A new comprehensive urban plan for the City of Austin's growth called Imagine Austin, is slowly making its way through various City committees, commissions and eventually City Council. Considering the number of people reportedly headed this way to work, play and yes, live, some say it's long past time for a plan with teeth by which to grow this city into the Austin of the future.

But is what's being called "Imagine Austin" the best blueprint for what is one of America's fast growing places?

"Density, Livability and sustainability are core goals embedded in the comprehensive plan. We are currently studying what the plans spells out and working to make it a workable plan that is fully implementible," said Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who says she looks forward to hearing the Planning Commission's input that is coming on April 10 and 11.

If all goes as planned City Council will again be briefed on April 26 and on May 24, whish is the date for the City Hall public hearing.

This is hardly the first time Austin has set out to construct some sort of blueprint for its growth. Despite plans that have come and gone — clearly forgotten — there appears to be a heightened sense of urgency this time. City leaders apparently recognize that in order to remain competitive, especially in the face of other buzz cities that have adopted strict plans by which to develop, Austin is going to have to clearly spell out how it wants to cross over into the next phase of its existence.

Fact is, rapid growth in the Austin metro area has already ranked it as the second fastest growing metro area in the nation according to new data from the US Census Bureau. Of the 67,230 new residents coming to the Austin area over the past 15 months, 38,858 of those came to Travis County. That growth is expected to continue, and it challenges the area's long stated values about sustainability and community. At some point, as sprawl continues to devour areas surrounding Austin and highway traffic continues to choke and stall, leaders are going to have to decide when to say yes; and why they may need to say no.

"The ability of a city to make the kind of choices that Austin is hopefully laying out with its comprehensive plan will position it to compete in the 21st Century," said Thomas Murphy, an Urban Land Institute senior fellow in Washington D.C.

Murphy, who was also mayor of Pittsburgh from 1994 to 2006, said a plan like Imagine Austin isn't done because it's a nice thing to do, it's strategic.

"This is being done because the people driving it understand that for Austin to be one of those buzz cities, to remain seen as one of America's most successful, it needs to be a livable place. It can't be a city choked by congestion and without great amenities," said Murphy.

Murphy said there are many people, especially younger Americans, who are making economic and lifestyle choices about where they want to live based on those livability factors. He said a solid development plan for the city's future also creates a competitive advantage.

"Look at how Europe has developed — in part because of $12 gas. You have big center cities then lots of open space and lots of little villages with town centers, but all are connected by adequate transit," said Murphy, who added that those who think gas prices will ever fall back to $2.50 a gallon are dreaming.

"As globalization continues, and 1.2 billion Chinese people begin to want to live like we do, I don't think we can ever have the expectation gas prices will go down or be cheap again," he said.

And that Murphy said, is what a plan like Austin's needs to address. You have to think about the cost of infrastructure supporting sprawling development: roads, sewer, gas, all that is the ultimate driver of development. And the biggest demographic bubbles Gen X and Gen Y as well as Boomers, all want to be in places where they don't have to drive as much.

Imagine Austin is not without critics.

Melissa Nesslund, a land development planner at Bury + Partners stresses that in order for the plan to be effective, change will need to occur in the overall development process.

While Nesslund, a homeowner herself, respects the concerns of neighborhood groups, she said, if developers can't get leeway in development codes, then Austin will not achieve true density in its future.

"I would have liked to see much bolder policy prescriptions to prevent sprawl," said downtown resident and citizens task force member Roger Cauvin.

Cauvin, owner of Cauvin Inc., a product strategy firm, said he believes Austin should eliminate minimum parking requirements, eliminate limits on floor to area ratios and adopt something akin to a form-based code citywide.

"The prospects of enacting those sorts of bold policy decisions is dependent on how staff and city council act on the 'modify the land development code' provision after its adoption," he said.

Austin Collective Strength CEO Robin Rather, who has worked with the American Planning Association and other groups on issues of sustainability and urban development is more broadly critical.

