Sustainable Places Project
Visit the Sustainable Places Website!
The Capital Area Council of Governments, working with a regional consortium of local governments and other regional stakeholders, was awarded $3.7 million as one of only 45 HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grants given out across the nation and of two in Texas. The Consortium, which has been named the Capital Area Texas Sustainability Consortium or CATS, includes the Cities of Austin, Round Rock, and San Marcos, CAMPO, Envision Central Texas, and UT’s Center for Sustainable Development.
The project focuses on the Activity Centers proposed in the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2035 Plan and proposes to use an innovative model for planning future development that integrates economic development opportunities and housing choices with mobility. The concept centers on the selection of several of the Activity Centers as demonstration sites – ideally selecting at least one in each of the five counties covered in CAMPO’s plan. Technical support will be provided to the host communities of the demo sites during the next two years and a new analytic tool will be developed in cooperation with the University of Texas (the Sustainable Development and Transportation Research departments) to assist the communities to assess the fiscal and economic impacts of different approaches for planning future development.
Consortium partners also include Capital Metro, Austin Community College, Texas State University, HousingWorks, Capital Area Housing Finance Corporation, WorkForce Solutions, Lone Star Rail District, Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council, LCRA, and TxDOT.
CATS GRANT APPLICATION (19 MB)
UPDATE! Posted April 2012
CAPCOG intends to select a planning team this month to continue work at our planning demonstration sites.
UPDATE! Posted February 2012
Sustainable Places Project Analytics Tool Expected to be Functional this Fall
The Capital Area Texas Sustainability (CATS) Consortium, through a grant from HUD and regional partnership of local governments, regional organizations, and other stakeholder groups, is developing a new approach to planning in Central Texas by introducing an analytics tool to provide a better understanding of the impacts of various development patterns. The tool is expected to be functional this fall and will be introduced at public planning events in Austin, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Hutto, and Lockhart, the selected demonstration sites. The tool will measure the impact of different development scenarios, including the impact on municipal budgets and other sustainability indicators to be chosen by the consortium. The consortium is currently collecting data and calibrating indicators for Central Texas. The planning team will be on board in May to work with city staff and community stakeholders to determine each demonstration site’s goals and to begin to introduce elements of the tool. The tool R&D process is on-going and new functionality will be available for each phase of the project. Below is an outline of components and providers:
• Envision Tomorrow, from Fregonese and Associates, is the base scenario planning software and the platform to create an advanced, open-source planning tool, capable of both local and regional analysis. Envision Tomorrow tackles scenario building by using buildings as the base for a model. The building prototype library will be custom built for Central Texas.
• Many of the HUD-funded applications of Envision Tomorrow will be calibrated for Central Texas by the University of Texas (UT) in collaboration with the University of Utah and Fregonese and Associates.
• UT is authoring a unique fiscal impact model for municipal governments of multiple sizes across the region and incorporating a model to monetize sustainable development benefits.
• Teaching tools will include pop-up boxes that warn when a scenario exceeds the acceptable threshold of certain indicators, such as quality of receiving waters, etc. Boxes will directly link to studies referenced by the indicators.
• The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) will provide cloud veil hosting, web display, and visualization technology (hardware and software) for public engagement. TACC’s servers will allow instant feedback for complicated proximity analysis, i.e., we will be able to calculate the walking distance to a park, transit stop, or business district from all buildings drawn in the scenario and provide instant feedback about what it might mean for the community.
• Criterion Planners will design a Data Quality Wizard and help form the data schema based on guidelines of the Open Source Planning Tools Symposium. Automation of data processing will increase the functionality, especially for our regional entities with limited GIS capabilities.
• The Center for Transportation Research (CTR) and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) are developing an “Active Transportation Index,” an accessibility measure to evaluate land use and transportation scenarios and inform potential policies. Other contributions include a study of optimal block lengths, transportation modeling of the region, and simulations at local levels.
• Work of the Central Texas Indicators Project and housing studies conducted by UT and CAPCOG at the demonstration activity centers will feed data for the indicators.
• 3D technologies will be explored. Our code outputs will be adaptable for on-the-fly 3D rendering, a long-term goal for the analytics tool.
UPDATE! Posted January 2012
The Capital Area Texas Sustainability Consortium Partners January 12th meeting provided the latest updates on the progress of the demonstration site planning and the analytic tool. The slide show presentations are available for download below. We intend to advertise the upcoming RFP for planning services in early February.
UPDATE! Posted December 2011
Capital Area Texas Sustainability Consortium Partners Meeting
CAPCOG Pecan Room
6800 Burleson Rd, Building 310, Suite 165
Austin, TX 78744
January 12, 2012
1:30pm to 3:30pm
CAPCOG will host a consortium partners meeting on Thursday, January 12th, from 1:30-3:30 pm. The analytics tool components of the Sustainable Places Project will be selected in early January. We will present updates on the process and get feedback. Interested members of the public and potential consultant partners are welcome; please contact Chad Coburn in advance so that we can make accommodations.
