public spaces

The East Riverside Corridor: East Riverside Drive prepares for a pedestrian-focused makeover

The East Riverside Corridor: East Riverside Drive prepares for a pedestrian-focused makeover

Austin Photo Set: News_meng_east riverside drive_nov 2012_1
East Riverside Drive Courtesy of Erica Leak
Austin Photo Set: News_meng_east riverside drive_nov 2012_2
Zoning Substrict Courtesy of Erica Leak
Austin Photo Set: News_meng_east riverside drive_nov 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_meng_east riverside drive_nov 2012_2

East Riverside Drive offers a great cross-town route if you need to cut through the city in a hurry. But wouldn’t it be great if the area were just as accomodating to pedestrians as it is to automobiles?

Since 2008, the City of Austin has worked to re-make East Riverside as a more "people-oriented" district, and in 2010, it officially adopted a guiding vision (the Master Plan) for what is deemed the East Riverside Corridor.

Two years and many public forums later, city staff have unveiled their draft of the East Riverside Corridor Regulating Plan to the public. We've outlined some key development standards from the draft plan that shape how the corridor may look and feel in the next 10 to 20 years.

Five subdistricts

The plan proposes to divide the corridor into five discrete subdistricts, each of which will establish base building heights for that area (see 'zoning subdistrict' image). These range from 35 feet (i.e. a two- to three-story townhome) in neighborhood areas to 60-feet (a five-story building) along the corridor.

The heights were decided “largely based on the community input that we received through the Master Planning process, but they are also related to the zoning that exists there now,” says Erica Leak, Principle Planner with the Urban Design Division of the Planning and Development Review Department.

Active edges

Some of the major intersections in the corridor, like the one at East Riverside Drive and South Pleasant Valley, will be prepped for more retail development like sidewalk cafes, coffee shops or corner stores.

“The concept with active edges is that the ground floor of any buildings on these properties have to be built to commercial standards,” says Leak. “The reason for that is to try and ensure that these hubs become mixed use walkable neighborhoods in the future. For an area to be truly mixed use, it really needs to have a variety of services in the area.”

Collector streets

Along with the active edges, the plan designates a set of collector streets that create a very basic street grid for the area. These collector streets would break up some of the corridor’s extremely long blocks to create more direct routes for pedestrians to walk through and around the neighborhood. All collector streets would also require wider sidewalks, street trees and bike routes.          


Designed for denser development, the four proposed hubs designate the parcels eligible for development bonuses. They are also potential locations for rail stops, should rail service someday cross the river. Development bonuses provide a way for developers to build higher (in this case, up to 120 or 160 feet high, depending on the hub) in exchange for providing some of the following amenities:

  • Affordable housing
  • Public open space
  • Commercial/Office space
  • Stormwater mitigation
  • Water quality control
  • Bike racks and shower facilities

The affordable housing and public open space amenities would be required for a development bonus, and developers could choose to provide one or a combination of the remaining four.

“The amenities came out of the public input process, through looking at the greatest needs in the area,” says Leak. “Open space was a high priority, because there are basically no parks within the neighborhood areas here. In terms of affordable housing, there were concerns about potential displacement in the area, so that would be one of the requirements [of the development bonus] to ensure there will be affordable housing in the future.”

On Thursday, November 8, the Austin City Council will hold a public hearing at City Hall to take public input about the regulatory plan before potentially adopting it. Click here to read the draft Regulatory Plan and familiarize yourself with the potential future of a significant Austin area.