The Texas Facilities Commission just released its 2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan, and is detailing a bold, exciting plan to turn state property north of the Capitol into enjoyable public space.
The Capitol Grounds are a jewel. As a place of recreation it is overlooked. It is like a mini Central Park in the heart of downtown Austin, where one can stop by on any nice day or night to have a picnic, read under the lights, play, or hang out under great old trees.
Which is why I am so pleased with this new report, which details three phases of development in the Capitol Complex, culminating in 5 million square feet of new building space, but also a lot of outdoor greesnpace.
Offices aside, the guiding vision of the 2016 plan is transforming Congress Avenue between 15th Street and MLK into a car-free, grass-filled, tree-lined event space: the “Texas Mall“.
Excitingly — and I did not realize this — lawmakers have already funded Phase 1 of the master plan, including a million square feet of new office space, but also three blocks of the Texas Mall landscape and associated streetscape improvements. (Not to mention, 4,840 new parking spaces plus underground utility upgrades.)
Ingeniously, refreshingly, parking will be provided by a combination of underground parking below the Texas Mall and parking structures (above and below grade) integrated into each new building. In the future, parking for state workers and visitors will be much more conveniently located. This parking strategy will eventually allow the glut of Soviet-looking parking garages – downtown’s worst blight – littering the campus to be demolished and redeveloped.
Imagine a Capitol Complex, flanked to the east by the UT Medical District, connected north to UT Austin, and also south to downtown proper. It is a very exciting prospect. The radical truth is that the Capitol Complex could become a professional nexus of it all.
And here’s why: currently, 5,000 employees in 22 leased properties occupying over 1.5 million square feet of offices scattered over Austin.
At full build-out of the master plan, the Capitol Complex has the capacity for 5 million square feet of new building space, including lots unrestricted by the Capitol View Corridor. Even with state workforce growth, there would also be more than three times the office space than the current need to house state workers — inviting private sector companies to lease from the state.
The potential is amazing really.
2016 Texas Capitol Complex Master Plan (pdf)