"It's vague, a lot of concepts, and what makes that even worse, they aren't new concepts," said Rather.

With 750,000 new potential Austin residents coming, forecast by national observers, Rather said, our problems today are not land use and transportation related, "our problems are water and energy."

"They spend a lot of time doodling around with it, but not nailing it, and I find that unbelievably frustrating," said Rather. This past summer, one of the dryest and hottest in Austin modern history, led to water supply issues that reminded everyone here how fragile the area's eco-system truly is. Without a secure supply of water, no city of the future is possible.

"The comprehensive plan is big picture by its nature," said Matthew Dugan, lead planner at the City of Austin's Planning Department. "Other city plans are more focused on smaller geographic areas or specific topics such as parks or transportation. Imagine Austin identifies defining issues that are paramount to Austin’s future success, including strong and specific action items for water and energy."

In the next few weeks we'll examine the Imagine Austin plan's six guiding principles.

Dugan and the city planning department said the decisions about what gets funding in the future is an iterative process. He said the city will strive for extensive public participation in the city’s annual budget process and Austin residents and voters will ultimately determine future bond funding for projects spelled out in the plan.

Still, Imagining the Austin of the future is not best left to the, well, imagination. Planning our future city is a tangible and real process that all should participate in.

"I think people generally feel that the way a city grows is just something that happens to them — that they either like it or they don't, but they don't really think about things happening today that will determine the city they'll be living in 10 or 15 years from now," said John Langmore, Cap Metro board member and long-time Texas transportation consultant. "The fact of the matter, Austin cannot afford not to do this plan said John Langmore.

"It will take the collective strength and energy of our leaders and the Austin community to make the goals of Imagine Austin happen," said Matthew Dugan.

He said one of the first steps is knowing what kind of community we want to be, and Imagine Austin lays that out.

PART TWO- How we got here.

Mapping the future: High school students tackle Austin's development challenges

growing and learning

Remember when you were a freshman in high school, and a city planner asked you to redesign your hometown? No? You must not have taken pre-AP Human Geography with Jamison Warren.

For the past few years, students in Warren’s class in the Academy for Global Studies at Austin High School have been redesigning sites including Highland Mall, the Austin State School and the Brackenridge Tract. Using giant maps, pencil, and concepts from class, they’ve been envisioning a walkable and sustainable future for Austin.

Ninth graders haven’t really taken over the city’s planning offices. The exercise is part of a unit that focuses on urban development and was the brainchild of Carol Haywood, manager of the city’s comprehensive planning division. She wanted to encourage Warren’s students to think of themselves as stakeholders in Austin’s future.

This is particularly important when it comes to the 30-year comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin. Haywood is blunt: “Thirty years from now I’m not going to be here. This is going to be their city, and the kids today are really bright, and they want a good place to live.”

An eye-opening exercise

AHS senior Emily Huang is one of those bright kids. When she was a freshman, her group redeveloped a tract of land near Cameron-Dessau Road and was invited to present its map to the city council.

"I think it’s important that we learn all of our options so that when things are developed, they’re developed into things that we would like to use."

“[The exercise] opened my eyes to how things are changing and we don’t really have full control over what’s going to happen,” Huang says. “But I think it’s important that we learn all of our options so that when things are developed, they’re developed into things that we would like to use.”

Huang’s group, and the others, imagined pedestrian- and bike-friendly, mixed-use developments in the style of New Urbanism. Many connected their projects to transit lines (real or imagined) and included large parks.

The mapping exercise let the students apply concepts they’d learned in class, including the importance of transportation options other than cars. Warren has his classes — which include students from downtown, Tarrytown, the Holly neighborhood and Oak Hill — compare their commute times and whether their neighborhoods have sidewalks.

