If you’re not familiar with the plan by local developers Barshop & Oles to reimagine the roughly 37-acre Brodie Oaks shopping center in South Austin, you’d better catch up with our coverage of the subject, since we think it’s a model for how to upgrade struggling retail districts all around Austin. Once you’ve grasped the significance of the project, the rest of this article will make a lot more sense.
Okay, so say you’ve got your hands on a magic laser beam — the Brodie Oaksifyer — you can point at any of Austin’s famously overparked and overpaved suburban strip mall shopping centers. Press the button, and blammo, your choice of center gets the same style of redevelopment as Brodie Oaks, with a taller, denser planned community containing mixed-income housing, commercial uses, park space, and so on. There’s a practically endless list of shopping centers around Austin that could benefit from this kind of urban connectivity, but we’d like to hear from you about which chunks of sprawl you’d like to see magically transformed into something better.
We’ve got two suggestions to get you started. First, can you imagine a Brodie Oaks-style reimagining of the oceans of pavement at Hancock Center? It’s kind of remarkable that this 34-acre shopping center is actually less walkable and urban than when it opened in 1964 as a more mall-like facility connected by an internal courtyard.
These days, Hancock is fairly similar to the current state of Brodie Oaks in the sense that neither its vast storefronts nor parking lots are ever quite fully occupied, and considering its location surrounded by densifying neighborhoods, a redevelopment of the center would yield thousands of new homes without even giving up space for its beloved H-E-B. In terms of hypothetical improvements to the central city’s urban fabric, this one’s hard to beat. Fire the Brodie Oaksifyer!
But if you really want to predict the future, we think the next struggling shopping center getting the Brodie Oaks treatment ought to be Arboretum Crossing, that dinky 20-acre strip mall at the Highway 183 and Mopac interchange where a majority of the retail space actually sits vacant next door to anchor tenant Dave & Buster’s.
This spot’s a prime target for the Brodie Oaksifyer due to its proximity to the Domain, so close in fact that it’s within the North Burnet / Gateway planning area where City Council just unanimously bumped up the maximum building height for new development near the Domain and other attractions like Q2 Stadium. Under the tweaked plan, the Arboretum Crossing site is now eligible for buildings up to 180 feet in height with a development bonus. (Although the adjacent roughly 80-acre Gateway shopping center is also within that bonus area, it doesn’t have nearly as many vacant storefronts, so we could see that one sticking around a while.)
But those aren’t the only targets for the Brodie beam, and we’re betting our readers have other ideas. We’ll pick out a few of the most common and compelling suggestions and let y’all vote on the city’s top contender for Brodie Oaksification, a term we really want to become a household name around here. Let’s go.