Skip to Main Content
Pedestrians in a crosswalk near South Station in Boston.A woman in a wheelchair and her service dog traveling on a city sidewalk.Cars traveling around a rotary/roundabout.People sitting at an outdoor café on Newbury Street in Boston.A wheelchair user boarding a trolley in Portland, Oregon.A woman and her service dog at a crosswalk with detectable warnings in San Francisco.

Downtown Austin Design Guidelines


City of Austin Design Commission


City of Austin Design Commission, Austin City Council


City of Austin Design Commission, Austin City Council, Austin, TX, 2000




As part of their 1997 Downtown Initiative to guide the revitalization of downtown, the City Council requested that the Austin Design Commission prepare a set of design guidelines for new construction in the city center. The purpose of the Guidelines is to coordinate and orchestrate the overall development of the city core, so that projects help each other succeed and result in a better, livable downtown.

Mutual success, in the mind of the Commission, will best result from a downtown which is safe and comfortable, pedestrian friendly, and composed of mixed use, humanly scaled buildings. It will also need to achieve a critical mass of population, living and working downtown, and the pedestrian oriented downtown that can result from that can provide an option for living which is not presently available in Austin. The guidelines address many issues which effect quality of life and the viability of downtown business.

Some of the primary issues are:

  • building location
  • population density
  • functions at street level
  • location and orientation of on-site parking
  • building uses
  • pedestrian comfort and activity at street level
  • sidewalk safety
  • incorporation of civic art
  • the design of public spaces
  • preservation and creation of quality building stock
  • the creation of a unique city

The goals of the Guidelines contrast many of today?s standards of development, which tend toward larger scale, automobile oriented projects. These can stifle economic development by eliminating any potential for continuity in the street level commerce and social activity. The guidelines are presented as a challenge to contemporary development, and to the citizens of Austin as they look for ways to shape the recent and intense growth of the city.

On May 18, 2000, the City Council adopted the Downtown Austin Design Guidelines as "recommendations for all downtown development and redevelopment projects by both the public and private sector" and directed City staff to continue developing a plan to integrate the Guidelines into the City of Austin's overall project review process. To accomplish this, City Council approved in June 2003 several code amendments codifying recommendations in the Downtown Austin Design Guidelines. The approved ordinance is available at Downtown Austin Design Guidelines (

Number of Pages:



Downtown Austin Design Guidelines (

Table of Contents?






Material Type:


Key Document?


Local guidelines; Planning, Concept/schematic Design


Austin - Local, Downtown Design Guidelines


  • Very thorough visioning document with specific goals and objectives
  • Nicely layed out document, easy to read and comprehend
  • All guidelines are cross referenced to the "supported values" fron the vision statement


  • Lacking technical design detail guidance or minimum standards
  • Implementation strategy given minimal coverage

Record Last Updated:

July 2006


[ Back to Previous Page ]