With Porches And Parks, A Texas Community Aims For Urban Utopia

With Porches And Parks, A Texas Community Aims For Urban Utopia
Families hang out at the Mueller farmers market in Austin, Texas, on a Sunday. In a state where cars are king, planners designed Mueller with pedestrians in mind. // Photograph © Julia Robinson

In Texas, a state where cars and private property are close to a religion, there is an acclaimed master-planned community that’s trying something different.

When Austin’s municipal airport closed 16 years ago, it created a planner’s dream: 700 acres of prime real estate close to the city core. What emerged from years of public/private/neighborhood collaboration was the Mueller Community — often spoken of as a masterwork of smart urban design.

Mueller is the product of the “new-urbanism” concept: the idea that a built environment can create meaningful community. Planners minimize the supremacy of the automobile and shape the environment around pedestrians.

Greg Weaver, Mueller project manager with Catellus Development, is walking on a crushed-granite path that circles a man-made lake complete with a fountain and diving ducks.

“The people in the park over there with the dog, the guy fishing over there … the birthday party over here is something that was always envisioned in paper and in theory — and it’s become a reality out here,” Weaver says.

The traditional model of residential American development is to lay out a grid of streets and line them with two-story houses featuring giant closets and voluptuous two-car garages. ….


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