Ignites development in previously degraded or nonexistent parcels
This proposal both revitalizes existing parcels along the highway, as well as unlocks new land for development by narrowing the right-of-way.
By creating a desirable place to work and live in the heart of Austin, we can ignite development and thus expand the tax base. Underutilized parcels adjacent to I-35 are presently impacted by noise pollution and CO2 emissions, making them less than ideal for dense, pedestrian-oriented development. The urban boulevard on the cap will make this area attractive for a higher use of the land than parking lots or gas stations. To give an example, just look at how 2nd Street went from a dead street to a desirable urban district, where people can truly live, work and play. In 2010, the six block core of the Second Street District spun off $4.55 million in property taxes, and $2.29 million in sales taxes. This was before the $300 million W Hotel and Residences project opened in late 2010.
In addition, decreasing the amount of needed I-35 right-of-way (ROW) will free valuable real estate for something more productive than highway lanes. TxDOT will have the opportunity to sell excess ROW, or lease air rights for a continuous source of revenue. The improved urban environment will make the property owned by TxDOT even more valuable.
Generates revenue to pay for the cap
With the improved public realm and associated land development implied by this proposal, the Reconnect Austin project has the potential to pay for capping the freeway. TxDOT has the opportunity to extract substantial value from their existing right-of-way, and the City of Austin faces an expanded tax base in downtown.
Leverages taxpayer investments
This proposal utilizes limited state funding to provide the greatest benefit to Austin and the region. In addition, it capitalizes on existing public investments to provide a maximum return for projects such as the Waller Creek flood control tunnel, the University of Texas Medical District, and land owned by Capital Metro East of the highway.
The City of Austin is spending $125 million to provide flood control on Waller Creek, in the process liberating 28 acres from the existing floodplain. With this concept, those improvements will only be complemented and enhanced. In addition, development directly West of I-35 will contribute to the TIF to pay off the Waller Creek expenditures.