The importance of walkability

The students also discover their neighborhoods’ walkability scores. “The idea is, can you bike? Can you walk? Are there retail shopping opportunities you can get to without driving?” Warren explains. “Or are you always depending on your car?”

His students are sometimes surprised when they compare scores and realize the opportunities kids in other neighborhoods have. “Especially for a teenager who can’t drive, walkability is huge,” Warren says.

It was huge for Huang’s group, which got most of its ideas from The Triangle. The students appreciated its mix of shops, restaurants and park space, all accessible by foot from the living quarters. They put a Triangle-like park in the center of their tract and built shops around it.

They applied other lessons from the Human Geography curriculum, too.

“One of the really interesting things we learned was about the structure of neighborhoods, and things that make neighborhoods work and not work,” Huang says. “When there are cul de sacs in neighborhoods it makes all the traffic direct to one major road that’s really busy, and it messes up the traffic flow. So we tried not to do that.

“Also, when roads are narrower, cars have to slow down, and it makes it more cycling friendly and pedestrian friendly. So we had more sidewalks and smaller roads.”

Mixed-income neighborhoods

To demonstrate New Urbanism, Warren takes the class to the Mueller development. Some of those ideas found their way into the redevelopment projects, too — especially a mixture of housing types for different income levels.

“They thought that was very democratic,” Warren explains. “And then I asked them, ‘Is that what your neighborhood looks like?’ And they were like, ‘No, not really.’”

Warren, who notes that he has both students on free lunch and a student with a private plane, thinks his pupils would like to replicate this diversity in other areas of their lives.

But it is what Austin High looks like, with its mix of incomes, neighborhoods and ethnicities. Warren, who notes that he has both students on free lunch and a student with a private plane, thinks his pupils would like to replicate this diversity in other areas of their lives.

The exercise wasn’t without controversy — one group was assigned to redevelop the UT-owned Brackenridge Tract, which includes the Lions Municipal Golf Course (Muny), where many AHS families play golf. But Haywood and Warren both say the kids performed better than many adults in similar situations.

“The City of Austin planners commented numerous times on how much less friction and fighting was going on between the students, versus adults in the same scenario,” Warren relates. “The kids were coming up with these beautiful, really democratic, very utilitarian designs.”

Idealistic visions

Of course, this difference is due to the students’ limited life experience as well as teenagers’ limited ability to think into the future. “When you’re 14 or 15 it’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen next week,” much less 30 years in the future, Warren notes.

And like some adults who’ve participated in planning exercises, the students didn’t always take into account the need for a tax base in their developments. They created large parks, “which from a young person’s perspective makes a ton of sense,” Warren says. “But I don’t know from a practical standpoint how that land pays dividends back to the tax base.”

Practical or not, the exercise did introduce students to planning as both a profession and a process that affects their lives. Because so many graduates of Austin’s high schools stay in Austin, the city has an interest in helping them feel invested in the comprehensive plan.

And Emily Huang is even considering planning as a career. She’s been studying Chinese and sees opportunities for a planner in rapidly urbanizing China. The appeal? “You’re creating how people are going to live their lives every day — if they’re going to be able to walk to the grocery store, or to their work, or to the park. It’s almost like playing God in a way.”

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4 Austin-inspired cocktail recipes to whisk you away from the Texas heat this summer


Now that summer weather has arrived in Austin, we can tell you’re thirsting for some new drinks to try. And with World Gin Day coming up on June 10, we’re sharing a few recipes from local Austin restaurants (and Austin’s favorite Topo Chico!) we hope you’ll enjoy.

The following recipes feature some of our favorite ingredients or mixers we’re loving at the moment. Whether your drink of choice is a cocktail or mocktail, we’ve gathered four bright and bubbly beverages to help whisk you away from the Texas heat. And if you prefer to drink them rather than make them, three of these lovely libations can be found on the seasonal summer menus at their respective restaurant.

Aba’s Rhubarb Rose Gin and Tonic
This cocktail was created by Senior Beverage Manager Thomas Mizuno-Moore.