UPDATE! Posted November 2011
The steering committee selected the cities of Austin, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Hutto, and Lockhart as initial planning demonstration activity centers. Congratulations to those cities and thank you to everyone who applied and assisted in the process. We had strong applications across the board, and it is our vision to have analytics capabilities for all of our regional partners. We will post more information soon on the next steps and the introduction of the Sustainable Places Project website.
UPDATE! Posted October 2011
The steering committee reviewed the planning demonstration site applications on October 28th and heard recommendations from the review committee. We received several applications that have the potential to advance the quality of life and sustainability of our region. The steering committee decided to have further discussions with the applicants in order to better understand the goals of the cities and their intentions for our project. We are in the process of choosing a date in early December to interview applicants and make selections. I will contact each applicant in early November to discuss the committee's recommendations and schedule an interview/presentation. Thanks again for the great interest we received and your partnership in this important project.
UPDATE! Posted August 2011
City of Hutto; City of Lockhart; City of Kyle; City of Smithville; City of Buda; City of Dripping Springs; City of Austin; City of Elgin; City of San Marcos
The deadline for demonstration site applications is August 31. Below are a few questions that have been discussed over the last few weeks:
Q: Could pictures be included in the appendix?
Q: On page four of the application, it asks for two copies of the demonstration site area, plus one parcel map. The application checklist asks for 1 unbound original of the full application, and two copies. Does that mean nine maps total?
A: Yes, nine maps total. We’re looking for two copies of the demonstration site area in each of the three sets. It will make it easier for us to review the projects.
Q: I didn't see any guidelines on margins or fonts. Do you have any standards to follow?
A: The application doesn’t have any formatting requirements. Something standard would be great; try to avoid something very unusual.
Q: For the “Local Resources” portion, do you simply need a list of the primary contact and supporting staff and their titles? What are you looking for regarding the “identification of planning information & infrastructure inventory databases?” Same question goes for the electronic media and media format, infrastructure capacity/location, etc. Are you mainly looking for maps and shapefiles?
A: A list is the only requirement. You might want to describe how they can add support if there’s something not obvious or worth noting… maybe just verifying that a staff member is willing to help recruit the public to meetings about the project, or is available to help the consultants with planning and UT/IBM data gathering. The database and media format questions are to let the committee know what UT and IBM will have to work with regarding data. If your site is picked, there will definitely be some exchanges of data needed to populate the formulas of the analytics tool. You might want to spend a paragraph or so describing what types of data and databases you have now. An example might be: land use and zoning are MS Access data tables joined to appraisal district shapefiles; zoning map in ARCGIS – but the planning commission is drafting a new map that is currently just a sketch on paper; water and sewer files on paper only, etc.
Q: Is it OK to have a section of the map outside of the CAMPO 2035 activity center?
A: It’s fine to have some portions outside of the circle. The circle isn’t meant to be definitive. The only problem would be if you included areas that didn’t make sense, or if you wanted to plan for an area that was mostly outside of the circle. It’s also fine to have a parcel or two outside the current city limits.
UPDATE! Posted July 2011
The Sustainable Places Project Demonstration Site Application materials are available for download below. Please contact Chad Coburn at 512-916-6012 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions
UPDATE! Posted June 2011
The first consortium partners meeting since the grant award was held on May 25. Representatives from 14 member organizations were present. An official project title was chosen: “The Sustainable Places Project.” A unified name should simplify our discussions and public engagement as we advance to the demonstration site activities. We will begin developing a website and logo in the coming month. The CATS Consortium and other related names are still valid, but we’ll use the new name for most exchanges.
The first regional forum was held June 3 at the UT Thompson Conference Center. About 90 representatives of local governments and other interested parties attended. Guest speakers were: Travis County Judge Samuel Biscoe; Maureen McCoy, executive director, CAMPO; Betty Voights, executive director, CAPCOG; Jim Walker, director of sustainability, UT Austin; and Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw. Highlights of the meeting included an overview of regional growth trends, activity center concepts, and a discussion of the development process for the analytics tool. The forum also provided information about the Sustainable Places Project Regional Forum - Application Workshop on Friday, June 24 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Thompson Conference Center at 2405 Robert Dedman Drive at the University of Texas campus. The demonstration site selection process will be revealed, and a question and answer session will follow.The link below is a summary of the June 3 forum and connections to the power point presentations.
UPDATE! Posted May 2011
Chad Coburn has been hired by CAPCOG as the Program Manager for the CATS Consortium Sustainable Communities Project and begins that role on Monday, May 23rd. Chad’s experience in project management, state and federal grants, environmental projects, and working directly with local governments made him a good fit for this project, according to CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights, who added that while other CAPCOG staff will stay involved, Chad will take over as the lead and primary contact. Prior to this position, Chad managed comprehensive planning, transportation, and environmental projects at GrantWorks and is a graduate of UT’s community and regional planning program with a specialization in housing. Contact Chad.
