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Austin Market Update with Todd LaRue

As we round out the second quarter of 2018, many of us are 1) wondering where the first half of the year went, and 2) speculating what the next half will bring. 2018 has proven to be a strong year in the Austin real estate market so far, and most analysts agree that this trend will continue. This month we decided to sit down with Todd LaRue of RCLCO Real Estate Advisors to talk shop and take stock of the current state of the market. As the Managing Director of RCLCO’s Austin office, Todd provides strategic development, investment, and planning advice to developers, landowners, investors, and public sector entities. His work includes consulting for a wide variety of project types, including master planned communities, high rise mixed-use developments, resorts, and commercial developments.

Q: What’s the buzz in the market right now?

There’s obviously a lot going on in the Austin real estate market right now, but two things come to mind in terms of hot topics:

  1. Robinson Ranch – Robinson Ranch is probably the most significant large tract of land within a major city in the United States – and it’s right here in north Austin. The property is in the traditional path of growth, what we call the “favored quarter,” where the bulk of office-using employment and upper income households have grown the past few decades. All Texas metro areas have multiple cores, but Austin really only has two real concentrations – downtown and The Domain, which only recently has become one.  We need more of these cores so that there are more mixed-use job centers closer to where people live, which could help with traffic congestion. Robinson Ranch is well positioned to become another one as it exhibits most of the attributes these places need to be successful. The development of Robinson Ranch also could provide an opportunity to deliver a variety of housing units that are well located relative to existing job centers, as opposed to delivering them in increasingly distant areas and putting additional stress on infrastructure.

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Deer Park Hosts Ground Breaking Ceremony for New Nature Preserve


On May 15th the City of Deer Park hosted a ground breaking ceremony for phase one of the Deer Park Nature Preserve. RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture was selected by the City of Deer Park to lead the design of the new 38-acre park by providing conceptual programming for the overall site and design and construction documentation for phase one.

The Deer Park Nature Preserve is a city owned tract of land which includes 15 acres of environmentally-sensitive wetlands. The park is envisioned as a model for sustainable design and environmental stewardship. The restored and enhanced natural environment will serve the residents and visitors of the City as a destination for people to explore, learn from, and interact with nature.

RVi worked closely with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and local stakeholders to establish program elements for the park that meet both recreational and educational goals. The ultimate vision of the Nature Park is to have a nature center with various outdoor classrooms, playgrounds, camping area, ropes course, and event pavilion all connected by various nature trails.

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RViers Test CodeNEXT Functional Green Requirements

Earlier this month, several members of RVi’s Austin office volunteered alongside other ASLA members to test a portion of CodeNEXT, Austin’s proposed new development code. RVi’s Peter Dufrene led our group’s efforts along with Patrick Smith, Alan Mackey, Noah Halbach, and Robin Winter.

The focus of the test was CodeNEXT’s Functional Green, a requirement for urban developments that are zoned for 80% impervious cover. Rather than treating the landscape as an afterthought, this requirement asks developers to use the pervious portions of the site to create a landscape that provides ecological functions such as cleaning the air, creating/restoring habitat, providing drainage mitigation, or improving stormwater quality. Examples of functional landscape elements include preserved and/or new trees, green roofs, rain gardens, porous or suspended pavement, vegetated walls, cisterns, non-potable water irrigation, and pollinator resources. Each functional landscape element has an associated multiplier, which is used in a calculation to determine a total score.

During the exercise, each team evaluated a different existing project in Austin to determine what modifications would be necessary to bring the project into compliance with Functional Green, and at what cost. RVi’s team was assigned a multi-family project in north central Austin and produced two concepts for consideration. The first concept achieved compliance without altering the site plan, adding functional green elements at a cost of more than $500,000.The second concept altered the site plan by reducing parking to a level still acceptable within the constraints of CodeNEXT, reconfiguring the parking and sedimentation pond in order to preserve existing mature trees, as well as adding functional green elements. The team estimated this approach to be less than $500,000, not including the savings that would likely be realized from reducing the parking footprint.This exercise suggests that involving the landscape architect early on in the project will make achieving the Functional Green requirement much more cost effective for the developer.

Special thanks to ASLA Central Texas for the opportunity to participate in the testing of CodeNEXT, to AIA Austin for hosting the event, and to Melissa Henao-Robledo of Landscape Forms for sharing her event photos with us!

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