½ oz lime juice
¼ oz honey syrup
½ oz Fruitful Mixology rhubarb liqueur
¾ oz Brockmans Gin
¾ oz Hendrick’s Flora Adora
2 oz tonic water
Rosebud tea, for garnish


  • Combine lime juice, honey syrup, Fruitful Mixology rhubarb liqueur, Brockmans Gin and Hendrick’s Flora Adora in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake until cold.
  • Add tonic water to the shaker, then strain over fresh ice in a double old fashioned glass.
  • Garnish with rosebud tea and enjoy!

Blueberry Sparkler Mocktail by Topo ChicoBecause everyone needs a good go-to mocktail recipe in their life.Photo courtesy of Topo Chico

Blueberry Sparkler Mocktail by Topo Chico
This beverage might not be gin-themed, but it does make a great refreshing mocktail. If you don’t have Topo Chico Sabores on hand, you can substitute it with sparkling water.

1 Blueberry Topo Chico Sabores
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup water
½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon slices and additional blueberries, for garnish

Blueberry Syrup Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries are soft and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the blueberry mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Once cooled, use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the blueberry mixture into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids and set the blueberry syrup aside.

Mocktail Directions:

  • In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce of the blueberry syrup, and lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well until chilled, about 15-20 seconds.
  • Fill a glass with ice and strain the mixture into the glass. Top off the glass with Blueberry Topo Chico Sabores (or sparkling water) and give it a gentle stir to mix.
  • Garnish with lemon slices and additional blueberries, if desired. Enjoy your refreshing Blueberry Sparkler!

Tillie's seasonal summer cocktailThis colorful cocktail is a lively take on a gin martini.Photo courtesy of Tillie's at Camp Lucy

Empress Gin Martini by Tillie’s at Camp Lucy
This martini recipe was developed by Paolo Lazarich, the mixologist for Abbey Row Restaurant at The Old Bell Hotel in the United Kingdom. Fun fact: Camp Lucy owners Kim and White Hanks also own The Old Bell Hotel, which is rumored to be England’s oldest hotel.

3 oz Empress 1908 Gin
1 oz dry vermouth
Splash of lemon juice
Lemon and rosemary for garnish


  • Add the Empress 1908 Gin, dry vermouth, and lemon juice to a glass and stir gently.
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge and a sprig of rosemary. Enjoy.

\u200bSummertime Spritz by Dean's Italian Steakhouse There's nothing like a summer spritz.Photo courtesy of Dean's Italian Steakhouse

Summertime Spritz by Dean's Italian Steakhouse
This recipe is geared toward a mixologist who enjoys the little details that make a cocktail so unique, such as making their own oleo saccharum or curating the perfect flower as a garnish.

½ oz lemon juice
½ oz strawberry oleo saccharum
¼ oz Aperol
¼ oz Giffard Abricot
1.5 oz Zephyr Gin
2 oz Brut champagne
1 each cocktail flower


  • Combine all ingredients except Brut champagne into a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously, about 15-20 seconds.
  • Fill a wine glass with ice and add the Brut. Fine strain the cocktail into the glass.
  • Garnish with the cocktail flower

Extravagant estate in West Austin hits the market for $4.25 million


An imperial estate in the Lost Creek neighborhood of West Austin has become the latest addition to the city's stabilizing real estate market. The property was listed at $4.25 million.

The magnificent three-story home was originally built in 2009, making great use of Austin's Hill Country views that can be seen from every single room. The home spans 8,215 square feet on just over two acres of land, surrounded by lush trees and enclosed with a private gated entrance.

Natural light floods the inside of the home, highlighting intricate details and complimenting the high ceilings. The home boasts five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and three half-baths. The primary suite is reminiscent of an upscale resort, containing its own spa-like bathroom, walk-in closets, and access to a private balcony.

