We’ve said this before, but the upcoming redevelopment of the 37-acre Brodie Oaks shopping center into a new mixed-use community for South Austin is the sort of large-scale urban planning even the city’s most change-averse citizens ought to celebrate. Play with this slider and try telling us the “after” image doesn’t look like an upgrade:
Taking a sprawling 1980s strip mall-style shopping center and replacing its large parking lots and storefronts with denser housing — including approximately 200 affordable homes — alongside offices, hotels, and retail allows the development team of Barshop & Oles Company and Lionstone Investments to lower the existing impervious cover of the site and increase its open green space by more than 30 percent, providing nearly 12 acres of new city parkland, 10 of those acres adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Due to its location inside the regulatory area of the city’s Save Our Springs water quality initiative, the Brodie redevelopment is likely the most environmentally sensitive project of its scale currently planned in the city, and should provide a roadmap for future upgrades of similar underutilized and overpaved shopping centers throughout the outskirts of the urban core.
The trick to this sort of sprawl-busting density is extra height, and the development hopes to attain its allowances of 160 feet adjacent to parkland and up to 275 feet on the sides of the tract facing Loop 360 and South Lamar Boulevard through the city’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, which is currently headed for a new round of public hearings — after securing the approval of the Parks Board earlier this summer, the PUD heads for the Environmental and Planning Commissions next month, with the first reading at City Council scheduled for its December 1 meeting.
Once the PUD is finalized, the project should enter the permitting phase by 2024, with the first phase of construction tentatively scheduled for groundbreaking sometime in 2025. With this final stage of approvals now approaching, the project’s development team has recently launched a new website for the plan, which is simply going by the name Brodie — that’s where we’re finding all these incredible before and after pictures of the shopping center, and you ought to check it out for yourself.
Brodie will be a destination landmark for South Austin reflecting the unique character of South Austin through its creative design and the incorporation of public art and performance venues. A focus on biophilic design, energy and water conservation, and the use of regional architectural styles and materials will all help contribute to the South Austin character.
The project will reserve prominent areas with views of Downtown and the Hill Country as publicly-accessible open space. The project is planning for approximately 1,700 residential units, 1.2 million square feet of office, 200 hotel rooms, 140 thousand square feet of activated ground floor retail and restaurant uses. A central green will be developed and programmed for events and entertainment acting as the central core of food and beverage options. This central green will connect from the core of the development to a festival street that can host farmers markets and events and terminate at a new trailhead to the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
The restoration of over 25 percent of the site to open space adjacent to the Barton Creek Greenbelt is made possible through heights of up to 160’ adjacent to parkland and 220’ to 275’ along Loop 360 and S. Lamar Boulevard frontage. The project is partnering with Foundation Communities to include a project of approximately 130 family-oriented units, serving families between 40% and 60% of median family income. Approximately 70 additional units of affordable housing for households earning up to 60% of median family income will be dispersed throughout the project, along with affordable retail and artist spaces. Finally, repositioning the retail environment from single-use, auto-oriented to mixed-use and walkable will align the physical environment with social and environmental trends.
We’ve already made it clear why we think this sort of project is precisely the way Austin ought to grow, since it’s obvious by now that our city’s expansion is inevitable and trying to stop it doesn’t do favors for anyone. Despite some petty complaints by distant homeowners about the new buildings mildly altering the views from their backyards, no serious person could effectively argue that the Brodie plan as laid out here is not a better deal than what’s sitting at this property now — building up, not out, should be our local mantra for the next generation, and we can think of nearly a dozen shopping centers around town that could use the Brodie treatment. Perhaps consider sending your representative on Council an email supporting this plan?