The Snell Grant provided Professor Sinclair Black an opportunity to extend his work analyzing Austin’s underutilized urban geography and exploring the future environmental and economic benefits that could be achieved by maximizing densification via infill supported by an urban rail system. It helped him further the effort of a proposed School of Architecture graduate program in Urban Design and Development, which is presently being contemplated by several architecture and business school faculty. It also enabled him to set up new curriculum for his Urban Design Class, including a web-based interactive density calculator that provides a functional socioeconomic tool proving practical benefits, allowing users to make their own assumptions.
This funding also provided Professor Black the opportunity to make a long-term investment by creating a cost-efficient “snapshot” project pipeline. Within this, students who take the class must use his research findings to apply said density calculator to relevant TODs and transportation corridors that have already been studied by previous Center for Sustainable Development grantees as well as those identified by such entities as CapMetro, the City of Austin, Envision Central Texas and the University of Texas. Rail is an economic engine that can transform underutilized areas while virtually paying for itself – if, of course, implemented correctly. And the results of these pipeline-generated studies will do nothing but help both the public and private sectors identify: 1) which sites/areas (everything ranging from mixed-use infill and transportation corridors to single-use sub-urbanity) will ultimately capture the most benefits; 2) which sites/areas will generate the most costs; 3) and which path the Greater Austin Metropolitan Region should take in order to capture the most long-term value. With that said, here is the link to the three online essays and density calculator that comprise “Occupy Central Texas with Sustainability”: http://occupycentraltexas.wordpress.com/, and here is the link to the online Urban Design Class curriculum that is in development: http://urbandesignpractice.wordpress.com/
The Snell funds were used to provide research assistant support and professional development support in the summer to enable the project’s findings to be incorporated into the aforementioned Urban Design Class.