South Central Waterfront Vision Framework Plan

June 2016   Austin, TX


  • City of Austin


  • ECONorthwest
  • McCann Adams Studio
  • CMG


  • 2016, Planning Award, American Planning Association, Central Texas Section
  • 2016, Planning Award, ASLA Texas Chapter
  • 2017, Excellence in Sustainability Award, American Planning Association

The transformative vision for South Central Waterfront creates a neighborhood that is not only a destination in itself, but also serves as a gateway between South Austin and Downtown. Through enhancing open spaces, improving connections to and along the waterfront, and building affordable housing, the Vision leverages and guides imminent private investments and changes to create district-wide community benefits.

Key Points

The South Central Waterfront Vision enhances neighborhood connectivity, green spaces and pedestrian links while leveraging the private market to fund community benefits including affordable housing.

Affordable Housing

We provided a “Funding Toolkit” to leverage the private market to fund the community benefits that the Vision was seeking, which included setting aside 20% of all new residential units as affordable. This toolkit considered increased entitlements, TIF, CIP funds, tax abatement, housing trust fund, Public Improvement Districts, transfer of development rights, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Neighborhood connectivity

The Vision encourages connectivity by breaking up large superblocks that are auto-oriented and currently impede pedestrian access to park space, the river, and other amenities.

Park/Open space

Other than the shoreline, green space is almost nonexistent within the district. The size of the Vision's new open space goes beyond the requirements of the Waterfront Overlay District setbacks, and key open space links begin to provide improved connectivity from Riverside Drive to the Waterfront. New green streets and parks, built in partnership with property owners and led by the City, create pedestrian links and begin to define the future network of streets and open space.

The South Central Waterfront (SCW) is bound for change. In fact, change is rapidly underway. The South Central Waterfront Vision Framework Plan is a roadmap for how the coming change can be guided to create the best possible outcome for all Austinites. The SCW strives to be a model for how a district-wide green infrastructure system paired with quality urban design and an interconnected network of public spaces, streets, lakeside trails and parks can provide a framework for redevelopment. A district approach can also coordinate public and private investments to leverage maximum impact and provide for district-wide value capture to fund affordable housing and other community benefits.

A transformed South Central Waterfront District can not only become a great new neighborhood in the central city and a destination in itself, but will serve as an iconic gateway from South Austin into Downtown and the Texas Capitol, and an inspiration for the region.

The South Central Waterfront Initiative builds upon more than three decades of waterfront planning begun by the Town Lake Corridor Study. Since the Initiative was officially launched by City Council in 2013, the effort has engaged hundreds of Austinites and has combined community aspirations with the effort of numerous city departments, stakeholders and citizens. This document establishes a consolidated vision and provides a cohesive set of recommendations to guide public and private investment in the South Central Waterfront over the next two decades. The vision presented in this report is grounded in economic, environmental, and spatial analyses and provides a starting point for mutually beneficial collaboration between the City of Austin and its constituents: residents, property-owners, and developers.

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