Good News in the Fight for Northcross

I just got home from the Responsible Growth for Northcross community meeting. The RGFN group formed to support desirable development for Northcross Mall and wants neighborhoods to be involved in planning for the area’s redevelopment. Currently, Lincoln Properties, owner of Northcross Mall, is planning to redevelop the site with a 200,000+ square-foot Super Wal-Mart as the anchor store. This gigantic building would become the third largest big box store in central Texas, after IKEA in Round Rock and Cabela’s in Buda.

There were hundreds of concerned Austinites in attendance, and the RGFN steering committee seemed well-organized and well-researched given the short amount of time that has passed since the first article announcing this project ran in the Statesman on November 8. I’m encouraged and inspired, by the turnout, by the news that Wal-Mart is not a done deal, and by the success of other Austin neighborhoods (such as Circle C) in fighting off the Beast from Bentonville. The building and demolition permits have not yet been granted. We can still fight and win. First and foremost, every concerned Austinite needs to contact city council members and let them know you oppose the Northcross Wal-Mart and ask them to direct the city manager to suspend approval of the site plan. Also, RGFN needs lots of help. Two days ago I was disheartened by the idea of Wal-Mart becoming my new neighbor. Today, I’m excited to take on the fight.

16 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 10:21 am

    Allandale, Rosedale, and Crestview have made a number of moves over the last couple of years which have shown their preference for suburban sprawl over responsible urban development – from opposing light rail in 2000 (Crestview) to the Shoal Creek debacle (Allandale/Rosedale) to providing much of the push for the apalling and misnamed McMansion Ordinance (Rosedale) and various smaller items, they’ve constantly done the wrong thing for Austin.

    When you choose suburban sprawl so loud and so proud, don’t be surprised when the negatives come back to bite you. You can’t expect a nice urban development at Northcross in the middle of low-density 1950s suburban crap that constantly fights to _remain_ as such – what you would reasonably expect is suburban strip retail, including Wal-Mart.

  2. Brian R (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    So, M1EK, are you trying to say that putting the largest Walmart in central Texas on a residential street is the right thing for Austin?

    Responsible Growth for Northcross supports responsible urban development. Everyone at the meeting seemed very excited at the prospect of a development at Northcross similar to what has been done at the triangle. I want to see development. I want Austin to grow and thrive around my neighborhood. There’s just one problem here, a giant mall with monstrous big box stores is not Austin. It’s actually the antithesis of Austin. It’s not at all “weird”. It’s pretty darn normal.

  3. Chris (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

    Brian R:

    If having your facts straight is a prerequisite for having an opinion, then you lose.

    Northcross Mall is not on a “residential street.”

    It is a flailing commercial center, that you and 100% of the people who oppose this deal do not own.

    /native austinite, by the way.
    //where did you move here from?

  4. Herri (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 5:01 pm

    I agree…what’s supposed to go there? Everything else around there is car-centric schlock. I am all for urban development and increasing density, but seriously, they need to raze 95% of Austin and just start over.

  5. M1EK (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 5:18 pm

    Brian R,

    The neighborhoods fighting Wal-Mart were the same ones who destroyed the utility of Shoal Creek Blvd, the most important cycling artery in the city, for the benefit of people who wanted to park their cars on the street. They’re the same neighborhoods who defeated light rail in 2000 (which would, unlike the commuter rail crapfest, actually have worked). They’re the same neighborhoods which supported the McMansion ordinance – which penalizes families trying to make a go of it on small lots in the center-city (like mine). They’re the same neighborhoods that have opposed every single attempt to increase density in the urban core – density that, were it to exist today, might have kept Northcross a going concern after its suburban competitors drained away a good chunk of its old customers.

    Your urban bona-fides are suspect, to say the least.

    Were I a developer, I wouldn’t touch Northcross with a ten-foot pole. You can’t make money on urban commercial development there; because the surrounding area is non-stop crappy 1950s suburban sprawl of an even lower density than modern exurbs in Round Rock and Cedar Park. And nobody from out THERE is gonna drive all the way into town to go to Northcross when they’ve already got their own strip malls.

    You drive Wal-Mart away and see who else wants in. Good luck with that.

  6. M1EK (unregistered) on December 1st, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

    Oh, and as for “in the style of the Triangle”: I guarantee that your neighborhoods wouldn’t support the accompanying RESIDENTIAL density that project brought along, because it would be evil multi-family development rather than the accepted norm of single-family in the 1950s milleu; and please note that the apartment developments have been happening a lot quicker than the retail – further underscoring my point.

