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Thread: Mueller, Austin, TX - a good new urbanist project?

  1. #1
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    Mueller, Austin, TX - a good new urbanist project?

    The criticisms of Plum Creek, TX outside of Austin made me think of the Mueller project on the grounds of the old airport here. It would seem to address many of the criticisms of Plum Creek:

    Fairly central - flanked on the west and southwest by old streetcar suburbs ("urban" by Austin standards). Many (though not all) of the neighborhoods to the south are fairly dense by Austin standards. Major employers will be onsite, plus it will be connected to UT and downtown (both reasonably close) by either streetcar or rapid bus. 25% of housing will be for those making 80% or less of median income. Even has a golf course (within city limits) to the east.

    I still have a "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude, but am cautiously optimistic...

    I'm not allowed to post url's yet but a google of "mueller austin" will come up with both the city's and the master developer's (Catellus) sites....

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Sounds good....like Stapleton redevelopment in Denver...got any links to Mueller?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  3. #3
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ccosart
    The criticisms of Plum Creek, TX outside of Austin made me think of the Mueller project on the grounds of the old airport here. It would seem to address many of the criticisms of Plum Creek:

    Fairly central - flanked on the west and southwest by old streetcar suburbs ("urban" by Austin standards). Many (though not all) of the neighborhoods to the south are fairly dense by Austin standards. Major employers will be onsite, plus it will be connected to UT and downtown (both reasonably close) by either streetcar or rapid bus. 25% of housing will be for those making 80% or less of median income. Even has a golf course (within city limits) to the east.

    I still have a "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude, but am cautiously optimistic...

    I'm not allowed to post url's yet but a google of "mueller austin" will come up with both the city's and the master developer's (Catellus) sites....
    I don't know if you've seen the plans lately but the far western retail section of the development is going to be more big box crap. I really wish they wouldn't do that.

    Here is the overall plan: http://www.muelleraustin.com/images/planmap.gif

    Here's the retail plan (upper left corner): http://images15.fotki.com/v263/photo..._200601-vi.gif
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I couldn't help but notice this on Mueller Revedelopment's webpage:

    EMPLOYMENT CENTERS
    In addition to the Town Center, Mueller has two dedicated employment centers on the north edge of the community. The northwest quadrant includes a health care district anchored by the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, as well as a major regional retail center along I-35.
    This looks more like an excuse to build a strip mall including establishments selling bargain basement clothes (Marshall's) next to a freeway interchange. Apparently, the new careers this development will create will be in the exciting and promising field of retail.

    What retail stores and jobs are proposed for the "mix use" area?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MennoJoshua
    This looks more like an excuse to build a strip mall including establishments selling bargain basement clothes (Marshall's) next to a freeway interchange.
    That's exactly what it is. See the retail plan image in my post above.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  6. #6
    You're judging the development based on what's around it, not on what it is. By this standard building urban developments in cities like Phoenix or Las Vegas is impossible.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    You're judging the development based on what's around it, not on what it is. By this standard building urban developments in cities like Phoenix or Las Vegas is impossible.
    I don't think I understand what you mean. Could you elaborate?
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    I don't know if you've seen the plans lately but the far western retail section of the development is going to be more big box crap. I really wish they wouldn't do that.

    Here is the overall plan: http://www.muelleraustin.com/images/planmap.gif

    Here's the retail plan (upper left corner): http://images15.fotki.com/v263/photo..._200601-vi.gif
    To be completely honest, as soon as I found out who was involved in this "redevelopment", I pretty much wrote it off. Given the good aspects of the site, it is severely underachieving IMHO. If they would have stuck with the local coalition of designers, the outcome would be much different than what you see there.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by jread
    I don't think I understand what you mean. Could you elaborate?
    What makes a project urban or not urban is how the elements are arranged within it. The greater context may be urban or suburban in nature, but only due to the urban or suburban layout of the individual neighborhoods. It's only possible to create a mass transit connection between two urban neighborhoods for example. If you judge the urbanity of a neighborhood on the availability of mass transit, you will discard towns that are too small or too isolated to support such a service, and you will discard towns built in majoritarily suburban metropolises such as Phoenix.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I agree with Jaws. Unless one gets to develop a whole city from scratch (unlikely) all the developer can do is to produce walkable, non-car-centered neighborhoods, The idea is that if such developments grow in frequency eventually they link up to produce a harmonious whole. I think this board generally is a bit vitriolic about TNDs/NU, albeit those are becoming overused cliches.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I personally think it blends in fine, considering it is located right off a freeway. Even the retail/hopsital area doesn't seem so bad...it's more town center-like...it's not like there's a big gaudy Wal-Mart with 2 million parking spaces.

