The South Central Waterfront is situated in the heart of Austin, directly across Lady Bird Lake from Austin’s burgeoning downtown, stretching between South First Street and East Bouldin Creek. The proximity to Austin’s revered Hike & Bike Trail situates the site squarely in the midst of Austin’s recreational identity. While the Lady Bird Lake waterfront experiences a high level of activity, East Bouldin Creek remains a relatively obscure environmental feature on few Austinite’s radar. It is much less accessible than any other central Austin creek, and presents a real opportunity to further engage the South Central Waterfront with a natural amenity intrinsically linked to the city’s psyche.
The South Central Waterfront is located opposite the Austin Central Business District across Lady Bird Lake - a coveted position close to the heart of everything that makes Austin unique. Yet, the neighborhood is today a disconnected hodge-podge of outdated office buildings, parking lots, and has limited residential availability. Despite its waterfront location, the vibrant recreational opportunities of the lake feel separated and distant.
Historically the South Central Waterfront was a river bed and flood plains. Because the southern shore was under constant threat of flooding from the Colorado River, the area was used for cattle and crops. The completion of the Longhorn Dam and impoundment and creation of Town Lake in 1960 established a stable river bank and allowed development to occur in the area.
Previous designs for the South Central Waterfront focus heavily on the shore of Lady Bird Lake while largely downplaying the underutilized potential of Bouldin Creek. Given the cherished place that creeks occupy in Austin’s culture, revitalizing Bouldin Creek and connecting it to the ever-popular lakefront is the primary aim of the design.
The South Central Waterfront’s “other” waterfront – East Bouldin Creek – acts as the front door for the final build-out of the site. The varied scale of buildings acts as both a complement to the highrises downtown as well as a transition between the emerging “big city” identity of downtown and the neighborhood-scale commercial districts along South Congress and South First streets. East Bouldin Creek also lacks sufficient public access to parkland as compared to other creeks within South Central Austin. The proposed design increases access to both waterfronts providing residents with more opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty within Austin.
Lastly, to address the lack of affordable housing in the district and correct some of the job/housing imbalance that exists, a redevelopment partnership is proposed between the Crockett family and the City that would supply affordable housing on city-owned land and coordinate the design with redevelopment on the Crockett parcels, transforming the block into a vibrant, mixed-use hub for the entire South Central Waterfront. Twenty-five of the thirty blocks in the proposed design will offer residents a mix of housing, office and retail.
The studio design outputs and physical models were used by the City of Austin for the acutal South Austin Waterfront plan.
City of Austin' final plan won 2017 Award for Excellence in Sustainability from the American Planning Association’s Sustainable Communities Division.