EPA program aims to improve green infrastructure, climate resiliency.
Austin is among five cities across the nation awarded federal technical assistance to “green” its state capital.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Sept. 23 that it will provide technical assistance to develop infrastructure that contributes to greener, more vibrant neighborhoods and increases resiliency from the impacts of climate change.
In Austin, the assistance will help create design options for the South Central Waterfront area -- 97 acres south of Downtown along the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake -- to achieve:
Improved pedestrian and bike connections.
Green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding.
Improved water quality.
“The EPA’s assistance in Austin is a major step forward for the South Central Waterfront Initiative as we work with property owners and community members on a long-range plan for this area experiencing rapid changes,” said Brooke Bailey, chair of the City’s Waterfront Planning Advisory Board. “We are grateful to the Environmental Protection Agency and everybody locally who has been supporting this project over the last two years.”
In addition to Austin, the EPA selected four other cities for this year’s Greening America’s Capitals program. Chosen through a national competition were Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va.
“EPA is excited about the opportunity to work with five new capital cities as they pursue their vision of a more sustainable future through the Greening America’s Capitals program,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Their projects will lay the groundwork for a greener, healthier environment that can help these cities become more resilient to climate change and other challenges, while acting as models for other communities.”
The South Central Waterfront Initiative aims to establish a vision and framework to guide public and private development over the next few decades.
The project area includes 97 acres located south of Downtown and bounded by South First Street on the west, Blunn Creek to the east, Lady Bird Lake on the north, and East Riverside Drive and Bouldin Creek on the south.
After community involvement earlier this year and coalescing expertise from Austin and around the country, a new report called the “South Central Waterfront Interim Vision Framework” was published this month. High priority objectives include a lively, attractive pedestrian environment; open space and great public spaces; affordable housing; and enhanced connections to and along the waterfront.
This interim Vision Framework is a step toward creating a full small-area plan.
“As the area undergoes inevitable changes, the South Central Waterfront can transform into a walkable, beautiful and environmentally sustainable new district,” noted Alan Holt, a Principal Planner with the City’s Planning and Development Review Department. “The EPA technical and design assistance will complement the City’s ongoing efforts to put a plan in place to make this potential a reality.”
Currently, the South Central Waterfront is largely characterized by several design issues including inadequate public access and limited public green space along the shoreline; parking lots and aging auto-oriented development; “superblocks” that impede pedestrian access to the waterfront; and unfriendly streetscapes.
The Greening America’s Capitals program aims to help communities consider ways to incorporate sustainable design strategies that yield multiple environmental, economic and social benefits into their planning and development.
The EPA implements this program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a program that helps communities create more housing and transportation choices that result in better environmental outcomes for communities.