The following is a dialogue between myself and Crestview Station resident Mary Pustejovsky regarding public space at Crestview Station. It may be of interest to CodeNext policymakers.
I found your post on open space very interesting. I was a bit surprised to see the note about Crestview Station though, as being "a bit cramped".
As a resident for 2 years, I found it surprising and sad that people don't understand the wonderful open space we have here and how it is used. I agree with you that where open space is found is important, but I don't think that our area is lacking in any way.
At Crestview Station, we have a pocket park with a shared grill and patio where pretty much every night of the week, there are children playing (come by sometime and see for yourself). There is an off-leash dog park, a bocce court with porch swings and a grassy area (pocket park 2) and a grassy area with space for projecting movies on a wall and outdoor ping pong tables (pocket park 3).
We'll soon be getting a play structure, (half) basketball court, and "hammock area" for hanging out. They are small, but interspersed such that no one must walk more than a block.
My 5 year old opens the front door, says, "I hear kids" and asks if she can run to the park (3 houses away). She does, by herself. I don't know many places in Austin where that is possible. I would love to see MORE places in Austin that allow that sense of community for families, and freedom for children.
My whole point is the percentage of space is irrelevant if it is well placed and has a variety of amenities for different age groups and recreation types. Please come visit some time and enjoy. We'll be happy to show you around.
Crestview Station resident
I've been around Crestview Station and am familiar with the small shared spaces interspersed within the cottage-style housing towards the rear of the development. I think those are very well done. They serve you guys as local residents, and should be a model for how to design transitional areas where yards are small or shared.
When I talked about 'somewhat cramped', I'm thinking in terms of what it would take to turn the center of Crestview Station into the future center of the walkable community.
Where's the generally recognized walkable center of the center? At Crestview Station, it should have been a space about a block in from N Lamar, extending towards the street but semi-enclosed by buildings to buffer it.
This would have been a larger space than what you're describing - a real pocket park on the scale of how Parks Dept defines it - 0.5 to 2 acres, maybe half the size of Brentwood Park that serves a similar function as a general community gathering space. But the location also means it would be providing connectivity through to transit and services. Think of The Triangle.
Hoping this makes some sense!
I think I understand what you are getting at. You seem to be saying that open space (at least in this location) should be more of a "destination" park than just one that serves local residents.
I just worry that Austin has too many destination parks (Zilker, Walnut Creek Metropolitan, etc) already and not enough green space within walking distance of residents.
For example, the metric the City of Austin uses is that people in the urban core should live within 1/4 mile of a park, yet sadly, only 37% do (see the report here, a little old, there may be more recent numbers). Somehow, we have a huge amount of acres per 1,000 residents (30.6 according to this report, far higher than the national median), it's just not in places where people are, or it requires people to drive to in order to enjoy, which I think is a shame. Last I checked children under 16 can't drive (at least not legally!).
Every resident, old and young, deserves to enjoy green space on a daily basis--I think you and I would agree there.
I totally agree with your sentiment that most of Austin’s parks are accessed by car, and we have a deficit of parks to support walkable residents. That’s been SN’s message for ten years.
I’m not proposing another “regional” park like Zilker (350 acres). I’m talking about something much, much smaller – 0.5 to 2 acres, but located strategically. It’s the town square. It’s a central place where the wider community can gather, that draws people on foot or bike to transit and retail. It’s the synergy from meeting multiple public goals that makes such spaces vital.
The service area for such a park is really more biking distance than walking distance.
It's the place that my family and I are going to bike to from over near Burnet, when we come over to Crestview Station, to hang out and grab a beer from the brewery or do a picnic. Again, think about The Triangle and how it works. Think of a town square. We're generally not going to come back into the smaller spaces interspersed near your homes, and really, you might not want us random strangers doing that anyway. ;) Those spaces are public, but in a more intimate, local way.
I guess I still don't understand why the park has to be right next to the train station.
