The Water Treatment Plant: Density Plus Sprawl?

On the cusp of tonight’s meeting concerning the proposed relocation of the city’s Green Water Treatment plant from Cesar Chavez to the Guerrero Park on the East Side, it’s interesting to delve into the underlying reasons behind the move. As early as his 2005 State of the City Address, Mayor Will Wynn was calling for the plant’s relocation:

Also, we should be on the fast track today to decommissioning the Green Water Treatment Plant in downtown as a way to realize more vibrant density, add to the tax base, and preserve more open space. From my perspective, anyone who says they support the goals of ECT (Envision Central Texas) but is unwilling to consider massive redevelopment of four acres in downtown Austin doesn’t really support the goals of ECT. Yes, I understand that the Green Water Treatment Plant is a symbol for some. But anyone who would elevate a symbol of our quality of life over real steps to protect our quality of life is doing trade in rhetoric, not reality.

The mayor has been a major evangelist for the cult of density, and it makes sense to free up the four acres the treatment plant occupies downtown to allow for a central library and mixed use retail development. However, in a Statesman article from last August when Wynn officially called for the plant’s closure by this June, we discover another potential reason why it might be important to relocate the site in East Austin: “That would put the new plant in the proximity of the Texas 130 corridor, where planners expect a flurry of growth to take place when the toll road opens in 2007, he said.”

Could it be that moving the treatment plant from the central city to the East side would kill two birds with one stone? On one hand, it would encourage density and expand the tax base downtown, and on the other hand it would become an instrument supporting the sprawl that is already certain to occur along the Texas 130 corridor. It’s a Wynn-Wynn situation (pardon the pun). We don’t just get density—we also get sprawl—it’s a two-fer. The elimination of public parkland and loss of open space is just a convenient side effect that saves the city money.

2 Comments so far

  1. wae (unregistered) on April 18th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    Apparently this stirred up quite a bit of antagonism at the public hearing (surprise, surprise).

    One thing I haven’t yet heard is why the Green Water Treatment Plant is unsustainable. Yes, it’s old and perhaps too small to supply anticipated growth. But wouldn’t it make sense to keep a central facility running to serve the immediate (and growing) downtown, and thus scale a new facility purely on the basis of anticipated sprawl … I mean, growth?

  2. M1EK (unregistered) on April 18th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    The Green facility is supposedly nearing the end of its useful life. That’s what they told us at the UTC years ago, if I remember correctly, anyways.

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