The development features multiple green spaces including a large community square activated by artist live-work spaces, a community cafe, and a Community Hall. Other, more intimate green spaces provide space for retreat and reflection for residents and neighbors. Seabrook Square takes care to connect with and enhance the larger active transportation and green space networks of the E MLK neighborhood, providing nodes of activation along the J.J. Seabrook Greenbelt and bike share facilities on site for easy access to protected bike facilities nearby. The solar panels and batteries planned on the site will also support a new off-grid neighborhood Resilience Hub that can provide electricity, water, and heat in case of an emergency.
The development team chose to maximize green spaces and plazas within Seabrook Square for human rest and community gathering instead of creating surface parking. The green spaces and plazas will be found throughout all the development, but especially on Pershing drive. Within the development, all parking will be in an on-site garage that itself is shielded from neighborhood and resident view.
The Community Square nestled among residential buildings with active ground floor uses on two sides and the beautiful J.J. Seabrook Greenbelt extension on the south-eastern edge. The hallmark of the square will be two large trees relocated from another area on the site, complemented by the inclusion of fruit trees in response to the community-identified need for increased shade and a neighborhood food forest. The square will also include a natural playscape with active and imaginative features as well as comfortable seating and picnic areas to foster intergenerational engagement with residents and neighbors.
Utilizing green spaces instead of concrete aren’t only for public usage but also supports goals for sustainable water quality and conservation. A linked series of rain gardens, ponds, native plantings, and mature shade trees form a cascading set of water retention along Pershing Drive and are designed to provide a level of ecosystem service that enhances the health, safety and welfare of the community. Below the surface, Seabrook Square will tap into the adjacent “purple pipe” infrastructure of treated-but-not-potable water from the nearby Mueller development to use the recovered water for irrigation and other uses that don’t pertain to human consumption.
Seabrook Square will also deploy solar panels across the main buildings and parking garage roofscape to generate much of its own power. Having worked on Louisiana’s first net-zero apartment building, this development team has experienced first hand the value of solar energy in reducing climate vulnerability for affordable housing communities and is eager to explore how this development can not only enhance the resilience of its residents, but also of the surrounding community. Solar and battery storage serve another purpose – during the winter storm of 2021, Austin learned just how fragile our state’s electricity infrastructure can be. We propose to offer the development’s Community Hall as a “Resilience Hub” in coordination with the recent efforts of the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability, utilizing the electricity generation, storage and insulated water pipes for residents and neighbors to keep warm, charge devices, and obtain water. The hall could also be used for food and water distribution and other city emergency response efforts.
From the ground up, Seabrook Square provides a level of ecosystem services, alternative energy generation, and sustainable transportation options to foster a healthy and resilient environment for its residents.