Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange
Posted: 10-25-2016, 3 p.m.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Austin (Travis Co.) – A master plan for Lamar Beach is nearing the end of a year-long design process and City Council is scheduled to consider its adoption on November 10.
The 65.4-acre park with lake waterfront from Lamar Boulevard to the MoPac Expressway has undergone extensive scrutiny from a design team and the public since public meetings began on the master plan in October 2015.
Six alternative redevelopment concepts were put before the public. Responding to input from stakeholders and citizens, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department and the design team whittled them down to a single Preferred Alternative site plan that could be implemented in two phases.
If all of the elements are accepted by council, the cost of implementation could be as much as $87 million. However, cost estimates were given a range and the actual cost could be several million dollars less.
“Lamar Beach is most heavily utilized by Austin High School, the West Austin Youth Association, TownLake YMCA, Austin Pets Alive!, and Texas Rowing Center. and paddle boarders,” said Jay Regan of GILI.
All of these organizations either have facilities in the park or have use agreements with Parks and Recreation for use of ball fields and multi-use fields. However, a priority of the master plan is to increase use of this metro park beyond its traditional base.
The park is hampered by significant drawbacks, however. It is split in two by Cesar Chavez Street, which runs east-west through the entire park. There is an extensive floodplain, and major utilities exist throughout. The waterfront with Lady Bird Lake suffers from erosion and there are obstacles to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, particularly where it meets the Lamar Boulevard Bridge.
The design team was led by Design Workshop and included GreenPlay LLC, Studio8 and Urban Design Group PC.
In their assessment of the park, the team said, “Lamar Beach is at risk of being disjointed and disconnected for both vehicles and pedestrians, becoming a waterfront that people pass through rather than an iconic singular community destination. Lamar Beach is one of the last remaining major waterfront sites in Austin and is a great place-making opportunity.”
Based on community input, the team concluded the essential changes needed had to do with rerouting traffic, increasing parking, expanding sports facilities, improving the 1.6-mile hike and bike experience, and making the YMCA facility more visible.
The costliest change, and the one project that defines the order of projects to be implemented is the rerouting of Cesar Chavez to the park’s northern boundary.
Cesar Chavez carries about 50,000 cars a day each way, is a primary commuter route from downtown to the MoPac and will be the primary northbound entrance for the new MoPac express lanes. The traffic volume limits pedestrian and bike connectivity across the park.
Once Cesar Chavez is realigned, the original route would become a two-lane, two-way park road with parallel parking on either side. New parking lots would bring the total parking capacity from 362 today to 724 spaces, said Parks & Rec project manager Charles Mabry.
Ten projects have been identified that can be scheduled before Cesar Chavez is rerouted. In the short term, street trees and a sidewalk would be added to Cesar Chavez to slow traffic. West Austin Youth Association will spend from $4.3 million to $5.7 million to improve and expand the ball fields; Austin Pets Alive! plans to spend from $18.9 million to $24.6 million to construct a new facility just north of the existing facility. Austin Parks & Rec would make improvements to the trail, provide more parking and construct a bioswale to cut erosion and improve water quality where a storm channel leads to the boat ramp.
Eleven projects are included in phase two, with the main projects having to do with the Cesar Chavez realignment; these include new or improved connections at Pressler Street and B.R. Reynolds Drive. An underpass and boardwalk on the lake would be constructed to get pedestrians on the trail through Lamar Boulevard by sending them under the bridge.
Near the western waterfront, the Master Plan proposes a new boat ramp and bioswale to its north to better control erosion. Stephen F. Austin Drive would be narrowed by adding parallel parking lanes and limiting thru-traffic to two, 10-foot lanes.