More developers seeking to incorporate green space into projects

As Northwest Austin continues to be built out, fewer areas of undeveloped land remain while park acquisition remains a challenge.

But one trend that Colin Wallis, executive director of the nonprofit Austin Parks Foundation, is noticing is a greater interest in incorporating green space into development. He said developers often contact the nonprofit to discuss their interest in creating green space, whether it be a small park, newly planted trees, connecting or extending trails or even a greenbelt.

"We're seeing more and more developers being interested in talking to us about how in partnership with their development that they can carve out and create some green space, even if it's really small," he said. "They're understanding it's not just philanthropy, it's not just environmentalism, it's what their customers want."

Additionally, Austin residents love their parks and being outdoors, Wallis said.

"People didn't come here because we were Dallas and Houston and had a lot of concrete; people came here because it's a beautiful, outdoor-related place," he said. "We all have to work together to make sure it stays that way."

The great outdoors

Austin has 16,369 acres of dedicated parkland, said Randy Scott, a park planner for the city. Although Northwest Austin does not have many metropolitan parks, he said, it does have numerous neighborhood parks and greenbelts. Scott said the city has tried to acquire additional parkland to the north and west of Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, but efforts to put land acquisition on the last two bond cycles failed.

Some park visitors in Northwest Austin seem content with the facilities available in the area. Vince Quezada and his wife regularly take their golden retriever, Ozzie, to several North Austin parks, including Balcones District Park and Schroeter Park, both located near Duval Road. He said they like that the parks are secluded and peaceful. Another Schroeter Park visitor is James Dvorscak, who said there are three parks a short distance from his home.

"That's plenty, enough to keep me occupied," he said.

Resident Elizabeth Hilson said she loves taking her dog, Sarah Prudence, to any park that has water. She said Austin has great parks compared with other cities, but she would like to see more options for people with dogs.

"I love being outside; there can't be enough wilderness," she said.

The Anderson Mill Limited District, a 1,200-acre area bounded by Anderson Mill Road, US 183 and RM 620, was annexed in 2008 but still maintains 60 acres of parkland, including two pools and 6 miles of trails. District Manager Mark Maxwell said that in the annexation agreement with the city, Anderson Mill parks, trails and pools are open to anyone. Residents who live outside of the district often make up as much as 50 percent of participants in district-run programs, Maxwell said.

"Because the city doesn't have as many parks out here, [AMLD] provides facilities for the residents, and the benefit is the city doesn't have to pay for it," he said.

Going green

Longtime Northwest Austin resident Robin Drerup started growing concerned when more and more undeveloped green space disappeared and more concrete started appearing in the form of retail stores and hotels. She said at The Domain, she was amazed even to see a small plot of green space on Braker Lane at Domain Drive now under construction.

"We're just really going to be totally locked in with nothing but concrete," Drerup said.

In 2012, Endeavor Real Estate Group, which planned and is continuing to develop The Domain, completed the first phase of a 9-acre park off Alterra Parkway near Burnet Road. At full build-out, development principal Ben Bufkin said there will be two additional 1/2-acre parks and more than a mile of hike and bike trails. He said more park facilities will be delivered in 2013.

Wallis said developers are realizing that incorporating green space can be profitable and cited examples of Millennium Park in Chicago and New York City's High Line, which was an old elevated freight rail line that was converted into a park.

"It turns out it's good business to preserve green space," he said. "Austin is particularly sensitive to that, and I think people in Austin understand that better than most people around the country."

Preservation

Because AMLD maintains its own parks, Maxwell said the district has the advantage of a more aggressive maintenance schedule than some cities, including Austin.

"Whenever [a city has] a budget crunch, maintenance is one of the first things that gets cut," he said. "I think that's one of the main reasons that the limited district was voted into existence because [the residents] wanted to make sure that our parks continue to be maintained as they had become accustomed to."

Austin's parks department has a maintenance goal of having one employee for every 75 acres of parkland. As of now, that number is about one employee per 160 acres. Scott said the department has a $55 million annual budget and is working to increase awareness of the higher level of maintenance it could achieve with more funding.

To help maintain the city's parks, the APF hosts an annual event, It's My Park Day, each March in which thousands of residents citywide volunteer to clean up and maintain parks. Companies often contact the nonprofit to coordinate park work days for team-building events for their employees. Wallis said these activities significantly help out the parks and recreation department, which is underfunded.

"We're slowly working more hand in hand with [the department] so that we can use our volunteer hours to alleviate some of the jobs that they have to pay people to do," he said.

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.



MOST RECENT

A $6.7 million budget amendment was approved by consent at the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 21. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees approve $6.7 million in budget amendments

A $6.7 million budget amendment was approved by consent at the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 21. The budget amendment was requested to cover planned expenses for Career and Technical Education projects, instructional professional development, equipment, substitute teachers and the increase of insurance premium costs.

Some of these projects have been previously accounted for under the 2018 bond plan, while others were recommended by district staff. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD board approves campus infrastructural improvement contracts

At the Oct. 21 meeting of the Round Rock ISD board of trustees, several projects to renovate or improve infrastructure of campus facilities were approved.

Brandon Cardwell, the district's executive director of facilities and construction, addressed the PfISD board during an Oct. 21 meeting. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bohls Middle School within PfISD slated for late December completion

Brandon Cardwell, the district's executive director of facilities and construction, said during the district's Oct. 21 board meeting that much work is still needed on the campus, but he is encouraged by the pace at which crews are operating.

North Austin home under construction
Homes prices across Northwest Austin fall for third straight month

The median home price in Northwest Austin dropped to its lowest figure since March 2021.

Cumby Group is planning development for three adjacent multifamily projects on Manor Road in East Austin, including The Emma apartments. (Courtesy Cumby Group)
3 years in, Austin is falling behind on goals in affordable housing plan

From 2018-20, the city only reached 12% of its 10-year goal to build thousands of new homes and rental units.

Taco Palenque is now open as drive-thru only in Round Rock. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Taco Palenque opens in Round Rock; Plano ISD considering two draft calendars for 2022-23 school year and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 21.

The Austin Transit Partnership is exploring above- and below-ground options for a transit center at the East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley intersection. (Courtesy Austin Transit Partnership)
Project Connect plans to explore above-, below-ground options for East Riverside/Pleasant Valley Transit Center

After hosting a community design workshop, the group overseeing Project Connect designs is moving forward with options for both an underground and above-ground station at the intersection.

Medici Roasting
Local coffee chain Medici Roasting opens cafe in The Domain

Medici Roasting is now open in The Domain inside the Flatiron Domain building.

A calculator created by the Rocky Mountain Institute looks at the environmental impact of TxDOT's proposed designs for I-35 in Central Austin, one of the most congested roadways in the country. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nonprofit's tool says TxDOT I-35 expansion proposals would have profound environmental consequences

The tool says that the proposal would create between 255 and 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year.

Photo of the Travis County administration building and sign
Travis County hears update on process to reassess master plan for aging correctional facilities

The process comes after county commissioners opted to pause all activities of the master plan over the summer.

Rodeo stock image
Inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo ready to open gates Oct. 21 after coronavirus delay

After the inaugural Williamson County Fair and Rodeo was postponed in 2020, county and fair officials said they are excited to kick off the agricultural celebration.

Renderings of the conceptual tower were shown depicting a roughly 100-foot tower, but the intent is to build a smaller tower. A total of $2.43 million was given as an estimated cost for a 100-foot gravity tower, but presenters said the cost would scale down with a smaller tower. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Early concept for Frisco’s Northwest Community Park includes biking tower for ‘gravity riding’; Perky Beans Cafe now open in Leander, and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 20.