Given the enormity that is the Central Avenue Corridor Project, it is vital to recognize its distinct efforts in the conception, planning, and implementation processes.
Currently, the community is situated within the pre-planning stage, which mainly comprises engagement and research aspects. Lasting approximately 18 months, this phase will allow the community to identify leaders who can guide and steward the vision of the project.
On May 23rd, Austin Coming Together (ACT) joined forces with the Urban Land Institute Chicago District Council (ULI Chicago) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) at the Kehrein Center for the Arts to present initial recommendations on the Central Avenue Corridor. Attendees had the chance to ask questions and provide feedback for the recommendations.
This public presentation came after a series of group interviews and conversations with Austin stakeholders to determine how best to redevelop the corridor. By connecting with stakeholders directly, the panel was able to hear some of the community’s most glaring concerns with regard to Central Avenue. Some of these include the unmet demand for services and amenities, physical barriers, walkability, development conditions, high unemployment, limited skills-building opportunities, public safety, and negative perceptions.
ULI Chicago formed a Technical Assistance Panel composed of 12 professionals representing urban design, economic development, and real estate. The panel found it imperative to be guided by the following principles when creating recommendations based on community engagements:
- Connect Austin residents to the existing spaces, landmarks, and public assets within Austin.
- Foster a sense of community pride and community awareness.
- Enhance connectivity between major east-west corridors and north-south corridors
- Recapture economic power and activity within Austin.
- Coordinate planning between community stakeholders and public sector.
Panel Recommendations: Streetscapes and Public Spaces
- Establish Central Avenue as a spine of destination hubs that are reinforced through a variety of open spaces, civic assets, and historic sites.
- Amplify Austin’s cultural spaces & celebrate Austin’s historic sites by implementing wayfinding tools, visitor signs, key entry points, engaging landscapes, public art installations, and more.
- Enhance connectivity of the Central Avenue Corridor by altering traffic patterns that improve the pedestrian experience.
- Establish Central and Lake as the main destination hub through gateway infrastructure opportunities, establishing flex streets, linking green spaces, and defining Town Hall as a celebrated community anchor.
Panel Recommendations: Development Opportunities
- Create a town center / main destination hub at Central and Lake that will address public safety, implement streetscape and public space improvements, and support food-oriented businesses.
- Build human capital by enhancing the “upskilling” cluster and providing training and resources in many industries.
- Support the residential ecosystem through the support of existing homeowners and enhancement of multifamily properties around Washington Avenue.
- Connect to commercial corridors that continue to focus on and support Chicago Avenue and Madison Street commercial development, attract people to Chicago and Madison, and enhance walkability and bike connections to local community assets.
Panel Recommendations: Partnerships and Implementation
- Focus on alignment with local and city government and continue research into viable financing options.
- Leverage the organizing strength of ACT to create more cohesive planning and investment across public sector actors and create a “master plan” for Austin.
- Coordinate with Westside Health Authority to expand Special Service Area #72 to include Cicero/Chicago/Austin/Madison to generate more revenue and more cohesive governance and use of resources.
Looking ahead, the panel also recommends that a “sister agency” task force be established to leverage financial, planning, and other resources. ACT is excited about the potential of the Central Avenue Corridor and is looking forward to building meaningful connections with Austin stakeholders and community partners to set the project in motion.
Though ACT is leading the charge in this effort along with the aid of ULI Chicago and CMAP, it is important to remember that the project is community-driven. As previously mentioned, the recommendations made during this presentation were inspired by community input, and all future recommendations will be as well. ULI Chicago stresses that the recommendations are merely recommendations, and no official planning measures have been taken to implement them. They have come about solely during the initial planning phase and engagements with the community. In the coming months, these recommendations will be subject to evolve per the community’s input and will culminate in the release of a formal report on the project which could be ready in 2024.
Read more about the Central Avenue Corridor in the Austin. Forward. Together (AFT) quality-of-life plan at austincomingtogether.org/qlp
Source: Urban Land Institute Chicago Technical Assistance Panel