion and as a catalyst for thoughtful intracity planning. That means more people in and around Austin will have the option of leaving their cars at home. Approved by voters in 2004, Capital MetroRail’s Red Line already has resulted in the planning of seven TOD districts along 32 miles of railway stretching from the far-northwestern suburbs to downtown. The referendum’s passage reversed a losing streak for Cap Metro, which led the public utility to reduce the scope of a more comprehensive rail plan previously rejected by the electorate. Cap Metro’s latest milestone in its long journey came in January when the City of Austin issued a site development permit for the first component of a complex of projects that will be built around the future Crestview Station. Located about two-thirds of the way along the inbound route, Crestview Station is being developed as a low-density “neighborhood center” under the city’s TOD guidelines. The urban terminus will be at the Austin Convention Center, just east of Congress Avenue. Plans for the 73-acre Crestview site, encompassing a brownfield tract that was the target of an extensive environmental cleanup completed last year, include a mixed-use development with 340 apartments and 64,000 square feet designated for retail and offices. James, Hartwick + Partners in Dallas is currently designing the project for High Street Residential. A second phase of the development, designed by TBG Partners, calls for 450 single-family houses that are tentatively scheduled for occupancy in about one year. Foreseen as an “urban village” by the development team, the planned community will radiate out from a simple, glass-canopied railway platform derived from a prototype (shown at lower left) designed by MWM Design Group in Austin. Connie Krisak, AIA, project architect for the firm, describes the prototype as “very utilitarian” with all programmed elements laid out along a central spine. The design team, she says, approached the prototype with transparency in mind, both for the canopy and the required features (windscreens, seating, signage, and ticket vending machines). The canopy will consist of a steel framework inset with two layers of laminated glass, the top layer coated with a reflective film, on which decorative graphics will be imprinted (with images that will vary from platform to platform). “Simply put,” Krisak stated in an e-mail, “the outer layer reflects the heat and the inner layer is translucent enough to transpose colorful/graphic images as the passengers look up onto the canopy.” The Crestview station, the first to be built from the prototype, is expected to be finished in early August. Capital MetroRail’s Red Line is the initial component of a larger network that may eventually connect to a future regional railway extending from Georgetown southward to San Antonio. According to Cap Metro, that passenger rail system will also service Round Rock, Buda/Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels, as well as Austin, along existing tracks that carry Union Pacific freight and Amtrak trains. S t e p h e n

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Austin’s new passenger rail sparks mixed-use developments



Texas Architect March/April 2008: The Walkable City  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...

Texas Architect March/April 2008: The Walkable City  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...