In the kitchen, the 60-inch wolf range is an aspiring chef's dream. The area has plenty of space and storage with its rich brown cabinets, a sub-zero refrigerator, a cabinet-mounted wine rack, two sinks, and more.

8105 Talbot Lane in AustinThe 60-inch wolf range is an aspiring chef's dream.Photo courtesy of JPM Real Estate Photography

A few other highlights of the home include a game room, media room, terraces, and a resort-style pool deck with an accompanying hot tub, kitchen, and fire pit. The two-car garage also includes a guest suite above it, with a single bedroom, kitchenette, and half bath.

Looking into the property's history, it was listed in June 2022 for $4.9 million, which was reduced to $3.9 million by September. The home was reported as sold in October of that year before being re-listed for its current $4.25 million price in 2023.

8105 Talbot Lane in Austin

Photo courtesy of JPM Real Estate Photography

The estate is located at 8105 Talbot Lane in West Austin.

The estate is located at 8105 Talbot Lane, which is a brief 10 minutes from downtown Austin, and is zoned for the highly-esteemed Eanes Independent School District. The listing is held by agent Wade Giles of Douglas Elliman.

Uchi spinoff to debut "whisky omakase," bar pairings, and bao in Austin

Raising the Bar

Uchibā isn't a new concept, nor is it newly promised to Austin, but it's finally getting closer to becoming a reality. The bar and restaurant spinoff from Uchi (translated as "Uchi Bar") announced today that it is set to open in late summer in the Google Tower.

Hai Hospitality, the parent group of famous omakase restaurant Uchi, more casual sushi restaurant Uchiko, and drop-in Asian barbecue restaurant Loro, announced the idea in October of 2021, setting a launch date in fall of 2022. The intent was always to open the restaurant in the Google Tower (601 West 2nd St.), so the difference now is just timing.

The original Uchibā opened in Dallas in 2019, operating upstairs from Uchi, an Austin export. This exchange is now coming back around, blurring the lines of what's from which Texas city. Similarly, the lines are blurred between what each restaurant serves, since Uchibā does include some of Uchi and Uchiko's most popular dishes: hot and cool tastings, agemono (deep fried bites), raw fish rolls, yakitori, and more, including dessert.

Of course, there will be lots of menu items that are unique to Uchibā, especially when informed by the spirits behind the bar. Some of these food and drink pairings include the Hawaiian-ish spiced ham misubi with nori, rice, and tepahe, a fermented pineapple drink; and the vodka and caviar with olive oil, burnt butter, brioche, and chives. As well as these "duos," the bar will offer omakase flights for whiskey and agave spirits.

“At Uchi we combine flavors and textures to create what we call the ‘perfect bite,’” said Chef Tyson Cole, the James Beard Award-winning chef who started the Uchi brand, in a press release. “With Uchibā, we wanted to take that a step further by unifying food with cocktails and spirits. Our 'Perfect Pairs' and the whisky omakase play off this idea with intentional combinations of food, cocktails and the the amazing array of Japanese whiskies behind the bar.”

Some menu items aren't just unique to Uchibā; They're also only available at the Austin location, thanks to its chef de cuisine, Vaidas Imsha. His menu includes categories that don't appear at the Dallas location — "Buns + Bao" and dumplings — and a long list of items that could constitute their own menu independently. Among these are a Caesar salad with Japanese twists; a Wagyu beef bulgogi with radish kimchi; two fish crudos with refreshing additions like asian pear and cucumber aguachile; and the more straightforward karaage spiced up with kimchi caramel and yuzu pear.

Uchibā will operate Sunday through Thursday from 4-10 pm; until midnight on Fridays; and until 11 pm on Saturdays. Happy Hour will be from 4-6 pm Monday through Friday.

Uchiba Austin

Photo courtesy of Uchibā

Although Uchi is from Austin, Uchiba, the upstairs bar, has only existed in Dallas until now.