  7. Chip (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2006 @ 10:03 am

    The issue here isn’t simply a big box store in the neighborhood. We’re talking about the third biggest retail destination in central Texas sitting right in people’s back yards. A two story mega-super-center.

    Have you ever been to the Ikea in Houston? It’s crazy to put a store of that magnitude on a neighborhood urban street instead of a highway.

  8. M1EK (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2006 @ 12:06 pm


    Actually, in other parts of the country, it’d ALWAYS be on a street like Anderson or Burnet, and NEVER on a ‘highway’ because they don’t share our peculiar counterproductive requirement that every highway have a frontage road. Putting all our retail and most of our office destinations on frontage roads is a horribly stupid thing to do – it basically makes them off-limits for anybody but automobile drivers.

    The nearby roads can handle the traffic. That’s a red herring – more people used Northcross during its heyday than could reasonably be expected to run through one Wal-Mart.

  9. Ronny (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

    I am not sure why you are defending the idea of putting a big box in the middle of Austin?

    It will triple the amount of traffic on an already busy street.

    It will also threaten the livelihood of Austin owned businesses.

    Crestview does support mass transit – There is going to be mass transit running through Crestview at the Crestview station. (A mix used redevelopment)

  10. M1EK (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 8:28 am


    Crestview fought the 2000 light rail plan – which was the only one that actually would have worked. They got stuck with the 2004 plan which still runs trains down the tracks behind their houses, but doesn’t actually serve central Austin. Good work, jackasses.

  11. AC (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

    “It will also threaten the livelihood of Austin owned businesses.”

    Which businesses? Not the current or future tenants of Northcross, whether local or chain. Not the surrounding restaurants/fast food joints, whatever their stripe. Not the furniture stores or rug galleries. (Probably not Alamo either.) All of these, in fact, will benefit mightily from having a Wal-Mart down the street.

    I think it’s indefensible, morally and economically, to use the city’s land use power to pick economic winners and losers. If you disagree, at least recognize that by running Wal-mart off, you hurt some locals even as you help others.

  12. Herri (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 10:27 pm

    Amen a thousand times over about the frontage roads. I am not a native Texan, and I thought this was (and is) the strangest farking thing ever. In Chicago, for instance, there is a Best Buy that is fully integrated into a busy and walkable street…it’s a storefront, right up to the sidewalk like every other store. Parking is integrated into the back of the building vertically so that the streetscape isn’t broken.
    The thing is, most people in Austin don’t even understand what it is to have blocks and blocks of unbroken walkable area like New York or Chicago.
    I don’t understand why this city developed so strangely. Even the downtown is mostly surface parking lots and parking garages, with the odd building thrown in here and there. Was there ever a continuous downtown streetscape?

  13. Rantor (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 7:10 am

    Yes; there was a continuous streetscape downtown, and not all *that* long ago, either. A big change was created when banks were permitted to branch. Before that, they were allowed just one drive-up installation, which had to be within a certain number of feet of the bank itself. The building of ranks and ranks of drive-in windows, not just downtown, but at all the newly permitted branches, really changed the streetscape. And then there’s the City’s really stupid off-street parking ordinances, which all but require businesses to acquire land and demolish what’s on it. South Congress used to be very different from what it is today and has gaps for parking reasons now. Every parking lot downtown used to be covered with a building. All the little offices west of Congress were residences not long ago. Look at what could be done on East Riverside without those acres and acres of parking lots that are never, ever used…and I could go on….

  14. M1EK (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 9:48 am


    You can tell which cities developed mostly before WWII and which after – and the reason is zoning. Yes, zoning stopped factories from being built next to houses (if that ever really happened), but it also forced every single business to have its own parking lot (or be part of a strip mall).

  15. M1EK (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 9:48 am


    You can tell which cities developed mostly before WWII and which after – and the reason is zoning. Yes, zoning stopped factories from being built next to houses (if that ever really happened), but it also forced every single business to have its own parking lot (or be part of a strip mall).

    And for the inevitable retort – Houston mandates off-street parking too; so their ostensible lack of zoning is irrelevant in this regard.

  16. txstl (unregistered) on December 8th, 2006 @ 7:05 am

    The real proplem is Lincoln Properties’ site plan, not Walmart. If you don’t like it, don’t shop there. However, I bet Walmart will be there longer than it takes you to flip your Crestview property.

    Now if you want to talk the faults in the site plan I’ll likely agree. Absence of an integrated mixed land use (with or without Walmart), increased density of living and catering to the car is what defeats a successful “sub” urban environment. Higher density can exist well next to these neighborhoods, but this plan is the real destructive force as it further cements an auto dependent community.

    Just look at what Lincoln Properties next to the Backyard to see what a bad plan can accomplish.

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