June will begin the first phase of the implementation portion of the Project. To date, all meetings held have been focused on finalizing the work plans, developing MOUs required by HUD for Consortium members and getting contracts in place with UT and City of Austin to oversee development of the Sustainable Places Analytics Tool by IBM. On June 3, the first regional forum will be held at the UT Thompson Center to introduce the Sustainable Communities Project to city and county officials from the five-county MSA who host one of CAMPO’s 37 Activity Centers. The Centers concept was introduced in the 2035 Transportation Plan adopted by CAMPO last year and is a modified version of Envision Central Texas’ growth scenarios from 2004.
Cities and counties will be invited to submit their respective activity centers to be selected as demonstration sites and receive consulting services and analyses of planning scenarios with the new analytics tool. A second regional forum will be held June 24 to walk all demonstration-site applicants through the application process. The CATS Consortium Steering Committee expects to announce five to seven demonstration sites in October that will represent a mix of small, medium and large communities.
UPDATE! Posted April 2011
The CATS Consortium Project has a formal Work Plan (draft at this point) with three primary components: development of an Analytics Tool for planning and investment, direct planning assistance for to-be-selected Demonstration Sites, and a two-tiered Outreach Strategy to ensure interested stakeholders can be involved. While CAPCOG as the grantee has been occupied with administrative details to set up the grant, some implementation planning has been getting done.
There is a Work Group for each of the three Project components. The Demo Site Work Group has met several times and made significant progress; their portion of the work plan is to oversee selection of the Demo Sites which is being planned for this fall. Preceding that activity, this Work Group has developed planning goals for the Sites, preliminary criteria for selection, and will soon be developing the official application and process.
The Analytics Tool will be developed through a partnership with IBM, the City of Austin, and UT. CAPCOG will contract with UT and the City for development and testing; these contracts are being negotiated and once executed, the Analytics Tool Work Group likely will start meeting regularly.
It is important to note that the regional Consortium is not exclusive – while many local governments, nonprofit organizations, and regional agencies are represented, the goal is to have all stakeholders at the table as we discuss better approaches to integrating our transportation systems with where people live and work.
CAPCOG is in the process of hiring the Sustainable Community Program Manager; this person should come on board in May. With the Program Manager in place and the formal approval by HUD of our Work Plan, contracts, and Consortium MOUs, we will be in the first phase of implementation.
If you would like more information about this project, please contact Betty Voights.
UPDATE! Posted February 2011
On February 15th, CAPCOG signed the cooperative agreement with HUD which officially starts this project! We have posted a Program Manager position and are receiving applications; hopefully we can have someone aboard by April/May. Now the real work starts.
HUD gives the regions a 60-day window to finalize work plans and those will represent our formal scope of work for the grant. Draft work plans were submitted to HUD before Christmas, largely developed by three subcommittees based on key functions of the CATS Consortium Project: the analytical tool, demonstration sites for activity center planning, and general outreach. The Demo Site Subcommittee met for the first time Friday, Feb. 18th and did a great job coming up with the first list of goals.
The next month will be about more paperwork though…HUD requires regional MOUs plus CAPCOG will be working to get interlocal agreements in place with UT and the City of Austin.
Also, the first posting promised updates twice per month but likely there won’t be that much to share that often, so we’ll post the last half of every month.
UPDATE! Posted January 2011
A collection of regional organizations and local governments, collaborating as the Capital Area Texas Sustainable (CATS) Consortium, were awarded one of the 45 HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grants in the U.S. in November and are presently working to refine the budget and work plans so a final grant agreement can be executed during January. The application was reduced by $1.3 million from the $5 million requiring some reduction in the scale of activities proposed.
The application focuses on the Activity Centers proposed in the 2035 Plan recently adopted by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and proposes to use an innovative model for planning future development that integrates economic development opportunities and housing choices with mobility. The application’s concept centers on the selection of several of the Activity Centers as demonstration sites – ideally selecting at least one in each of the five counties covered in CAMPO’s plan. Technical support will be provided to the host communities of the demo sites during the next two years and a new analytic tool will be developed by IBM in cooperation with UT (the Sustainable Development and Transportation Research departments) to assist the communities to assess the fiscal and economic impact of different approaches for planning future development.
Per HUD’s requirement, the governance structure will use a steering committee that includes CAMPO, CAPCOG, Envision Central Texas, CARTS, Cap Metro, along with the cities of Austin, Round Rock, and San Marcos. The CATS Consortium, the broader group of regional partners that assisted in preparing the application, includes Texas State, ACC, Worksource, the Capital Area Housing Finance Corporation, HousingWorks, and the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council. At the first meeting of the Steering Committee later this month additional partners will be identified to ensure the right stakeholders in the region are involved.
Next steps include development of criteria for selection of the demo sites, regional forums for communities interested in becoming demo sites, and development of the analytics tool to provide Return on Investment scenarios to support large and small projects in the MSA chosen as demo sites.