If you’ve tuned in over the last few weeks, you’ll see we’ve been mulling the topic of Brodie Oaksification around here — the crackpot fantasy of instantly transforming another one of Austin’s sprawled-out shopping centers into a new mixed-use development just like what’s currently planned at Brodie Oaks, a project increasing the housing and commercial space of its land with the help of dense construction while also clawing back some green space from acres of underused parking lots.
Austin has approximately one million different shopping centers that could use this treatment, but our efforts to narrow down the contenders with multiple surveys has finally paid off. After more than 750 votes in our last reader poll, we’re proud to declare that Austin’s most popular strip mall target for the Brodie Oaks cannon is Hancock Center by a hair, receiving 35.51 percent of the votes versus 34.84 percent for Barton Creek Square Mall and 29.65 percent for Capital Plaza. That’s a pretty even distribution, which we’re not surprised to see — all three of our finalists were popular in earlier polls, and that’s because they’re all excellent candidates.
But the 34-acre Hancock Center tract at 1000 East 41st Street has some interesting stuff in its near future that might make it a particularly good location for this kind of redevelopment, even if the timeline isn’t exactly swift. For one, the expansion of I-35 by the Texas Department of Transportation planned over the coming years will take a small bite out of the shopping center’s eastern edge, displacing stuff like a Wendy’s and a walk-in affordable health clinic — some real masters of public relations over there at TxDOT. But the turmoil caused by the highway expansion might just be the incentive that owners of sites like Hancock Center (along with the nearby Capital Plaza, even if it didn’t win the poll) could use to try something new, since the centers will have to be modified to make room for the highway no matter what.
Hancock Center is also set to get a few modernizing investments in the near future, including a planned expansion of its anchor H-E-B grocery and the conversion of its long-dead former Sears department store into the new $63 million headquarters for county hospital district Central Health, which has yet to reveal its design. Although the longer-term transit improvements of Project Connect now seem further out of reach than ever, the possibility of rail someday on the Gold Line includes a stop here. With that future in mind, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture something better at Hancock Center, even if we don’t have the power to change it overnight — still, it’s nice to know where Austinites would point the Brodie Oaksifyer if they could.
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