Home | Construction Preview | Construction Preview Feature Story | The Four-Block Walk: From the Texas Capitol to UT

The Four-Block Walk: From the Texas Capitol to UT

07/14/2016 10:19:00 am | Viewed: 2913

Cutaway of the Texas Mall at MLK with underground parking

Cutaway cross-section of Texas Mall from between 18th Street and MLK Boulevard, with underground parking.


Posted: 7-14-2016, 12:34 p.m.

by Adolfo Pesquera

Austin (Travis Co.) - Absent any fanfare, the Texas Facilities Commission approved the 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan at its March 23 meeting, a necessary formality before proceeding with the $580 million Phase 1 expansion.

The plan is updated every two years, but hasn't had a major revision since 1989. In 2015, the TFC was given a enough funds to put the plan into action and start talking specifics.  

In summary, the state has been leasing a lot more office space than it would prefer and is intent on putting state employees in state-owned structures. This will require a huge investment in new buildings and parking space. In addition, TFC finally has the green light to proceed with the Texas Mall, a long dreamed of four-block park-like pedestrian broadwalk extension that would connect the Capitol grounds to the University of Texas at Austin campus.


To capture the gist of the document, VBX has pulled from it these comments and site-specific proposals:

All existing state-owned buildings in Austin are at or over capacity and in many instances, the state has leased commercial office space for thirty years or more to meet the needs of state agencies. The state leases 1.2 million square feet in the Austin area and has experienced a 250 percent increase in lease expenditures in the last decade.

As a result of appropriations made by the 84th Texas Legislature, the North Congress Avenue corridor is the area of immediate focus of the multi-phase program addressed in the master plan.

Capitol Complex expansion Phase 1

At full build-out, the Capitol Complex has the capacity for accommodating about 5 million square feet of new building space, more than three times the current need.

The 84th Legislature funded Phase 1 of the plan. This includes 1,025,000 gross square feet of new office space, which would consolidate about 75 percent of  current lease space into the Capitol Complex. There would also be 4,840 new parking spaces and three blocks of the Texas Mall (up to 18th Street and one block short of its final length) landscape and associated streetscape improvements, as well as infrastructure to support these improvements.

The concept of a grand mall to the north has been in the plan since 1956. Phase 1 is to be completed by 2020 at a cost of $580 million.

"Parking in the complex will be provided by a combination of (a five-level) underground parking below the Texas Mall and parking structures (above and below grade) integrated into each new building. This parking strategy will eventually replace the need for some of the parking garages located between San Jacinto Boulevard and Trinity Street, allowing this area to be redeveloped for higher and better use."

Capitol Complex Phases 1-3 and potential future buildings

"A substantial below-grade parking structure is proposed in Phase 1 and Phase 2, to be located beneath the entire (four block) length of the Texas Mall. Parking portals will be spaced as required and located within new building footprints to avoid exterior access ramps that would eliminate large stretches of sidewalk at the street level."

Phases 2 and 3 of the near-term development identify more than 1 million gross square feet of additional building space with associated parking of over 3,000 new spaces. This yields a net addition of more than 800 parking spaces over the number of spaces previously contained in the displaced parking lots and garages.

Chilled Water Distribution

The underground garge creates an opportunity to build a thermal utility tunnel in a loop configuration. As part of the Phase 1 development, a detailed design plan will be developed to determine the exact route of the tunnels, balancing costs and constructibility with the long-term needs of the complex.

Civil Utilities

The underground garage will pass below three cross-street intersections (16th, 17th, and 18th streets), all of which carry various utilities. As a strategy for maintaining clearance below grade for utilities, the underground parking garage will be discontinuous at tis top level for the street crossings.

Phase 1 Implementation

Texas Mall scene

This includes the construction of buildings on Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, parking below three blocks of the Texas Mall. The building sites are currently occupied by surface parking lots. 

The Congress site will accommodate a new child care facility and the Department of Pblic Safety. This site utilizes surplus parking from nearby garages and new underground parking. 

The MLK site is unconstrained by view corridors or the capitol dominance overlay, affording ample space for lease consolidation. 

Phase 2 Implementation

This includes two new buildings, a 165,000-square-foot building at 15th Street next to the Texas Mall and a 360,000-square-foot tower next to it at the northeast corner of 15th and Lavaca. There would also be parking construction for a net increase of 2,281 vehicle spaces.

"The 15th Street site allows for the sugstantial completion of the Texas Mall and underground garge, creating a strong link between the northern portion of the Capitol Complex and the Capitol grounds proper. The garage also creates the ability to connect to an existing pedestrain tunnel for access to the Capitol Extension. The low scale of this building is a result of Captol View Corridor and Capitol Dominance constraints."

Phase 3 Implementation

The Phase 3 building sites are between 16th and 17th streets from the mall connector to Lavaca. The 17th Street Building (next to the mall) is 170,000 square feet. The Colorado Street Building is currently occupied by Garage E and after its demolition will be 360,000 square feet; new parking will be created below grade and integrated into the building. The net parking space gain is 876 spaces.

"The 17th Street site finalizes the creation of a continuously reinforced edge to the Texas Mall and aids in the definition of 17th Street as an important east-west connector through the complex."

The 2016 master plan was prepared by: Page, lead consultant; Sasaki Associates Inc., master planning; HR&A Advisors Inc., economic analysis; Sunland Group, cost estimating; HWA Parking, structures and parking; Facilities Resource Inc., programming; Deshazo Group, transportation; and Jose I. Guerra Inc., engineering. 

The entire 161-page master plan can be reviewed here.

View of Capitol Bldg today from MLK Boulevard







Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted):


Zoom Related Images
Author Info
Adolfo Pesquera

Adolfo Pesquera is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.