City officials presented a regulating plan for the East Riverside Corridor to Austin City Council at the Nov. 1 meeting, and zoning changes are scheduled to be before the council at the Nov. 8 meeting.
“The East Riverside Corridor is a gateway to Austin between downtown and the airport,” said Erica Leak, project manager with the City of Austin's Planning and Development Review Department. “It's an area that's actually fairly similar in size to downtown Austin, so it's a pretty large area.”
The master planning process began in 2007 for the East Riverside Corridor, and in 2010, City Council adopted a master plan for the area focused on increasing pedestrian safety and comfort. The regulating plan was derived from the goals of the master plan with the focus of creating a more complete community for the area as well as a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
Leak said council directed staff to begin a master plan process for the East Riverside Corridor because the area does not encourage pedestrian activity.
“The corridor was basically designed for cars,” Leak said. “Now there are limited facilities, but it's still a pretty hostile environment for pedestrians. There are huge parking lots, and I'm not sure there are any trees along any of this corridor, so in the summer, it's really quite a hot place to be.”
The regulating plan covers design and land use; areas in the public realm; and development bonuses to promote affordable housing, business growth and concentrated development.
“This [concentrated development] concept is really important because research shows that retail and commercial spaces do better when they are concentrated rather than located along a long, linear pathway,” Leak said.
City officials plan to ask the council at the Nov. 8 meeting to approve a new zoning category called ERC that would require land to adhere to the stipulations of the regulating plan as well as amendments to neighborhood plans.
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole asked city staff if permanent supportive housing also could be included in the plan.
Betsy Spencer, director of neighborhood housing and community development said permanent supportive house is, by definition, affordable housing and could be developed in the East Riverside Corridor.