I've done some (bad) map markings to show a little bit of what I'm talking about. Everything in the diagram below that is grey is existing houses (completed). The green are park spaces planned or already present (the only one not built is the triangle).
You said there should be a linear park near transit stops. The linear park near the top is grassy open space, followed by a bocce court with porch swings. At the north end, the City of Austin has said that we can use their easement behind the Austin Energy station for a community garden.
Finally, I wanted to make sure you knew that the community garden behind the Austin Energy station on Lamar will be open to any and all residents of Austin (as it is partly Austin property), not just those of the immediate neighborhood. We're hoping it can be an asset to the community much like Sunshine Community Gardens is a treasure shared by all who care for it. This is about a block off Lamar, and there is a bus stop on the other side of the Austin Energy property (see the blue icon).
The kind of space that ideally you'd have near transit is synergizing with the things around it.
This article makes the case for transit-oriented plazas/parks far better than I can:
It's drawing business to the retail strip along Lamar. It's drawing people to the transit area, where they are more likely to actually use it. It's providing a very pleasant, positive connection for nearby residents to walk or bike through to the transit and destinations. I can see having an art exhibit in that sidewalk zone where your green arrow is. But what about a kite festival like they have at The Triangle or Brentwood Park? How about Violet Crown? It's a matter of scale.
At Crestview Station, the space I'm talking about was used instead for a circulator street and three-story apartments. The developer made a decision not to build denser and not to provide extra open space. You could close off the circulator street to hold an event, but that takes effort and is only good for temporary occasions.
A park on the Ryan property could work. It's a shame it's less integrated with development on the north side, but it would create a new connection into the station area.
The orange arrow indicates where I think the road is far too wide and kind of useless anyway. I would love to see that part blocked off for sure, it serves very little purpose. I think it was originally supposed to be for bus stops (the shelters are even there) but they are never used.
One thing you stated was that "the developer chose not to build denser". My guess is that because of compatibility with adjacent single family homes, they were not allowed to build taller.
I agree that things could have been done better, but overall I think there is a lot of good and a lot that can be learned from the area.
Yes, it’s easy to criticize, but you’re absolutely right that we need to learn the positive lessons as well. I like the cottage-scale development at the rear of Crestview Station and the small parklets that serve you guys. I like the plaza space up on N Lamar and the balcony effect of the Co-op.
The space to the rear of the plaza was a missed opportunity.
Your idea of reclaiming the road behind the transit station has merit. I don't know if there are service or emergency vehicle issues. Maybe swap out pavement for cobblestone, or just put barriers that make it pedestrian-centric but with limited vehicle access. And then program and integrate it with whatever comes on the Ryan property.
The rules in the TOD plan (link below) say there are no compatibility restrictions within the TOD boundaries. For the area around the station, the developer could build up to 45’, or 60’ if they provided affordable housing. (I got this wrong - thought the bonus was for open space).
Bonus-based mechanisms are tricky. If you’re too stingy, the developer just opts out. If you’re too generous, people say you’re coddling developers. Unfortunately, bonuses are one of the few tools available in Texas to get affordable units in brand new housing.
BTW, thank you for patiently and politely questioning things I’m saying that don’t make sense. You’ve forced me to take a casual observation (“Crestview Station feels slightly cramped”), and better articulate the value and details around what is, afterall, a major community and transportation investment.
I agree very much that bonus programs are tricky--they have to provide enough of a "carrot" for a developer to do it or it will just be too expensive/onerous.
I'm happy that we could have an exchange. I think it's always good to question our assumptions and make our positions as clear as possible. Sometimes that is hard over the internet.
I really do hope that the rest of the TOD (which includes South and East of the station) will have better development, connectivity, and green space as they redevelop. That's why Midtown NA is setting up as many meetings as possible with property owners and city council members to make sure we get something that is an asset to the community at large.
Burnet Corridor Plan >