Placemaking and walkability in Austin's Capitol Complex




Clifton, Matthew Brett

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Typical of many American downtowns, Austin, Texas, has experienced renewed interest in redevelopment over the past two decades. Following City policies, this redevelopment has tended to be mixed-use in nature and has included elements of placemaking and walkability. A glaring exception to recent trends is the Capitol Complex, an area north of the State Capitol building that is home to various state government office buildings. The Capitol Complex displaced a more traditional mixed-use neighborhood in the 1950s and has been plagued by disjointed planning activities ever since. Recent budgetary challenges and a shortage of office space have prompted the state government to reexamine the Capitol Complex as a target for redevelopment. This professional report scrutinizes the Capitol Complex as a “non-place” that is challenged by walkability issues in an effort to make recommendations to ensure successful redevelopment that is more consistent with that found in the rest of downtown Austin. First, the literature on placemaking and walkability demonstrate what the Capitol Complex lacks. A case study provides a good comparison to see what policies have helped to improve districts near state office buildings. Second, the history of the Capitol Complex provides context for how the area became what it is today. Third, a land use and walkability analysis utilizing GIS along two corridors in the Complex and a pedestrian count show that the area is unfriendly to pedestrians and lacks activity on nights and weekends. Finally, the report offers both policy and urban design recommendations to help ensure that redevelopment activities contribute to make the Capitol Complex a walkable “place.”



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