Development
4:58 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Colony Park: Can Austin Transform a Community Without Displacing it?

A new master plan for the Colony Park neighborhood will use a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in an effort to revitalize the area. The project resembles the planning of Mueller in scope and ambition, but some residents are concerned the project might eventually displace them.

At a Saturday community engagement meeting, residents in the Colony Park area said they were concerned the city might move on to implementation of the plan without their approval.

The neighborhood occupies about 200 acres between U.S. 183 and Decker Lane, but most amenities are hard to get to for residents says Margarita Decierdo, a member of the neighborhood association.

“We’re landlocked," she says. "If traffic is bottled up on Martin Luther King or 290, it takes us about an hour to get to where we have to go to. There is no reliable bus transportation...it takes about two to three hours to get to school or downtown [by bus].” 

 The new H-E-B at Mueller is the closest grocery store that meets residents' needs, but the commute is more than one hour by bus, Decierdo says. A trip to Brackenridge or Saint David’s can take just as long.

While some residents are excited for revitalization opportunities, others are concerned about gentrification.

“My greatest concern is that this new project may cause gentrification to the neighborhood. A lot of the people in my neighborhood are elderly or on fixed incomes," says Colony Park resident Verna Smith. "If there is gentrification I am afraid that it will displace a lot of people from the neighborhood."

Residents have complained that the City of Austin applied for the HUD grant in 2011  before consulting with stakeholders.

But city planner Zach Stern says the Department of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development is working to involve citizens. 

“It is an ongoing relationship we have built with them. At this point they are not just stakeholders on the project that we casually consult," Stern says. "They really are partners on the project and are involved in all the decision making processes."

The Austin City Council selected Chicago-based Farr Associates and local firm Urban Design Group to lead the planning process in July.

Meeting organizers were hoping for 200 attendees but estimate that about 60 individuals attended. Before the next public meeting, Farr Associates and Urban Design Group will begin developing more specific options for the master plan.

The public can also submit their opinions about the plan at www.colonyparkatx.org or by emailing colonypark@austintexas.gov.