When the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport closed 16 years ago, leaving open 700 acres of real estate close to the Austin city center, developers saw the perfect for a planned community. In 2007, construction began on the Mueller Community, which many now hold as a model of modern master-planning in the new urbanism vein; transit-oriented yet focused on the needs of pedestrians. A recent installment in NPR's cities project highlights what else Mueller may be getting right.
Greg Weaver, Mueller project manager with Catellus Development, spoke with NPR about the theories behind the community. Instead of taking the shape of an expansive grid, Mueller is purposefully dense, with small yards and large front porches. Garages are at the back of houses, which further downplays the primacy of cars. But Weaver insists Mueller isn't too utopic:
One of the criticisms of new urbanism is that its communities look too much like a movie set — too quaint, too utopic. Yet Mueller feels real, with its ample greenways, eclectic yard art and Craftsman-style homes built with lots of native limestone. "I mean, the whole idea of porches is a bit of a cliche, but it works," Adams continues, speaking from the back deck of his home in Mueller. "People are on their porches, people know their neighbors. It's a very convivial place."
A research team at Texas A&M University polled Mueller residents and proved Weaver's vision might really be working: residents spend an average of 90 fewer minutes a week in their cars, and report increased levels of physical activity, decreased use of electricity, and even more friends.