‘These things are all connected’: City works on comprehensive plan for far east Austin developments

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — From redevelopment plans for the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, to the new Tesla Gigafactory under construction, to updates planned for the Travis County Expo Center, all eyes are on far east Austin.

Austin City Council and city staff are taking steps to form a cohesive, long-term plan for the developments in the area.

Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison championed a resolution calling on city staff to create a comprehensive plan for “creating and maintaining great neighborhoods, economic development, stable jobs, improved connectivity and providing rich, high-quality public spaces” for the area bounded by Highway 183 to the west, U.S. Highway 290 to the north, Toll Road 130 to the east and FM 969 Road to the south.

“There’s a substantial amount of anticipated development in the area as we all know,” Harper-Madison noted in a Nov. 10 council work session. “So in my mind’s eye, from the beginning, I thought—I couldn’t help but think—these things are all connected. Why aren’t we looking at this in a way that connects them better?”

She went on to say, this was the city’s opportunity to “get ahead” of the growth and “really get it right.”

Andy Myers, who frequently goes fishing and utilizes Walter E. Long park, told KXAN he’s excited to hear there’s a streamlined vision for redeveloping the area. Still, he worries about the effect the changes will have on the wildlife, as well as the people who currently enjoy the area and amenities of what they call “Decker Lake.”

“The big thing we are concerned with are any changes that will continue to push current residents and park patrons away,” he said.

He leads a group called Save Decker Lake. He noted their group doesn’t oppose all changes in the area—in fact, they support any change that makes the park more accessible. They stand against any changes that make access to the lake and park too expensive or difficult for people in the area to continue to enjoy.

“All people, especially children, need outdoor recreation, regardless of income,” Myers said.

In an interview with KXAN on Monday, Harper-Madison agreed, saying equitable access was one of the main goals of the resolution.

“I have watched that part of my east Austin not be invested in my whole life, more or less,” she said. “There are people that live in this part of town that have been asking for this kind of community for decades.”

Harper-Madison noted the importance of recently passed Project Connect in making this vision a success, by adding lines of transportation and access from this area. Additionally, she said she hoped streamlining the various projects with this resolution will help neighbors and lake-goers be able to share their input more easily.

“The community contribution to these dialogues is imperative, but you can only ask the community to do so much,” she said. “So, being able to do it all at the same time—the cohesive, overall vision really helps to ensure that these projects not only support one another, but really create great places to live.”

The resolution for this district master-plan passed at the city council meeting on Nov. 12. To read the full resolution, click here.

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