    You must remember the market still demands big-box stores and people still like them and need them. I, personally, do not know where I would be without Best Buy and Kohl's.

    It's still interesting to see what exactly is going in the actual town area, including types of residential as well as if there are any live-work units or smaller retail and the like. But a suburban-development that is at least somewhat urbane, more compact, and more connected is better than your run-of-the-mill subdivision.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  12. #12
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    Well, I'm in the odd position of trying to defend my least favorite (by far) portion of the plan, the big box retail right off the interstate. The original plan (this project has been in the works in one form or another for over a decade, close to two I think) had an office complex where the retail is. The plans changed when the bottom fell out of the office market in Austin after the internet stock bubble burst.

    The redevelopment is supposed to have 25% affordable housing and be self funding - it's been sheperded by citizens groups without whom it may very well have turned into standard sprawl. I've heard the main activist behind it, Jim Walker defend the big box section - basically he said it was a necessary compromise to get the rest of the project going as a matter of practical politics. (They also claim it will be not as bad as standard big box, for what that's worth). Maybe that's true, maybe something better was possible, but it's still just the tip of the site, and the one that abuts I-35, which is one butt-ugly interstate, and I'm fairly positive and optimistic about the rest of the plan.

    The Dell Childrens hospital section and the rest of the medical complex (UT is talking about building a major medical research campus of some sort there, and there will be a Ronald McDonald house too, though that may be north on the other side of 51st) may not be strictly mixed-use, but a med center campus will provide a pretty good array of jobs within the development.

    From meetings I've gone to, there is a very strong realization that the town center needs to be anchored by a real grocery store and other non-boutique shops, i.e. a real town center.

    My main criticism would be that there's too much single-family detached, but then if it were much denser, it would have been killed by NIMBYism. If it comes to fruition, and I think that's still a big "if", it will be a walkable neighborhood with a significant range of jobs, and decent to excellent transit to UT/downtown as well as a very large state office complex. That in itself will be a huge step foward for Austin, which for all its progressive talk is still a sprawling carcentric Texas city for the most part...

    Chris

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner
    It's still interesting to see what exactly is going in the actual town area, including types of residential as well as if there are any live-work units or smaller retail and the like. But a suburban-development that is at least somewhat urbane, more compact, and more connected is better than your run-of-the-mill subdivision.
    Row houses (which basically don't exist in Austin), live-work shophouses, and "mansion-house" units will all be part of the mix, along with apartments and detached houses:

    muelleraustin.com/residential.html

    ci.austin.tx.us/mueller/redevelop.htm

    (Sorry, I'm not allowed to post links yet, so I took of the "www")

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    In response to questions about where people would work at Mueller, Dell Foundation has just given a $50 million dollar grant to the UT med research center on the site, which will be built beside the Dell Children's Hospital:

    http://www.news8austin.com/content/y...sp?ArID=162104

    Also, Cap Metro is strongly considering a streetcar line that would linke Mueller, UT and Downtown:

    http://www.allsystemsgoconnections.org/whats_new/

    (link has both a map and reasoning behind the route)

    I'm not sure that's the starter line that makes the most sense for Austin, but it is certainly good for Mueller. Also if the line passes, the agreement allows Mueller to increase units by up to 40%.....

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    I think the retail has a long way to go. Personally, I'm not a fan of a sea of cars between the building and the street and think the retail portion should be brought down in scale to be more pedestrian friendly. I think it's great they're trying to re-use the old airport site though.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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