submitted by Kerry Kimbrough [Email address: kkimbrough #AT# acm.org - replace #AT# with @ ]

Like many neighborhoods, Allandale is defined by a certain geographic
pattern: a leafy cocoon of houses nestled inside a box of major roadways. Our
box is formed primarily by Mopac and two roads that are defined by the City of Austinas “Core Transit Corridors” (CTCs) — Burnet Road
and Anderson Lane. Such
CTCs get a lot of attention from city planners because CTCs are places where
big issues like transportation and development play out. Austin
is an amazing, dynamic organism, and the CTCs are its budding branches. I’m
sure you’ve noticed how Burnet and Anderson have been transforming over the
years.

Recently, the City of Austin has
been trying to deal with these transformations by adopting policies generally
described as “Smart Growth”. Just this month, a new set of design standards for
commercial and retail development has gone into effect. Known officially as
Subchapter E of the City Code, these design standards apply generally within
central Austin but focus
specifically on development along CTCs like Burnet and Anderson. Among its many
provisions for improving livability and economic value, Subchapter E also
includes incentives for mixed use development. The goal of mixed use
development is to create a compatible mix of residential, retail, and office
use, making it easier for folks to live, shop, and work in a
pedestrian-friendly area.

Soon, Allandale will have an opportunity for direct input on mixed use
development along Burnet and Anderson. The City of Austinis asking the Allandale Neighborhood Association for our feedback about
Vertical Mixed Use on our CTCs. So, what does this mean? And why should you
care?

First, a quick definition. Vertical Mixed Use (VMU) means a multi-story
building containing a mix of residential, commercial, and office uses.
Subchapter E requires a VMU building to be designed for pedestrian-oriented
commercial use on the ground floor, but the upper floors may contain a mix of
other uses, and at least one floor must contain residential units. VMU development
is limited to certain specific types of zoning districts, one of which is
called a Vertical Mixed Use Overlay District (VMUOD). So, how does this apply
to Allandale?  The answer is “on Burnet and Anderson”. Subchapter E
establishes a VMUOD that applies to all commercially zoned properties along a
Core Transit Corridor. In other words, a VMU project is permitted at any
commercial site on Burnet and Anderson.

Is this a problem? Is VMU good or bad for Allandale? The answer is “it
depends”. VMU encourages places to live and shop that are fun, attractive, and
compatible with the existing neighborhood. Also the VMU rules ensure that
developers won’t create places where only rich folks can afford to live. On the
other hand, VMU brings more residents and offers reduced requirements for
parking space. On yet another hand, VMU rules also protect parking for existing
residents on neighborhood streets. On yet another hand, VMU is expensive to
build and may not be economically viable on small lots anyway. Sheesh! I’m
running out of hands! Suffice it to say that there are a lot of complicated
rules and tradeoffs to consider.

That’s why the city is asking for our feedback. Specifically, we are asked
to recommend where we would “opt out” of the VMU provisions. We could recommend
that VMU be disallowed on specific sites. Or we could recommend adjustments to
some of the incentives and restrictions that are attached to VMU development in
our neighborhood. Also, we have the chance to explicitly “opt in” by
recommending VMU in locations where it’s not yet specifically allowed.

Interested in VMU? Want to know more about it? Want to
help figure out our “opts”? Then check in with your friendly ANA Neighborhood
Planning Committee. We’ve just begun to work on VMU issues, and now is the
perfect time to chime in. You can start by sending email to me at kkimbrough [Email address: kkimbrough #AT# acm.org - replace #AT# with @ ] or to allandaleplanning [Email address: allandaleplanning #AT# yahoogroups.com - replace #AT# with @ ].
I encourage you to take part in this and other neighborhood planning activities
by subscribing to this group — just send an email to allandaleplanning-subscribe [Email address: allandaleplanning-subscribe #AT# yahoogroups.com - replace #AT# with @ ].